Integrating hybrid work model best practices to improve your strategy.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20.
How about foresight? Well, that mostly depends on your planning and insight.
In the case of hybrid work, there are virtually an infinite number of approaches employers can take to hybrid work arrangements, which can range from incredibly flexible to quite rigid. Second, hybrid work arrangements give rise to an innumerable set of legal and human resources issues, many of which lack clear answers.
Granted, the hybrid workplace as a model is still in its infant stages, putting you a little in the dark regarding potential issues. However, there are ways that you can assess the success of your hybrid model even before it goes into action.
This article will outline nine hybrid model red flags, key indicators that your return to office plan is likely to fail; and highlight the benefits of integrating hybrid work model best practices to improve your strategy.
You’ve already lost control
Hybrid work strategies aren’t about control. However, a certain level of routine and guidelines are meant to be in order to guarantee both success and longevity. Losing control of your strategy and the hybrid model turning into a sort of free for all, or the inverse, nobody shows up, can indicate a lack of control and therefore an early red flag.
This is where preliminary and consistent communication with staff on topics relevant to hybrid work as well as communicating your expectations and vision is crucial. Two-way communication is how an effective and sustainable strategy is developed in place of being told how things are going to be.
Having productive return to office conversations as well as asking and truly listening to what staff want or need from hybrid work will go a long way in establishing control over your strategy and office.
Control isn’t so much about control as it is predictability and routine, so things are within what is expected and avoiding any unforeseen circumstances.
Schedules offer no flexibility
The entire reason we’re doing the hybrid work thing is to enhance flexibility at work and allow for people to have a work-life balance, or at least be closer to home and integrate aspects of their home and work life. Without the flexibility to come into the office when they can fit it or when they need to, the principle of hybrid work dies and so does any long-term hope for your strategy.
At this point there have been 4 main types of hybrid workers identified, ranging from those who are happy with the current model, to those who are fully remote, and those who want to be back full-time.
Curating to each of these types of employees will ensure that your strategy not only is adopted and accepted by your staff but that there is no animosity or assumed prejudice in your decisions for scheduling.
On-site employees have an advantage
The elephant in the room when hybrid work was first discussed, still a worry for some and certainly something that needs to be addressed early on. Many employees have a worry that not being on-site or choosing to work remotely for reasons that can range from childcare to gas expenses, could be used against them.
Hybrid work is supposed to be about flexibility, right? In theory, but this unspoken anxiety of whether decisions to work remotely will impact promotions, projects, or office politics is something that should be addressed early on and firmly. Productivity and other factors in the office can be an advantage, like access to management and work spaces, but the advantages should end there.
If people are working remotely and they are receiving less access to projects or are seeing those in the office favored, then your hybrid workplan needs to be revisited as well as your office culture surrounding remote work.
Options are limited
Carrying over from the previous two sections, if your options for remote work are limited, or present employees with options that do not consider their situations, it is likely your hybrid work strategy will create more problems than it solves.
Do you see the trend that is emerging? Hybrid work is about flexibility and giving your people a say in their schedules and options for how or where they work. Trying to keep your hybrid strategy as close as you can to “how things were” is a one-way ticket to an unhappy staff and a failing strategy.
When we say options, what we don’t mean is giving staff 4 choices that come from head office or the management group. Options mean open communication and dialogue with people asking what they need from hybrid work, listening to their options and what they need from a successful hybrid work strategy. Following this, ideally a middle ground and all-around win-win scenario can be reached.
You suffer from technology overload (or lack of)
Obviously to support hybrid work and remote work, you’re going to need technology and the resources to have things running smoothly between remote and in-person workers, as they rotate between both throughout the week.
Too much technology, or not enough, is going to hamper your office and how things run. Technology overload is going to present your office with too much data or too much software to keep track of. Ultimately weighing down your work productivity and IT department.
Lack of tech can inhibit work due to no connectivity and resources that don’t support a hybrid environment. Things such as videoconferencing, cloud sharing, and even office management functionalities like desk hoteling and space management can lead to a disorganized workplace.
Colleague relationships are unsupported
We all know the sentiment as of late that hybrid work leaves some feeling isolated. While this may be true, a similar issue that can lead to the failure of a hybrid work plan is relationships between colleagues suffering.
Whether it be some deciding to remain remote full time, or a lack of facetime with management. Relationships between colleagues are crucial to upholding a connected and functioning workplace dynamic between people. Unsupported relationships and the death of any pre-existing office culture can often lead people to feeling that they are isolated and losing out on connections.
Connections are not meant in an office politics way, but in a literal, human necessity type of way.
The inherited loneliness of hybrid and remote work plasters the search results when you search for hybrid work. With the attention on how to get back to work, there is often a lack of attention to how to handle the human aspect of it. For a successful hybrid plan, make sure that those in and out of the office are supported and communication remains constant if not improves to ensure all employees feel seen and heard.
Unsupported relationships and lonely employees leads to unmotivated employees and a workplace culture that is disconnected and unengaged.
You have no new policies for hybrid working
Here’s a given. If you don’t have any hybrid work plans, your hybrid work strategy is probably going to fail. Simply opening the office and saying “come back if you want” or without any vision or preparation for the return to office won’t cut it. You need to establish who is best suited for remote vs hybrid work, who may need to be in the office more frequently, and above all, make sure your health and safety policies are in order.
Health and safety policies are the backbone of hybrid work, because it makes employees feel safe and secure in your office while communicating to them that their well-being is a priority for the business. No policies mean no hybrid work at all, and a free for all will likely result in nothing more than an empty office.
Emailing is the main form of communication
You can’t run an office off emails and instant messages alone. There needs to be an element of face-to-face conversation even if this is through video conferencing. Video conferences, in-person meetings and even lunches or certain events at the office to encourage networking and casual interaction can go a long way.
If email is the main form of communication in your organization and your hybrid work strategy has already been deployed, consider ways you can improve communication through things like new technology and resources. Or discuss with management ways to encourage communication that is more impactful than email. A little facetime goes a long way.
Safety has been overlooked
This could have easily been #1, you don’t want to run into issues like the Canadian Government is encountering right now with trying to justify a return to the office without laying out things such as justification or safety plans.
Remote work was the answer to avoiding Covid-19, and now we have to take precautions such as improving air quality or designing the office in a new way that is conducive to hybrid work that reduces the amount of people in the office at once.
Overlooking safety not only erodes at your hybrid work strategy sustainability, but also the trust your people have in your organization if it fails to invest in their health and well being after 2 years of being told that they matter.
Have a plan and make sure to invest in the systems and tools to improve health around the office for now and in the future.
Many of these solutions come from sitting down and making sure there is open communication with employees. Things such as health and safety, tech overload, and scheduling however are all things that should be addressed sooner rather than later and using a solution such as an IWMS from Archibus.
The right tools and resources will help you support your own strategy with the data and functionalities you need, like space management, desk hoteling and occupancy data so the decision you make about your office are going to reflect how your office operates.