Is Hybrid Work the Future of Work?
If you haven’t heard, Apple workers threatened to quit if they’re forced back to the office three days a week. Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that one Google executive, when speaking of the hybrid schedule currently in place, said (allegedly), “We’ll get everyone back to the office eventually. I just don’t want to pick that fight now.”
Perhaps you agree with the Google exec’s sentiment. Yet, the reality remains your employees likely have a similar mindset as Apple’s. It remains to be seen who will win the tech talent’s tug-of-war. But one thing is certain about the future of work: hybrid work will be central to the conversation.
And that’s regardless of whether you decide hybrid work is the future of work at your company.
Gallup’s money is on the tech workers when it comes to the future of work after Covid.
After conducting a hybrid work survey, Gallup predicts “hybrid work schedules will become the norm for most offices.” Currently, about 80% of employees whose jobs can be done remotely are working a fully remote or hybrid schedule, according to a February 2022 Gallup study. According to Gallup’s predictions for the future of work, hybrid work schedules will be adopted by 53% of remote-capable jobs.
hybrid work schedules will be adopted by 53% of remote-capable jobs.
Hybrid Work Challenges
Many companies are understandably resistant to allowing their employees to work remotely indefinitely. These companies cite future of work topics such as loss of culture, decreasing innovation, and an inability to directly supervise employees as reasons for putting the kibosh on employees’ demands to continue working remotely. As a result, many companies adopt a hybrid work schedule because it seems like a compromise.
With a hybrid work from home schedule, companies require employees to come to the office part of the time, usually two or three days a week, and allow employees to work from home on other days. The general thinking is that hybrid work is the best of both worlds. Employees can enjoy a better work-life balance and companies can maintain control over important business standards.
But hybrid work comes with its own minefield of challenges.
Hybrid Work Can Be Costly
When you sent them home in 2020, you may have noticed that some of your employees were consistently having internet or technical issues. Their faces froze during Zoom calls, or their files didn’t transfer as quickly. It became apparent that running a home office came with expenses. Companies with a hybrid work model may have stepped in by subsidizing for faster internet service, more data on cell plans, or basic ergonomic gear. As you bring employees back into the office with a hybrid work model in 2022, you’ll bear the cost for yet another workspace.
Hybrid Work May Nullify the Perk Employees Want Most
Parents, especially, cited the most important reason they love working from home: flexibility. Remote work allows employees to pick their kids up from school or take them to a doctor’s appointment. Except for very young children, many kids don’t require a babysitter as long as mom or dad are in the next room.
Requiring parents to come into the office two or three days a week at set hours nullifies the perks associated with flexibility. Many daycare options don’t price a la carte style and force parents to pay even for days kids aren’t there.
Hybrid Work May Increase Proximity Bias
Proximity bias is the unconscious favoritism leaders show to employees whom they see frequently. As a result, employees who work at home even part of the week may miss out on advancement opportunities. Since women and people of color are more likely to prefer working at home due to family obligations, hybrid work model examples may undo the gains companies have made on diversity.
Hybrid Work Model Tips
Left unchecked, these hybrid work model pros and cons can jeopardize productivity, not to mention your company’s bottom-line. You may be tempted to just throw in the towel on anything other than having your employees back in the office full-time. Be aware, though, that Gallup anticipates that only 23% of remote-capable jobs will be fully on-site. And with only 9% of the workers preferring to work fully on-site, you stand to lose talent to competition that can overcome the challenges of hybrid work.
The following tips can help you crush the challenges that might have you second-guessing hybrid work.
Redefine and Reduce Your Office Space
Don’t force workers into the office to do tasks they can easily do at home. Instead, create purpose and meaning for time spent in the cubicle. Better yet, dismantle the cubicle. Create common areas where employees can work that encourage collaboration.
Make Time for Connections
A feeling of belonging is one of the key indicators for employee engagement. Since employees are spending more worktime at home, carve time in the office for connection. Encourage employees to share their challenges and their wins.
Recognize the Savings of Hybrid Work
Sure, hybrid work creates costs you didn’t have before. But it also creates savings. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that companies save $11,000 per hybrid employee per year. These savings come from increased productivity, lower real estate costs, and lower employee turnover.
