How to Improve Your Hybrid Workplace

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Despite the uncertainty of the times, everyone seems certain that the hybrid workplace is the future. A hybrid workplace means that some employees are in the office, while others are working remotely. Teams of both remote and in-office workers have to learn how to communicate and collaborate despite their distance and, in many cases, different technology and resources.

Earlier in 2021, nearly 70% of respondents to the PwC US Pulse Survey: Next in Work said their company was planning to offer a hybrid work option (either all hybrid, a mix of in-person, hybrid, and fully remote, or a mix of in-person and hybrid) to employees.

READ: Should Your Boss Get Fined for Calling You After Hours?

Fifty-two percent of U.S. workers would prefer a mix of working from home and the office, saying it has a positive impact on their ability to be creative, solve problems, and build relationships, according to Harvard Business Review. More than 70% of corporate leaders planned to offer a hybrid model, according to HBR.

Still, the hybrid model for work is a novel idea, so there are only a few ideas floating around for best practices. It’s a work in progress, and many are scrambling to study this kind of workplace and how to best integrate in-office and remote workers. Discover some suggestions for improving the hybrid workplace:

Invest in Technology

The majority or more than 35% of executives responding to the PwC survey said eroding company culture is the biggest challenge to the hybrid workforce. But investing in the proper technology to ensure in-office and remote workers can communicate with ease contributes to a positive employee experience and ensures a culture of inclusivity, according to Forbes Human Resources Council’s expert panel. The technology has to be available to everyone, easy to use, and intuitive. 

Make a Schedule

Obviously, managers will need to create a schedule that indicates on what days and times particular employees will be in the office or working remotely. The Forbes HR Council advises leaders to create these schedules carefully with consideration for safety and the reality of who actually needs to be in the office at different times. Communicating the reasons for the schedule can be helpful because employees will know why they need to be in a certain place, and the transparency can go a long way to building trust.

READ: How to Connect with Employees and Navigate Remote Work

Clearly Define Expectations

People on your team need to know what is expected of them when they are in the office and when they are working remotely. What are the rules? What are the hours? How are you expected to be available? Spell it all out and answer any questions that pop up. Share your responses with the entire group to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Have a Buddy System

People fear that new hires will never really get fully integrated into the company without spontaneous socializing around the water cooler. They think already established employees will miss out on mentorship. To address this concern, companies should pair people, especially new hires or junior staff, with a buddy. This should be someone they can turn to for help when they don’t know how to do something or want advice. The buddy system can be particularly helpful for onboarding, according to Harvard Business Review.

Be Aware of the Possibility of Inequity

The first step in ensuring you conduct your business fairly is recognizing that there is potential for inequity. Many worry that the hybrid system will end up pitting in-office workers against remote workers.

“Proximity to managers has been shown to increase promotion rates when men report to other men,” according to Harvard Business Review. “This may be caused by a perceived relationship between productivity and visibility, even though no such relationship has ever been established. In the end, it’s the beliefs about productivity and performance that determine pay, promotions, and opportunities. In a post-pandemic world, we may well see unexplained gaps between those who work remotely and those who get onsite face time with the boss.”

Being transparent about who gets what promotions and why can help managers recognize if they are being unfair or if they are favoring one group over another. It creates a system of checks and balances as companies navigate these new waters.

READ: How 5 Companies Keep Their Hybrid Workforce Connected

Monitor Meetings

A recent New York Times article had hybrid workers griping about the challenges of meetings. The people in the office would have conversations among themselves. Those working remotely might get ignored or have a poor connection. Overall, the experience was negative. But Jim Keane, president and CEO of Steelcase Inc. wrote a piece for Harvard Business Review in which he suggested companies invest in a monitor for each remote worker.

Keep the monitor on a rolling cart, so in-office workers can roll their colleagues into a meeting room for an impromptu conference just like they would have in the old days. Otherwise a myriad of remote workers appear in little boxes on a screen in a conference room. It is not as effective as having one face on one monitor. 

Devise a New Floor Plan

Keane also advises businesses to have more fluid work spaces, so employees can easily convert areas of the office to function for their needs in that moment. If they need it to better relate to their remote colleagues joining them on a screen, then so be it. But it can function well for those in office, too. 

“At Steelcase, we’ve optimized our own space by designing an open area that supports hybrid meetings in the morning, becomes the café at lunch, hosts a town hall in the afternoon, and can be rented for an evening event,” says Keane.

Adapt As Needed

Being flexible and agile are the keys to success during the pandemic and beyond. While deploying these suggestions might be helpful now, you have to realize that things will change. And you will have to adjust accordingly. Now is the time for transformation.

“Companies have a tremendous opportunity to transform work,” according to PwC. “By redesigning work you can help drive growth, better anticipate uncertainty and create a workplace that top talent is eager to join. To successfully execute your plans, you’ll need to figure out your hybrid work model, make changes to processes and operating models, revamp strategic planning, and most importantly, attract and retain top talent.”

Photo by cottonbro for Pexels

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