Countries worldwide have started relaxing and dropping the restrictions that were implemented in an effort to manage the catastrophic spread of COVID-19. With this being the case, most industries and organisations view this move as a green light to return to "normalcy". This green light has recently sparked the "return to the office" saga, which has been a hot and contagious discussion between employers and employees.
Hybrid or Back to the Office
Most organisations have already started evaluating whether a hybrid working culture will suit them and their employees, or whether everyone is better off 100% back at the office. Whatever the organisation decides comes with its complications, as a lot has changed as a result of the pandemic. When the world was hit by the pandemic, change management was an imperative. Office bound organisations found themselves having to think differently about their current and future working culture. Decisions needed to be made about the large infrastructure that used to house their employees, some assets had to be disposed of, and costs cut in order to adjust to the new way of working. In addition to the above, organisational leaders needed to respond and shift into a different culture, especially those who had not explored nor embraced the idea of a working from home or a hybrid working culture.
Organisations need to acknowledge that there was a silver lining in their efforts to adapt to the pandemic. They must commend themselves for the astonishing speed with which they adopted and implemented virtual working technologies, policies and processes. It is also equally important to acknowledge the number of employees who do not want to return to past ways of working. This is motivation enough to reset work through a hybrid working culture.
Many employees have indicated that they would rather quit (resign) than return to the office. "Forcing" employees to return to the workplace could result in high staff turnover, but this can be avoided through driving and championing a hybrid working culture.
How to effectively implement a Hybrid Working Culture
There are various ways in which organisations can embrace and effectively implement a hybrid working culture. Although business strategies may vary, we recommend the following approach:
1. Carefully consider the job / role needs and productivity factors
When embarking on a hybrid working culture, organisations need to assess the job and role requirements, as well as the productivity factors contributing to the success of this particular role. Some roles thrive in an office bound environment, whilst others do well in a highly focused remote environment. This is critical to assess, as the change of environment can enhance or disturb performance.
2. Treat remote and office based employees equally
Although each role is evaluated uniquely to assess its fit in terms of a hybrid working environment, organisations need to ensure that both remote and office bound employees are treated equally. Remotely working employees tend to feel overlooked and not taken seriously, which is a factor organisations need to guard against.
3. Ensure your infrastructure is supportive
Ensure your physical and virtual infrastructures are supportive of a hybrid working environment. There are various tools available to tools foster team collaboration and cohesion, and these must be made available and functioning optimally.
4. Take employees' preferences into consideration
Each employee's situation is unique. When building a hybrid working culture, each employees' preferences should be considered. Although the assessment is also done at a role level, the individuals in the roles may also have preferences in terms of where and when their productivity improves. Others believe their productivity is better when working remotely, whilst others believe remote working conditions are not suitable.
With many employees having "tasted" the benefits of remote work, most will not want to return to the office on a full time basis and would rather leave for organisations with fully remote or hybrid working culture options. Creating a hybrid working culture can help you retain your employees - but it will take some careful planning - commitment to embracing and adjusting the culture.