Over the past year, the percentage of employees working mostly or entirely from home has skyrocketed. Pre-pandemic, it was around 17%. Once the pandemic took hold, that figure jumped to 71%. That was in response to the immediate threats of COVID-19, but what does the longer-term working environment look like? The hybrid work model, in which some are in the office while others are at home, seems increasingly likely to come out on top.
The challenges of the pandemic forced companies to adopt remote work practices. The new, post-coronavirus landscape presents an opportunity to change the idea of the workplace for the better, for good. Here, we’ll take a look at why a hybrid workplace may become the new normal and how HR leaders can prepare for the shift.
Transitioning from Remote Work to Hybrid Work: The New Normal
Remote work during the pandemic was a success, and not just in a “we’re doing the best we can to make it through a health crisis” kind of way. According to a PwC survey, 34% of employees believe they’re more productive now than pre-pandemic, and 52% of executives agree.
Still, remote work in its current form is unlikely to stick around for good. While there are short-term advantages, there are longer-term risks. Having an entirely remote workforce can lead to weakened company culture, reduced guidance for less experienced employees, and difficulty maintaining client-relationships.
A hybrid workplace provides the best of both worlds. It allows employees to work from home when need be and some days working in the office. While there’s no hard and fast rule, 68% of executives believe that working three days onsite and two days at home a week is best for maintaining solid company culture.
And it’s something employees want, too. Many employees were initially eager to work from home. Now, however, they understand that you can have too much of a good thing. Being by yourself, easy access to a fully-stocked refrigerator, and working in your pajamas from bed can — no, they do — bring pleasure. Still, they’ll eventually have us yearning for something more. 55% of workers want a mix of office- and home-based work, though there’s no clear consensus on how many days in each.
The Benefits of a Hybrid Workplace Model
Only 17% of companies want their employees to work onsite full-time after the pandemic. For them, a hybrid approach can function as a temporary measure for slowly and safely reintroducing employees to the office. But there are employer and employee benefits for transitioning to an entirely hybrid model in the post-coronavirus climate.
Safer for Everyone
While the COVID-19 vaccine will reduce the risk of developing severe symptoms, it won’t eliminate the risk entirely. And in any case, it’ll be a while before everyone is vaccinated. A hybrid office means fewer people working onsite, making social distancing easier to manage and giving employees greater peace of mind.
Prioritizes Work-Life Balance
Workers value flexibility more than ever before. A hybrid approach allows workers to handle the life factors that became more problematic during the pandemic, on their own terms. It’s easier to manage the demands of childcare, homeschooling, and supporting elderly family members when you have more time at home.
Improved Employee Engagement and Productivity
A hybrid work model increases employee engagement and output. Less stress, reduced time commuting to and from the office, working where and when they like, freeing up more time for exercise. These are the ingredients that pump up productivity and keep burnout at bay.
It Prepares You For The Future
We can hope that the coronavirus pandemic will leave us for good, but there are no guarantees. A variant of COVID-19 or an entirely new pandemic (oh god) is a possibility. The companies that set themselves up for long-term workplace flexibility today will be in a stronger position than those that don’t. Regardless of diseases, organizational agility is key for any organization’s success.
Creating a Hybrid Workplace: Considerations for an HR Leader
A hybrid office won’t just happen. It requires the skill and efforts of an HR leader to bring it to life. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some essential steps for creating a hybrid workplace model that works for both the company and employees.
The Company’s Objectives
No two hybrid models are alike. That’s because each is tailored to the unique demands of the organization. During the development of your model, be sure to weigh up the economic and commercial consequences, how it’ll affect recruitment, and the company’s overall strategic objectives.
Engage with Employees
An HR leader should make decisions with the input of employees. The goal, after all, is to create an environment that allows staff to do their best work and improve the company!
Ask employees how many days they’d like to work from home/the office, but don’t base your model on those answers. It’s best to ask which of an employee’s tasks they feel they can perform in each space; it’ll give a more realistic insight into what’s possible.
Analyze Who Might Not Be Ready
Of course, the employee won’t make decisions related to the hybrid setup. The HR leader will. It is important to incorporate your employee’s needs and wants into your plan. You’ll also need to analyze who may not be suitable for hybrid work (even if they say they are). For example, it’ll probably be better for a new recruit or a recently promoted employee to be onsite.
Performance review software can provide insights into which employees thrive in each environment, which you can use before the shift and when the hybrid approach is in full flow. If a staff member struggles to work well at home, it may be best to keep them onsite or provide additional training.
Staying on Top of Productivity
Companies that switched to remote work during 2020 will likely have invested in technology and software to aid their workers already. Now that it’s becoming part of your long-term approach, it’s time to double down. Will you provide a stipend for employees to buy hardware for their home office? Will you use time tracking software to stay on top of where and when your employees are working? What tools will you use to facilitate communication and collaboration among teams?
Maintaining Company Culture
Your company’s culture impacts employee retention, growth, and bottom-line, so it’s essential to keep it strong. The office may still be the foundation of a company’s culture. However, it’ll need extra support if that culture is to span multiple spaces. By integrating employee portal software, an HR leader can share company announcements, post onsite and online events, and connect with the company’s employees with just a few clicks of a button.
The Hybrid Office Is The Workplace of Tomorrow
The hybrid workplace marks another leap forward in the progression of the working environment. Rather than simply “places of work,” forward-thinking offices are becoming multi-purpose. They’re arenas for staff to connect, new employees to learn how things work at the company, and breeding grounds for innovation and collaboration.
Advantageous to both employer and employees, hybrid work does more than reflect changing global conditions. It creates a new landscape of possibilities.