Hybrid work involves the best of both worlds, combining structure with autonomy. Kissflow, a provider of digital workplace services, held organisation-wide feedback sessions, which led to a hybrid model consisting of three weeks of working from anywhere and one week of office-based work. The UK offices of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers split the work week between home and office with the expectation that employees spend 40-60% of their time with colleagues.
Time will tell whether these trial configurations are successful. But leaders are fully aware that they need to work harder than ever to ensure that expectations are clear and opportunities for collaboration and community building are abundant.
Here are four steps your organisation can take to develop a playbook for remote work success.
Identify roles suitable for remote work
Since the pandemic, most employees have started to value the flexibility, productivity and work-life balance they’ve experienced with remote work – and don’t want to lose it. But not every role is a good fit for remote work. For example, many workers in healthcare and educational organisations, as well as those within the retail and hospitality industries, need to be present onsite. Other roles like customer service and marketing can be easily adapted to working remotely.
Leaders need to carefully examine each role to decide which ones are best suited to continue off-site, and implement a hybrid work environment only if there is an optimal number of roles that can proceed with remote work.
Define clear expectations and benefits
The conventional work schedule — 9am-6pm, five days a week — may be shifting for now, but what is the new norm? As businesses figure out hybrid-work models, leaders need to set clear expectations around performance outcomes, team milestones, and deliverables.
Remote work also escalated the need for employee development; greater distance and fewer face-to-face interactions heighten the need for stronger communications and morale-building. Employers and workers would benefit greatly from on-demand virtual coaching that creates a culture of resilience and helps build morale.
Prepare for potential pitfalls
Common hybrid work issues that organisations face include employee engagement, sustaining culture, ensuring the well-being and IT security challenges, as well as team-building and recruiting.
Prudential Financial works with its 42,000 employees to manage remote work expectations, including ensuring that all staffers opt for Mondays and Fridays as their work-from-home days. The company has been redesigning its offices to repurpose conference and collaboration spaces to further encourage employee engagement. Rob Falzon, Prudential’s Vice Chair, also insists that video capabilities should be extended throughout the offices so that remote team members don’t feel left out.
Another potential pitfall is the gender divide that a hybrid work environment might create. If businesses allow remote work but do not cap the number of days employees come into the office, they risk creating a system that hurts women and inclusion efforts. This is because statistically, women are more likely to prefer remote work to help them balance caregiving responsibilities. Remote work will contribute positively towards levelling the workforce playing field for men and women – but only if every voice is heard – whether it’s in the office or via a video call, according to Annette Polaszewski, CEO of Interprefy, a fully remote software company where women make up a slight majority.
Provide support structures
When working remotely, employees may struggle with distractions, loneliness, collaboration, and communication. Organisations implementing remote work need to make sure they evaluate and update HR and IT processes frequently to keep employees engaged in the long term.
Hybrid work environments will not be sustainable without investments in collaboration software, such as document sharing portals, video chat software, phone systems, messaging channels like Slack, intranet channels, as well as information security controls.
State-of-the-art tools alone cannot ensure a successful hybrid work model. It is also imperative for organisations to empower employees to continue skill-building and career development, no matter where their office is located.
This article is contributed by Manpower Singapore.