Explore Software and Cloud Computing Options
If you’re adopting hybrid or remote work for the long-term, it’s time to rethink your IT solutions. Software and cloud computing options can bring your distanced workforce together more seamlessly. They may also eliminate the need for pricey internet with high data limits. A cloud service can house your large files, reducing the need to transfer data and increasing security.
Be Flexible with Hybrid Work
Be creative with hybrid work schedules. Some parents may prefer putting in shorter hours over four days instead of three if doing so allows them to pick their kids up from school. Employees who live farther from the office may prefer to come in two days a week. Be open to allowing employees to mold a schedule that works for them, within reason.
Be Proactive About Employee Recognition
Succumbing to proximity bias is lazy managing. By now, the pandemic and the switch to remote work should have reorientated your leadership to a better style of employee recognition. Your leadership team should be focusing on output rather than comforting, yet hollow, markers such as coming in early or staying late. And being proactive about employee recognition will help employees know you see their efforts, even when they’re working at home.
Hybrid Work Culture
The above tips still don’t address the elephant in the room and the reason most tech CEOs shun remote and hybrid work. The tech giants ushered in the age of corporate culture with their massive complexes and their mod maxims to “don’t be evil.” And while slides and free sushi are questionable benefits, the founders of the digital age were on to something. A strong company culture is profitable.
So how can you have a strong hybrid work culture while answering your employees’ demands for work-life balance?
That’s a trick question because, in fact, it contains part of the answer. By going through all the trouble of adopting a hybrid or remote workplace, you’re demonstrating your commitment to your employees. That, in itself, increases your employees’ commitment to your company. And that mutual commitment strengthens your company’s culture.
But there’re other things you can do to improve your company’s culture in a hybrid work setting. Rethinking what culture in the workplace can be a good start.
An article in Harvard Business Review says this about company culture, “If work is something you do, and not a place you come to, then maybe it’s about time we got rid of the notion that culture sits within the four walls of the office.”
In a way, recognizing that culture isn’t about place helps us define culture better. Suddenly, sushi and slides seem even sillier as the crux of culture comes into focus.
According to Brooke Weddle of McKinsey & Company, culture is “a common set of behaviors, plus the underlying mindsets that shape how people work and interact day to day.”
It’s interesting to note that “place” doesn’t figure into Weddle’s definition of culture. That distinction is even more important as leaders and employees alike grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic. Because whether your workers are in the office or at home, all of us have changed. Covid has made people more purpose driven. There is simply no going back to a pre-pandemic perspective or culture.
Tips to Strengthen Hybrid Workplace Culture
- Encourage employees to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. That doesn’t mean employees are driving your business strategy. It means encouraging employees to take ownership and pride in their roles. Encourage independent initiative and creative problem-solving where appropriate.
- Involve your employees in the development of your hybrid work model. You may be sold on the swanky new messaging software. But your employees may find it more cumbersome than email or a phone call.
- Find opportunities for connection. And leave no stone unturned. Water cooler chats before meetings, bring your pet to the Zoom call, and in-person events will improve your employees’ sense of belonging.
- Encourage boundaries. There’s one hybrid work culture con that can create stress for employees. With the office always a few steps away, some employees may start working too much. Create trainings and policies that encourage employees to step away from their home office.
The Future of Hybrid Work Is Here
The trailblazing tech giants may have heralded in the information age and the sanctity of corporate culture. But they may be behind the times if they insist on bringing their employees back to the office. Of course, only time will tell.
For now, we know employees prefer working from home at least part of the time. We also know that many of the challenges that may make you hesitant to embrace the future of a hybrid workplace can be overcome. Most importantly, adopting a hybrid work policy can bring your company’s values into focus. And with that clearer perspective, you can create a stronger culture post-pandemic.
Rather than returning to the way you did things in 2019, use the lessons of these past two-plus years to create a stronger culture that embraces your employees’ shifting priorities.
If you’re wondering how you can recruit in 2022, watch our webinar Post-Pandemic Hiring: Align Recruiting to the New Normal.