During the pandemic, many employees and businesses discovered the benefits of remote work.
With restrictions lifted, organisations have started to explore how they can maintain these benefits by embracing a hybrid working model.
Who is responsible for making hybrid working work?
While each individual has some responsibility for making hybrid working work for them and the organisation as a whole, managers and HR professionals will need to take the lead. It’s the responsibility of management and HR to create a successful hybrid working environment by setting an example, listening to employees and adapting when change is needed.
Tips for successful hybrid working
1. Be transparent about your hybrid working policies
You must be transparent about how your hybrid working policies might differ depending on the circumstances. For example, do colleagues in certain roles have more flexibility than others? Are there specific hours or days when people are expected to be in the office/online?
Make sure that there is a rationale behind each rule. If your company policy states that everyone needs to be in the office a certain day, be sure to clarify why. This ensures that employees understand the reason for certain rules (and exceptions) and that the final policy is fair for everyone in the business.
Transparency and clarity will help to reduce complaints, confusion and rule breaking from employees.
2. Empower individuals to make their own choices
One of the best ways of making sure hybrid working succeeds is by empowering employees to choose how they work rather than forcing specific schedules on them.
Giving them this choice means they can balance work with other commitments, they can maintain good mental health, that productivity increases, which all ultimately reduces work-related stress.
Just make sure that you encourage employees to make choices based on productivity so they’ll think “Where will I be most productive for this?” rather than “I want to work from home for the sake of it”. As a HR professional, you should have regular performance reviews with employees where you can analyse productivity and performance for certain tasks when in the workplace vs remotely.
3. Consider a redesign of your workplace
Through remote work, many working habits and schedules have adapted. Make sure you consider if your workplace design is still suitable for how your employees work best.
For example, some employees may have started taking lunch at different times so you might want to minimise disruptions to other members of staff by moving the main work area away from the kitchen. Others may have got used to the quiet when working at home so may find it overwhelming or distracting once back in the office – so make sure you have private or quiet spaces available when these employees need some peace or want to take a call.
HR colleagues and managers should have discussions with employees to find out how they’ve adapted when working from home and if there is anything they would be concerned about when returning to the workplace that should be accounted for.
4. Evaluate your digital tools
Digital tools like video call, chat and productivity software have been essential to communication and organisation during the pandemic – but a lot of this was probably put in place as a knee-jerk reaction at the start of lockdown.
If hybrid working is going to become a permanent element of your business, you need to check that your digital tools are fit for purpose and the most effective systems for your teams to use.
For example, many employees experienced “Zoom-fatigue” when working from home and eventually found that they responded less positively to video calls than chat tools.
Managers should review exactly what digital tools are needed, how your teams feel about them and if there is anything that can be improved.
5. Be flexible and open to feedback
When it comes to hybrid working, it’s unlikely you’ll get it right from the start. Make sure employees know that you are open to feedback and can be flexible if the current policies and environment don’t work for some. Hybrid working has to accommodate every individual’s needs, it’s not a one-size-fits-all model.
Over time, you can make changes to your hybrid working model until you reach the right mix to ensure everyone’s wellbeing needs and productivity, as well as business profitability, are met.
Read more: Top Tips For Managing Teams Remotely
6. Communicate regularly
In a shared workspace, it’s easier to spot any signs of stress, conflict or poor mental health but that’s more difficult when employees are working remotely or at different hours.
Make sure you support all the employees in your organisation by maintaining regular contact with them to:
• Remind them to contact you if they need help
• Keep checks on their overall wellbeing
• Identify any training and development needs
• Learn about issues and conflicts early on.
Having the proper digital tools in place will help you to communicate with people remotely but you should also consider having set meetings in place across the business to ensure you have the chance to talk to everyone regularly.
7. Plan ahead to support company culture
One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was maintaining company culture and team morale. In-person human connection plays a large part in building a culture but it’s not impossible to do through a hybrid model – it just takes some extra planning.
Smaller, more frequent activities are often a good way to approach this but you’ll need to prepare in advance to ensure everyone is included. For example, rather than picking up treats for employees when out on your lunch break, plan to do it in advance so you can organise for them to be delivered to remote workers on the same day as for those in the office.
8. Make it inclusive
A frequent complaint about hybrid working is that policies are not inclusive for everyone. This often occurs when a senior leader hasn’t consulted with others and has assumed that everyone has the same requirements as them.
When designing the hybrid working policy, you should consult employees from a variety of roles and backgrounds so that rules can be written with everyone in mind.
For example, employees with young children may prefer to have flexible working hours so they can spend time with their families during the day and work when their children are asleep. Some may also find it difficult or more expensive to travel to the workplace on specific days so would appreciate an in-office requirement that isn’t set to a specific day.
Looking to improve or introduce hybrid working in your organisation? Make sure you have the people management skills and leadership skills you need to successfully lead the change.