Anticipate and Address Challenges of the Hybrid Workplace
Forced into creating work-from-home options during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses small to large must now figure out what aspects to keep and how to manage the increased complexity.
What are the rules and who has to follow them?
Managing and nurturing remote workers, especially those earlier in their careers, presents leaders with unique challenges. It can be more difficult to expose remote workers to important mentoring opportunities, role models and even company culture and professional expectations. It often becomes more difficult to encourage collaboration among people not physically located in the same space or even working during the same hours. Creativity and innovation can suffer when most interactions occur virtually and have to be scheduled and there are far fewer opportunities for impromptu interaction, brainstorming and learning by observing.
But a challenge that often flies under the radar is how the shift of so many people to remote work impacts those who never left the physical workplace or are now returning to in-person. As a team member, leader or business owner, if hybrid is an ongoing option, you need to help both types of workers maximize their contributions, build their careers and develop a sense of satisfaction and equity despite disparate surroundings. Here are some issues to address.
- Be clear about expectations up front
Many roles cannot be carried out remotely because they require in-person customer service or involve security or privacy issues. It’s critical to be clear with current and prospective employees to ensure they understand the terms of the position and whether there is potential for remote work or on-site expectations.
- Redefine workplace contributions
“The majority of organizations must start defining work based on activity and contributions, not hours and location,” according to information shared by ADP on evolving work trends. Data from ADP Research Institute shows that 44% of employers now have official flexible working policies, compared to 24% prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. “. . . the most pressing tasks in the coming year will be engaging and investing in our people, and ensuring that we are evaluating them based on their contributions, not just the hours they work or the boxes they check,” ADP advises.
- Focus on engagement and over-communicate
Attracting and retaining top talent has become even more critical with, according to a report from Microsoft, more than 40% of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year. Leaders must collaborate and connect with workers no matter where they do their jobs, investing more time in one-on-one conversations with team members to build a better understanding of how their jobs have changed and how they might need to be redesigned to function better in a hybrid world. Building in metrics that define success in terms of joint efforts might also help team members think creatively about how they can build new connections with colleagues as well.
- Strive for equity, not equality
Just as we’ve learned in creating opportunities for women and people of color, treating everyone the same does not necessarily drive equity. A commitment to equity considers that everyone’s situation is different and allocates resources and support in ways that can help drive equal outcomes. People working from home will enjoy greater independence and flexibility throughout the day than those working on site. They may also find it difficult to ever clock out. People working on site will likely have easier access to company resources, mentoring and experts like tech support, but also perhaps be more closely observed and held to higher standards. To create equity, consider what each person needs to be most effective in their role, not giving everyone the same things.
- Inspire accountability and productivity
With a dispersed team, focusing on results and outcomes becomes far more important than simply logging hours. A results-oriented approach to evaluation requires more organization and coordination, investing more time on the front end to clarify goals, processes and expected results. But it can actually increase accountability as team members gain a clearer understanding of their role, have greater autonomy in how they meet expectations and are evaluated based on results.
The biggest shake up in how work gets done, perhaps since the Industrial Revolution, has also opened doors for innovative leaders to create better ways of working. Leaders who engage team members in redesigning how, where and when work gets done, evaluated and rewarded, may learn how to drive stronger results while making work more satisfying.