The pandemic has resulted in thousands of employees working from their kitchen tables or living rooms rather than the office or other workplaces. As more Americans receive a COVID-19 vaccination and organizations develop or update their return-to-work plans, some employees may still be eager to continue working remotely, even if just for a few days each week.
What kind of Hybrid Work Model works for your employees? It’s important to first start with an understanding of what kind of model fits your company, the culture, your budget, and your employees needs and logistical capabilities. There are a few models to consider:
- Flex remote means employees are on-site on set days. Flex remote is likely to be a popular model to provide employees the flexibility to be on-site some days and work the other days remotely.
- Core hours means employees are available during designated times. Employers designate a block of time when employees are present, available for meetings or working at the same time. That model helps hybrid teams intentionally collaborate, which is especially helpful if employees are in different time zones.
- Custom scheduling may be an option for employees who want to request a specific hybrid work schedule. To support this, employers or managers may ask employees to fill out a form with their desired work schedule and locations.
Once you know what kind of work model you’d like to implement, the next important step is proper planning! The success of any workplace program hinges on how well it can be executed. When it comes to hybrid work models, employers must have a clearly defined policy detailed in writing. Otherwise, employees and their managers won’t understand expectations, leading to confusion, improper conduct, missed deadlines, and other issues. A good policy for a hybrid work environment includes clear guidance on the following:
- Who is eligible for hybrid work?
- How many days a week an employee is expected to work in person?
- Contact point for employee questions regarding scheduling
- How in-person shared workspaces will function
Another important aspect of the hybrid work model is making sure employees are familiar and feel comfortable with the leadership now guiding their work. If an employee feels confused, unfamiliar with, or intimidated by remote leadership, it makes it that much harder for employees to meaningfully engage in their work. This has a lot to do with company culture and ensuring that company leaders are carrying out your values with employees regardless of whether they are in office or at home. This means:
- Communicate well with employees, including being more aware of how your words can be construed differently over a message rather than in-person. This also includes standardizing which communication tools they use instead of relying on each team to pick their favorite platforms. For instance, a workplace may decide to send all communications through Microsoft Teams and Outlook. That way, employees will know to check those platforms for any critical messages.
- Formalize hybrid work processes so that employee have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
- Plan meetings to be friendly to all employees. Remote employees attending a meeting via a conference line or video platform can be just as active as those sitting in the conference room chairs. At the beginning of a meeting, leaders should introduce participants joining remotely and ensure that all participants have a chance to share their thoughts or ideas.
- Most importantly, be open to feedback whether it’s positive or negative. This is a new process for many employers, and the best way to manage unfamiliar territory is to keep an open mind and adjust where needed.
It’s about finding ways to maintain company culture over a virtual medium and understanding that this is a permanent change and no longer the emergency procedure that it was during the early days of the pandemic.
Hybrid work models can provide flexibility to workers while still maintaining operational productivity—but that’s only when properly implemented. Simply allowing workers to float in and out of the office without a solid policy can lead to a variety of issues. In general, employers should prioritize employee engagement and well-being in workplace strategies and plans.