These are the practices and programs you should implement to make the hybrid workplace model a success.
The COVID era has been a difficult time to navigate for everyone, even with guidance from the CDC and local agencies. There’s still confusion for employers when it comes to managing small to midsize businesses (SMBs), as needs shift rapidly and constantly, projects have been canceled, and the word “pivot” has been thrown around a frustrating amount. Leaders have been faced with making more difficult decisions (including managing COVID cases and exposures in the workplace) for their teams and organizations than they ever have before.
While some businesses have been on the front lines the whole time, many businesses have had to make another difficult decision to shift from being 100% on-site to a hybrid or remote work environment. If your business is thinking about adopting (or has already adopted) the hybrid work model, then we can help you sort out the best way to customize your hybrid workplace to fit your teams’ needs.
One of the first things you can do to support your employees in a hybrid environment is to provide them with opportunities to share concerns about the changes and potential uncertainty that can come with the hybrid work model. Creating an environment of trust and psychological safety is more important than ever in these uncertain times. Considering that employees have different abilities and needs, asking curious questions helps to support a diverse, equitable, inclusive environment where employees not only feel supported, but feel like they belong. The more they feel like they belong, the more likely they are to stay at the organization. Given “The Great Resignation,” now is the time to pay closer attention to taking care of your employees and keeping them engaged.
Checking in on your employees on a personal level is also important. This will help you find out what their needs are and allow you to make decisions based on their direct feedback. For example, you may be making an assumption that your team wants to work in-office versus work remotely, but the opposite may be true. This feedback could lead to the discovery that there are additional challenges with returning to the office that you hadn’t anticipated. Gathering as much information ahead of time from employees about their experiences would be very helpful to that process.
When considering schedules, one option is to stagger the days that employees and leaders are in the office to slow the spread of COVID-19. Assigning certain days and times that different team members will be in the office is also helpful to the process of designing a hybrid work schedule. Don’t stop considering your employees though. Many employees have families at home and their desire for additional flexibility may be based on the needs and support of their loved ones.
For example, if someone has young, school-aged children, their desire for flexibility could be prompted by the need to drop their child off at school or pick them up, which will be different than a single employee who loves to travel and values the flexibility for those purposes. They may want to work remotely before that long weekend trip with friends. The reasons and levels of flexibility will vary and be unique to each employee. Exploring these conversations and getting to know your team is another way you can honor diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and foster belonging.
Remember that employees will also have different definitions of flexibility based on their own lived experiences, backgrounds, level of experience in their career, and tenure in the organization.
Allowing your employees to customize their work experience is an important part of creating a hybrid workplace that works for everyone. A great way to get to know your employees so you can help provide that customization and flexibility is to design a survey. You can ask employees:
- What their interests are
- How, when, and where they are the most productive
- What barriers they may face while working that you can help alleviate
- What support you can provide
You can form committees within your organization that are led by employees or create spaces where they are allowed to take part in decision-making that will directly impact them day to day. This is an engagement tool in a time where many employees are fleeing their jobs in pursuit of other opportunities when employers are not meeting their expectations for the level of flexibility they desire.
You won’t be able to meet every employee’s needs or requests just because you asked, but using the data you gather from surveys, direct employee feedback, and employee interactions will help you create a hybrid work schedule and workplace that works for both you and your teams. As a bonus, asking employees for their feedback will help engage your team, build a strong employer brand and culture, and increase the likelihood that your employees will stay long-term.
Be prepared that some of the things that were celebrated pre-pandemic in the office environment may not always be the same things employees see as celebratory in these more uncertain times. It has become that much more important to be intentional about your creation of team culture. Virtual social events such as Host Events and The Murder Mystery Co. have kept teams laughing and connecting either during or outside of work hours.
Considering what new and tenured employees need to be successful from the perspective of tools, technology, and support is also important. Meetings now allow for both in-person and hybrid scheduling, so it’s important to provide access to video conferencing and instant messaging systems. These tools are vital in helping teams meet in a hybrid environment, share files, stay more connected socially and professionally, and support each other. Additionally, project management tools are great at helping teams keep projects on task.
As a startup, new founder, or an SMB, this is even more critical as you consider innovative practices and programs that are going to help you achieve your goals of scaling the business. Make sure not to get too tied to the approach you’re taking today because it could change tomorrow based on any number of factors, as many businesses have already seen throughout the course of the pandemic era. Now more than ever, innovation and agility matter.