Remember what going to work used to be like? It was a location-based, 9-to-5, day-in-day-out tradition. Then, suddenly, many employees became remote workers. Now we’re in a new era of the hybrid workforce with employees and employers attempting to take the best from what we’ve learned over the past two-plus years to create a new way of working.
Is your company currently working in a hybrid workforce model? Or considering one? We all wonder if a hybrid workforce is the future but the only thing that’s certain is that it’s the now. What does that mean for companies? And are you prepared for the answer?
What is a Hybrid Workforce?
The hybrid workforce model is somewhat elastic in its execution with every business creating a work environment that fits their specific industry and employees. But at its core, the hybrid workforce model baseline is the same—you’ll have some employees in the home office and some in an office in their homes.
What is a Hybrid Model of Working?
Look around at businesses today and you won’t see a one-size-fits-all, standardized hybrid work model. Over the past few years, HR leaders have flexed to develop ways to work that fits their overarching business model. Some common methods include:
- Teams of employees alternating days working in the office and working at home.
- Teams of employees alternating days working in the office and working at home with one day a week where everyone is in one location.
- Individual employees choosing 1-2 days a week where they will work from home (or in the office).
- One team works strictly in an office while a second team works strictly from home.
Some hybrid models not only allow location flexibility, but they also provide for start/stop flexibility within the workday.
No matter what shape a hybrid workforce model takes, there are some important practices and protocols that management needs to have defined to ensure their employees function (and feel) like a team.
Why do Employees Want a Hybrid Workplace Model?
63% of the employees who were asked said that the biggest benefit of a hybrid workplace model is the flexibility it offers (Envoy). A hybrid work environment provided a sense of “empowerment,” trust, and responsibility. Contrary to the common wisdom even five years ago, that flexibility can be a key to even higher employee engagement.
In a separate survey published by Accenture, 83% of respondents “identify a hybrid model as being optimal in the future.”
Many employees not only want to work this way, but they also recognize the responsibility that they have in this great workplace transformation and want to do what they can to see it succeed. It’s important for management to understand and welcome this new paradigm and create the necessary systems to support employees and the business.
3 Things Leaders Need to Know to Manage a Hybrid Workplace
Four key takeaways from the workplace transformation can guide HR leaders and managers as they oversee a hybrid workforce.
1. Just because you can…
During the period when thousands of people were working as remote employees, companies discovered that, while some employees thrived, others struggled without the structure and familiarity of the office.
In fact, 60% of remote workers said that “working from home has made them feel less connected to co-workers” (Pew Research). And as any HR professional will attest to, some employees need that connection to perform their tasks. So, while it’s easy to think that everyone wantsto work from home, the truth is a little different. It takes a different mindset to work remotely just as it takes a different mindset to lead those who are.
2. Be deliberate
With a pre-hybrid workforce, developing and executing business strategies was a more fluid business practice. With a percentage of your employees still working outside of the office, it becomes crucial to be even more deliberate with business strategy planning if you want to see results.
You have people working in different locations and many times in different time zones and on different schedules. The only way to make sure everyone is synced is to keep communication channels open and active.
It’s not only important that your team communicates but also that the communication expectations are understood. For example, if an in-office worker sends a remote worker an email, when should they expect an action or response? Having predefined protocols can reduce any personnel clashes and also keep the flow of work moving.
Things to Consider when Managing a Hybrid Workforce
To manage levels of productivity, consider placing your initial focus on needed, relatable, and achievable business practices like:
It was difficult enough to achieve a healthy work-life balance under the “old” working model. In hybrid workplaces, where the lines between home and work are easily blurred, that balance can be quickly thrown off.
Managers can avoid any scheduling conflicts and concerns by:
- Stating, in writing, what the expectations are around when an employee should be working and available. These rules should be shared with the entire team to keep people accountable and aware.
- Making sure that every remote worker is clear about overtime guidelines and rules.
- Giving employees access to scheduling and time management tools to manage and track their time to ensure accountability and add structure.
Hybrid workplaces make the impromptu “all-hands” meeting not impossible, but difficult. While you can still gather employees together to share information, you may only be reaching half your audience, even if you use virtual communication tools. Scheduling weekly or daily touchbase meetings helps teams stay connected and informed, especially when they are remote.
A Common Understanding
It’s important in this type of work environment that everyone understands their roles. One way you can manage this is by creating a Work from Home (WFH) Agreement. This can be a policy addendum to an employee’s file that outlines not only daily work expectations but also those areas that cover an employee’s work from home needs, including:
- Computers – Is the employee using a corporate or personal device for work? Who pays for software, security, and upgrades?
- Work “Tools” – Pens, paper, printer ink, and other necessary tools of business. To get the supplies they need, is the employee making a trip to the office or to Office Depot?
- Phones – Does the employee already have a company phone? If so, does their current usage policy cover this new remote working arrangement? If not, will they be getting a phone?
In addition to these three broad sections, you should add any industry-specific policies to your WFH Agreement.
Just as management is figuring out the technical aspects of having a hybrid workplace model, employees are exploring their roles and responsibilities as well. Establishing (and maintaining) a set of clear and concise policies and procedures around key work practices early can keep your hybrid workforce model from becoming a failed experiment.
Three Strategies to Empower Your Hybrid Workforce
You can’t just tell half your team to go home and work and expect immediate results. Without appropriate direction and guidance, lack of productivity can quickly settle in. To succeed, you need to give the team structure as well as support.
- Keep technologies consistent
Make sure that your remote employees can function effectively by keeping their hardware and software up-to-date and compatible with what their co-workers in the office are using.
- Review their knowledgebase
Make sure that the training for remote employees is current in classes taken and information provided. It’s one thing to establish new procedures and rules for WFH employees, but if they’re not effectively communicated, employees can’t be faulted for not following them.
- Streamline business practices
The hybrid workplace model doesn’t need modified business practices, it needs new ones; plans that match today’s reality. It may be helpful to rebuild your employee handbook with input from employees who are working remotely so that business practices accurately reflect the operations of a hybrid workplace.
Maximizing Hybrid Workforce Technology
It’s not enough to build new policies and procedures to manage your hybrid workforce model, though. You’ve got to equip your employees with the necessary tools to help ensure those procedures are successfully executed. And with that, Paycor can help. Paycor Time is a web-based solution that helps employees track their time wherever they are. And Paycor Mobile enables HR leaders to track overtime and collect reliable timesheets for payroll. Explore these products and other Paycor solutions that can help your hybrid workplace.