Back to the office?
Why not both?
Post-COVID, many companies may not be going back in the office. But others will be adopting a hybrid work structure - that has it's own unique considerations. We’ve put together some tips and considerations for HR to help this transition go as smoothly as possible.
What is a hybrid work environment?
Rather than being 100% remote or 100% in-office, a hybrid work environment combines the best of both worlds - ideally in a way that works best for the employee. While this may look like some roles are completely remote while others are completely in-office, it can also look like a role that's 10-90 or 50-50 or 70-30.
How does a hybrid work environment differ compared to fully remote or in-person?
When managing a hybrid work environment, there are new considerations. One of the first ones is office space. While you might have 100 employees (for example), a hybrid work model won't require an office that can accommodate all 100 employees at a time. Some employees might only work from the office on Monday and Tuesday while others take a weekend shift. It's critical to get an accurate understanding of when people will be in the office space to ensure that you find an appropriate space.
Additionally, collaborating will look different when some people are physically in a room together and others are fully remote. If there are four people working on a project, and two people are sitting next to each other and can easily toss ideas around, it's easy to understand how the two that are remote would end up feeling left out. Careful thought must be given to inclusivity and how we work together in a hybrid model.
Another area to watch out for is mentorship and leadership development. If leaders are used to seeing familiar faces around the office, or if some people are able to benefit from an informal mentoring network and an up-close view of "how things are done" this can quickly create a scenario where in-office workers are promoted more quickly and receive more favorable performance evaluations.
What HR considerations are there?
From tangible things like meeting space considerations, and health and safety compliance, to how to enable workers to stay connected, and improving internal communications - there are a number of considerations.
First, do employees have any voice and choice regarding the work environment? How are decisions and processes communicated to them? Leaders need to ensure that feedback is being gathered about how these processes are flowing - if remote workers are always getting information last, or being left out of organizational decision-making, this is critical to know.
Second, new hires and digital onboarding — Regardless of whether or not all of your employees are in office, they’ll need a streamlined and consistent way to be welcomed. Having a fully digital on boarding process means ALL employees get sent digital offer letters, digital new hire paperwork, and self-service benefits enrollment, which is easy to manage and leaves a good impression regardless of where they are.
Third, will there be compliance concerns? How can you ensure the health and safety of the office workers? Certified HR advisors in GoCo’s HR Support Center can give guidance on considerations for hybrid workforce, from compliance side issues to best practices.
With that, here are five tips for managing a successful hybrid work environment.
Brainstorm Arrangements for Place and Time Hybrid Models
When people talk about hybrid models they often fixate on the "where" or the place - but the "when" (or the time) is an element too. In a hybrid workplace, some people might opt for morning schedules and some people might opt for evening schedules. People may decide to adopt the weekend as working days to free up two weekdays for errands or doctor's appointments and other things that can often easier to manage during business hours. HR professionals and managers must plan around both ends of the newfound flexibility.
Support Employees Regardless of their Working Arrangements
Even the most well intentioned leaders (and colleagues) can get in the habit of greeting people and checking in more often with people they see face-to-face on a regular basis. This type of social connection builds relationships and trust over time - but if we're not careful, this can lead to reduced trust of the colleagues that we don't have this type of interaction with. Strive to support all of the employees fairly - regardless of how often you connect with them or how they work.
Plan for Inclusion
Needless to say, exclusion can quickly become an issue when we have this type of physical barrier and arrangement. When you consider that employees who might be most likely to opt-into remote or "nontraditional" work arrangements - like working parents or people with disabilities - it becomes easy to see disastrous it can be to let the nontraditional workers fall to the wayside or to not properly rope them into mentoring programs, leadership opportunities, and stretch projects.
Keep An Eye out for Overwork and Over-Communication
Sometimes working remotely can bring an influx of communication - even more so than one would experience in the office. A quick question that you can walk over and ask someone now becomes more of an ordeal. People may feel anxious about how to explain it or hesitant to document what may be considered "a silly question." Beyond that, people might feel pressured to demonstrate their productivity by being active into the late night and early dawn. HR leaders and managers should be on the lookout for this, as it can easily spiral into stress, burnout and overwork.
Encourage Flexibility Amongst Each Other
We're all adjusting to the future of work as we go - so try to encourage people to have grace with one another. It might be frustrating to need something urgently from a colleague who won't be in until another weekday, or to have to alter a meeting schedule to accommodate people who are working both morning and evening shifts, but over time it will get easier. And your colleagues will thank you for extending flexibility and understanding.