By Jessie Taylor
As we emerge from the disruption of the global pandemic, many workplaces are moving towards hybrid working models, with employees working both from home and from the office during their workweek.
While this shift brings increased opportunities to explore alternative communication modes and a more flexible work environment, it can also leave employees feeling isolated or at a disadvantage for career-building opportunities. Managing these challenges requires a fresh strategy from HR professionals.
Before the pandemic, less than a third of all employees worked remotely. Business leaders expected this to rise to half, but employees hoping to work remotely, at least part-time, sit closer to 80%. This is evidence of a growing demand for flexible working arrangements.
Hybrid working environments allow employees to find their own rhythm when working and often allow for the streamlining of operations. It also allows for improved communication between all levels of a company, as virtual calls have made communication between business leaders and employees much easier.
Some of the challenges that remote and hybrid working brings to workplaces include introducing new hires to the organisation, as they could potentially miss out on relationship building the same level of training. HR professionals surveyed also said they were worried about employees developing and maintaining personal relationships, as well as lower personal interactions.
But while 30% of employees prefer a hybrid work environment, more than 40% believe in-person work is better for career advancement. And data suggests hybrid work environments can be more demanding than working in person, as employees shift between their home office and corporate spaces and between in-person meetings and video calls.
But building a successful hybrid working environment requires the involvement of HR, especially as companies rework their strategies to accommodate in-office and remote workers.
Now the challenge HR professionals face is creating an engaged workforce that is effectively and efficiently able to work in this new model while prioritising employee wellbeing.
Here are some of the ways HR professionals can facilitate the move to hybrid working:
- Employee wellbeing
Remote work makes it easier for employees to work longer hours or deal with work items after hours because they aren’t physically leaving an office. This can lead to burnout. To combat this, HR departments can establish clear rules about when remote workers should log off to ensure they have a balanced work and home life.
Hybrid working can create a disparity between those working in the office and those working remotely. To prevent this, HR can compile strategies and policies to promote inclusivity, such as ensuring that managers evaluate remote and in-person employees’ work the same way. TO ensure that remote workers don’t feel like they miss out on career and relationship building moments, HR should also encourage managers to use regular check-ins with their teams and avoid “proximity bias.” Adopting equitable meeting practices, including having the whole team log into a virtual call regardless of location, can also foster inclusion.
- Tech first
Implementing technological advances has enabled our workforce to weather the pandemic, and it can also make hybrid working easier. Online employee interactions can boost morale and prevent employee isolation. As part of this, companies can bring people together through brainstorming sessions, town halls, and informal gatherings. Technology gives business leaders insights into how work takes place and the networks involved, and it can also be used to equip employees to manage their time.
- Drive engagement
Although virtual social gatherings have benefits, they are likely not enough to create the levels of connection needed by employees. This can be created through buddy systems and mentorship programmes, along with celebrating team accomplishments and milestones together. Managers can also have dedicated training and tools to drive engagement, supported by HR.
- Set clear guidelines
Hybrid work shifts our mentality on how work gets done and impacts an organisation’s HR practices, technology investments and approach to how the workspace is used when employees return to the office—so companies need to create a framework that defines how to lead and how employees can be successful. Research has shown that 88% of employees at organisations with clear hybrid working guidelines feel connected to their job and their team. However, among those with such guidelines, only 64% felt a sense of connection.
It’s essential for HR professionals to map out when teams will be working in the office, how remote working will be managed, and the hours for remote workers. These guidelines should be tailored to suit the team’s needs.