Since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become so commonplace that many employees have developed a preference for it. As employees have become more comfortable working from home, the idea of hybrid working has emerged. In this new model, some or all of your workforce can work on-site, remotely or both.
As employees are seeking more control over where and how they work, organizations are facing high turnover and hoping hybrid work will inject more flexibility into the workplace and encourage employees to stay. By offering employees additional workplace options, it’s possible to keep employees longer and support their work-life balance.
Why Build a Hybrid Workforce?
It’s no secret that the driving force behind hybrid working environments is employee preference. According to an Accenture survey, 83 percent of surveyed employees prefer a hybrid work model. Many employees have come to see the benefit of eliminating a long commute, spending more time with family, and gaining control over how they spend their workday. A hybrid arrangement allows employees to continue enjoying these benefits and helps your organization improve engagement and retention.
Another reason to build a hybrid workforce concerns productivity. Many employers expressed concern in the early months of the pandemic that productivity would fall if employees weren’t on-site, but there are signs that the opposite has occurred. In a Sungard Availability Services survey of 2,000 U.S. workers, 78 percent of respondents said they would be most productive if they could choose to work remotely or in an office as needed.
Lastly, operating a hybrid office also provides opportunities to reorganize your office footprint and potentially reduce real estate and overhead expenses. With fewer employees in the office, there may be less need for offices and other spaces, potentially cutting down on expensive leases.
How to Develop a Productive Hybrid Workforce
The concept of a hybrid working environment is still new, making it challenging for organizations to know where to start and how to find success. In fact, a 2021 McKinsey survey of business executives found that most (68 percent) don’t have a detailed vision for hybrid work.
Whether your organization is still developing a plan or has implemented a hybrid work plan and is making improvements, here are seven tips to help you build a productive, engaged hybrid workforce:
1. Establish clear guidelines for hybrid work.
A hybrid model can be very different from organization to organization. For example, hybrid can mean that employees have a set schedule for which days they work on-site and from home. Hybrid can also mean that employees choose which days they work in either location.
To make hybrid work a success in your organization, you will need to clarify the rules for your workforce and set standards for in-office and work-from-home practices. Some of the criteria you will need to establish include:
- Eligibility (which are hybrid positions versus on-site or remote?)
- Team or department-specific schedules
- Allowable exceptions
2. Get company leaders on board.
Studies have found that managers and employees don’t always see eye-to-eye on the optimal number of days in the office. For example, a PwC survey found that most employees preferred to work from home at least three days a week, whereas executives said employees should be in the office at least three days a week.
Nevertheless, once you develop a hybrid work policy, company managers must support it and help employees navigate the new schedule. Managers should understand the details of the policy, be available to answer questions, and help struggling employees.
3. Utilize technology for efficient hybrid workforce management.
In a hybrid workplace, employees can work from anywhere on any given day. However, your organization still needs to interview and hire, and teams still need to communicate and collaborate on projects. To facilitate these activities, it’s essential to equip your employees with the technology they need to work efficiently.
In a hybrid scenario, tools for video conferencing, workforce scheduling, and time tracking are even more essential. A seemingly simple action—such as calling in sick—shouldn’t leave managers tracking emails and phone calls from employees in different locations and time zones. Instead, a time and attendance system with mobile capability can enable employees to request sick days, schedule vacation time, and even see which days their team is scheduled to be on-site.
4. Allow time for a hybrid work culture to develop.
Deloitte’s 2021 Return to Workplaces survey revealed that “maintaining culture” was the top employer concern about developing a remote or hybrid workplace amid the pandemic. It’s not difficult to see why. After all, moving to a hybrid model is a drastic shift in how employees work, communicate and collaborate.
Given this reality, managers should not expect the organizational culture to immediately conform to the new normal. Instead, they must give employees, customers and other key stakeholders the time and space to adjust to new policies and practices.
5. Create transparent feedback loops.
When establishing a hybrid workplace, it’s critical to understand employees’ needs, questions and concerns. It’s not enough to assume most employees desire a specific kind of schedule, so you need to gather employee feedback and then determine what makes the most sense for your organization.
Communication is key to your success when implementing any company-wide change, so it’s a good idea to establish two-way feedback loops for sharing information and feedback with employees. Some examples of feedback mechanisms you can use include:
- Surveys and questions
- Focus groups
- Informal team discussions
- “Town hall” meetings
6. Look for opportunities to bring employees together.
When you have some employees working in the office and others from home, they have fewer opportunities to be together. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create opportunities for team-building and collaboration. For instance, you can bring employees together for periodic training sessions and off-site gatherings (with virtual attendance options). You can also implement online forums that enable employees from every work location to participate and get to know others they may never see in person.
7. Routinely assess your progress.
The development of a productive hybrid workforce doesn’t happen overnight. Over time, you will likely discover elements of your policies and practices that need to change to match your evolving company culture. Therefore, you should periodically evaluate your practices and make adjustments as needed. Reviewing the effectiveness of your hybrid work model will also allow you to identify new opportunities for technology upgrades and workforce management improvements.
Improve the Productivity of Your Hybrid Workforce
Effective workforce management requires tools and processes that help you track your employees in every work location. After all, you can’t boost employee productivity when you rely on manual workflows and outdated workforce management technology.
Whether your employees are working on-site, remotely, or a combination of the two, it’s critical to have technology that makes it easier to schedule work, track employee time and attendance, and stay informed about when and where your employees are working. For more insights, read our e-book, Everything You Need to Know About Workforce Management.