With the pandemic having set in from last year, many companies have resorted to employees working from home as far as possible. However, where the nature of work could not enable remote operations such as manufacturing industries, service on-the-spot like restaurant and food industry, healthcare, and more, one could not implement the remote working.
As vaccination drives cover people, companies look at starting operations to pre-covid times. However, most of those surveyed are reluctant to return to work for their safety or having learned the benefits of remote working. Bound by employee surveys, many companies, including Google, Citibank, Microsoft, Prudential, and more, have moved to hybrid workforce as well as hybrid work environment.
What is a Hybrid Office?
PwC reports that a hybrid office has a mixed workforce. Some employees performing critical roles are required to work from a central/local office every day. Their roles do not enable them to work from home. Another set of the workforce are employees who can work remotely permanently. However, there remains a part of employees who work remotely but need to visit their office about two to three days of the week. Such days of visit may be flexible or fixed, as is the practice in some companies.
While visiting the office, such employees perform important tasks like catch-up for important meetings, finishing particular tasks to be managed in the office only. Such an office model, where you have hybrid workers working remotely and visiting offices when required, is called a hybrid work model.
What is a Hybrid Workforce?
What is a hybrid workforce? A hybrid workforce is a set of employees that have a flexible work routine. As per work requirements, they may visit the office a few days a week for important tasks that you can perform in the office only. Else, they work remotely from their home or satellite co-working spaces. What is hybrid employee? Any employee who follows a hybrid work office model and has to travel to the office a few days a week is called a hybrid employee. Hence, a hybrid worker has split working between office and remote work.
Benefits of Hybrid Working
While the pandemic forced most to work remotely, surprisingly, companies and employees have seen a few benefits.
1. Increased Employee Productivity
Many companies have researched the change in employee productivity levels as they work remotely/home. For example, a Forbes study puts this number at 35-40%. Another study mentions a 13% increase for a single day of work from home, while Microsoft reported a 34% increase in employee productivity. Whoa! Interesting, isn't it?
2. Lowered Costs
With ghost office spaces, companies had to give up leased and rented spaces. American Express reported savings from lowered rentals, giving up spaces, moving to remote areas to give them a savings of $10 to $15 million. Companies have adapted quickly to reduce costs by announcing changes in policies or bring your device to work, work remotely.
3. Work-Life Balance
Gallup reported 54% of those surveyed were searching for new jobs that offered flexible working. Companies are working to the premise that flexible working options increase employee satisfaction to retain employees, especially hybrid workforce benefits.
Challenges during Implementation
Transforming from existing in-office work models to Hybrid working models is an organizational change project that has challenges. Here are the top ones:
Redefinition of Company policies
Companies will need to redefine the work policies for all three categories of employees – 100% remote, hybrid, and 100% in-office. While some policies could be common, you will often need different remote and hybrid workforce guidelines. For example, attendance and being in office will change from the number of hours clocked to the effectiveness of work quality.
Business leaders will need to showcase and set examples in leading people in a hybrid work environment. You will need different approaches and handling for those in-office and those off-premises. Deciding who gets to be an in-office, hybrid, or remote employee will need to be based on nature or type of work, employee experience, preference or choice of employees, and more. You may need separate attendance capturing systems for managing secure accesses in a hybrid office layout.
Developing People Managers
A major need will be to develop management practices that reduce micro-management and bring in an open trust-based culture for any hybrid team. Managing hybrid and remote workers through trust-based leadership will need to be set up. People managers will need to see their leaders following this, setting up an example for their teams. Two qualities that will need to be imbibed from people leaders are empathy and trust. Managing hybrid teams who are not in the same physical space as you are a big challenge.
A progression to give employees autonomy with scope and limits pre-defined will help. Employees may not need to wait for approvals before working remotely or getting to work. They must take their own decisions to free up managers from micro-management and use their time effectively.
One of the easiest things is to move all support functions to a centralized model. This eases the administration of support functions like finance, human resources, IT, and others. However, businesses may still need a minimal touchpoint in the office, which is the moot principle of hybrid working.
Setting-up Performance Success
A redefinition of performance evaluations will need to be made. Compensation parameters and salary structures will need to change to distinguish and comply with local government laws. As the home office will get covered as a workplace, perhaps things from a safety point of view, laws on employees/workers will need to be kept ahead.
As a management practice, business leaders will need to be careful not to be influenced only by those who are seen at work. Remote and hybrid workers are usually seen to have low visibility with leadership. Those working in-office tend to have a greater chance to meet leadership and perhaps have easier access to them. You will need communication channels to allow those working on remote and hybrid models to manage their expectations and needs.
Companies planning to transform to a hybrid model cannot ignore the Autonomous Hybrid Office.
Moving to a hybrid work model has become a necessity in most cases for survival. While the progression will take time, better planning of the challenges will lead to success.
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