The global pandemic drove companies to transition to remote work to operationalize their businesses. With some normalcy setting in, creating a sustainable and hybrid workplace is crucial if you want to keep your best employees on board. Multiple studies reveal that employees today want a hybrid work environment that allows them to work from home and the office.
Thanks to the pandemic, hybrid work environments are here to stay. However, you need to create a hybrid environment that will allow you to maximize employee productivity while respecting work-life balance.
Let’s look at how you can create a sustainable hybrid work environment for your company.
1. Clearly define the hybrid policy
A big challenge for both businesses and HR leaders lies in determining the flexibility strategy for the hybrid workplace. Who decides on the flexible schedule, and are all roles equally flexible? As a first step, the management and HR team must divide the roles into three buckets: flexible, partly flexible, and not flexible.
- Roles unsuitable for remote work: These would include roles like administrative assistants, architects, and engineers.
- Somewhat flexible roles: This includes roles like accountants, software developers, auditors, consultants, and project managers.
- Roles that afford total flexibility: Some examples include financial advisors, real estate agents, software engineers, network administrators, and paralegals.
Once the roles are delineated, then seek the employee’s input on how many days they would work remotely and how many would be onsite. Balance this against the needs of the team leaders. You’ll also need to track productivity. You can use one of these free Excel time tracking templates to manage the team.
Each company is unique in its needs. Hence this exercise would need to be done internally at the company. Finally, team leaders need to determine which job roles within their teams are more remote-friendly. HR leaders can help managers by providing guidelines and monitoring the situation from an independent perspective.
2. Braid in flexibility into your DNA
To build sustainable flexibility into your company’s DNA, you need to create a flexible culture. This change starts at the top, with the top management committing to a flexible environment. Building flexibility is an iterative process. Hence, be ready to make changes and re-align your processes.
Bridging the gap between remote and in-person is a challenge for management and team leaders. Regardless of how well you plan your scheduling, someone you need to see in person will be working remotely. To effectively bridge this gap, you need to integrate the physical space with technology while keeping three things in mind: ease, engagement, and equity.
A practical application toward building engagement and equity for remote workers is to change your conference room setup. Try using multiple monitors on moveable carts instead of a long conference table with the monitor at one end of the room. That way, each participant gets their screen and feels like they are an equal part of the meeting.
An excellent way to build equality among hybrid teams is to think “remote-first,” while defining the business norms for employee interactions. Flexibility also means moving away from the time clock paradigm and allowing the remote employees to complete their eight hours at their pace.
3. Create opportunities to build engagement
Isolation from their peers and the physical office space is an essential issue for many remote workers. Hence, the organization needs to foster frequent opportunities to connect with remote workers.
Build-in “team touchdown” events into the remote employee’s schedule to mark days and events for the remote worker to be present in person. These could include brainstorming sessions where the entire team is present in person. The in-person collaboration will result in higher ownership of goals.
Companies using the Slack platform can use the built-in social interaction channels designed to increase social interaction between in-person and remote team members. You can use the Donut app in the Slack app directory to introduce employees who may not know each other very well, thereby helping to create the opportunity for new relationships to develop.
4. Focus on inclusivity
Creating an inclusive environment for your remote workers is easier than you think. Create an inclusivity program and create SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, realistic, and time-bound. Then do the following:
- Start meetings with a greet and meet session. Ask the remote workers how their day is going. If someone is having a rough day, show some empathy for them.
- Start a remote mentoring program. That can be a “watercooler meeting” between the team leader and the remote team member, where the team member shares ideas and aspirations and the team leader provides mentoring.
- Show care and recognition. Mention the remote employee’s win during a virtual meeting with their peers. You can take it a step further and offer to pick up the tab for co-working places or a coffee shop so that the remote employee can get away from their house once in a while.
- Give free access to shared resources. By removing barriers to information access, you break down information silos that prevail with onsite working. If your project management platform restricts information access based on hierarchy, switch to a more open platform.
Using tips like the ones shared above is an excellent way to build inclusivity with remote employees.
5. Strike a balance between “me” and “we” work
Collaboration is more than just group work. It requires solitude too. Effective collaboration requires a natural ebb and flow of people working together for a while and then working alone. The “we” time is to generate ideas and discuss updates and deliverables, while the “me” time is about each individual maintaining solitude to work on the discussed ideas.
Too much time together without sufficient individual focus time can lead to the groupthink syndrome. This syndrome is a sign of tasks not being delegated properly, requiring people to stay in touch with each other constantly. It’s essential to prevent the pendulum from swinging from one extreme to another.
Organizations that are forward-thinking and adapt to flexible workplaces will thrive. These organizations will attract and retain the best talent while benefiting from innovation and growth.
Once we’re all back in the office, things will never be the same again, which is a good thing.
Like it or not, the hybrid workplace is here to stay. The employees want it, and your competition offers it. If you want to attract and retain the best talent, you need to take the first steps today to create a hybrid environment and culture.
Those steps are simple: Be flexible, create opportunities to build engagement, and focus on inclusivity. Strike a balance between “me” and “we” work and define the hybrid policy.
If you follow these, you’ll have a winning hybrid workplace for your business in no time.