With the COVID-19 pandemic waning and vaccination rates rising, increasing numbers of businesses of all types are addressing the question of a return to the workplace. Some companies are sticking with the remote model, while others require that all employees come back to the office or wherever they happened to be doing their jobs before March 2020. But there is yet a third option that’s attracting attention: a hybrid work arrangement.
Such an arrangement can play out in several ways:
- Remote first: In a remote-first scenario, almost all employees work from home or another location outside the office—with a few exceptions. This may include individuals whose job responsibilities necessitate that they are on office premises at least part of the time. In some cases, it encompasses upper management.
- Office occasional: Some businesses that opt for this model have a relatively unstructured policy. For example, employees must work in the office two days per week but can choose which days they will do so. Others have implemented firmer guidelines, such as requiring employees to come to the office on a set day of the week.
- Office first, remote allowed. This one is self-explanatory: when the office is the primary place where employees work, a small percentage of the workforce works remotely.
Whichever hybrid model companies choose, it is essential to manage it properly. Here are a few tips for doing so.
Reimagine the Workspace
According to the Harvard Business Review and other sources, businesses that adopt a hybrid model should be redesigned for collaboration and community-building, with individual work done remotely and collaboratively in the office setting. This fosters the highest degree of productivity and makes the best use of the workspace.
Continue with a Virtual Communications Platform
While many employees appreciate working at least part of the time remotely, they may begin to feel as if they are second-class citizens if (and when) they miss out on in-person communication that takes place at the business. Continuing to practice “online first” communication using online collaboration tools, email, and platforms like Zoom prevents this problem. Doing so minimizes the possibility that issues will arise because remote employees are unaware of decisions made or conversations held in person.
Some companies have learned, request, or require that if a meeting held in the office includes employees working from home, all employees working on site must join the discussion from their laptop computers rather than gather in a conference room. In addition to guarding against a dampening of employee morale, it decreases the likelihood that remote workers will feel uncomfortable contributing to the discussion.
Pay Attention to Employee Promotion and Recognition
In an article on builtin.com, an unnamed executive of Dropbox says that a hybrid atmosphere may lead to inequities in employee promotion and recognition, with personnel who work in the office more frequently getting ahead of those who do so less regularly or even sporadically. “Hybrid approaches may also perpetuate two different employee experiences that could result in barriers to inclusion and inequities concerning performance or career trajectory.”
Research from Gartner bears out this hypothesis. The study indicates that 64 percent of managers are more likely to award office-based workers a higher raise than remote workers based on the belief that the former is more complex. However, the data also shows that remote workers are five percent more likely to be high performers than their office-based colleagues.
According to the Harvard Business Review, assigning leadership and managers to work remotely so that they do not intentionally favor office-bound employees when deciding on promotions and recognition is one way to address this situation. Training managers to identify biases against remote workers in completing performance reviews ranks among other vital strategies here; maximizing remote workers’ opportunities to grow within the company increases long-term employee retention.
Explore Alternatives to Remote Working at Home
Some employees like the idea of commuting to an office only occasionally or just a few days a week but still are not comfortable working from home because of distractions or other factors. Contracting with a co-working space may be a viable compromise.
A hybrid work model of any type isn’t for every company. However, following the above tips can increase the chances of success for those who choose to pursue.