Future of work 18 Aug 2022 5 min read
“We need to find a way to make hybrid work.” It’s a sentence that is top of mind for many founders and managers, who continue to wrestle with defining a suitable hybrid-work cadence for their businesses. But creating a hybrid workforce/policy shouldn’t scare you. In fact, there are many creative ways to make a policy that works for everyone in the workplace.
Last year, Google Workspace and The Economist Impact released a global survey on the state of hybrid work. One of its prominent findings was that 75% of people believe that hybrid/flexible work will be standard practice within their organizations in the coming three years. Given that 70% of respondents said they never worked remotely before the pandemic, it’s clear that hybrid has become the dominant model for work. Like work from home itself, it’s here to stay.
There are quite a few advantages to hybrid work—just as there are downsides. Another study by The Economist found that 63% of employees have reported a positive impact on physical well-being. The same number holds for the impact on mental well-being. But the data suggests something interesting, too: 77% of hybrid workers agree that their managers need more specific training on managing hybrid teams.
According to The Economist Impact, there are four segments based on their relationship to hybrid work. These fit, generally, into four categories, as they see it: evangelists, pragmatists, fair-minded, and undecided. One of their central findings is that employees don’t necessarily fall neatly into categories based on their seniority, level, or role.
The four categories break down like this:
- The evangelists: This category refers to people who are generally happy with the hybrid model as it’s been developed so far. As you might speculate from their name, the evangelists (at 24% of people surveyed) are the most cheerful about hybrid work: they’re typically very content with the policies, technological tools, and social dynamics already in place as a result of hybrid tools.
- The pragmatists: This category refers to people who are hopeful about hybrid work, but nonetheless have their reservations. It’s the largest segment of people identified by The Economist Impact, coming in at 39%. Generally, they’re people who are optimistic about hybrid work but encountering substantial challenges with it. As The Economist notes, their sentiment can be summed up as: “Yes, but …”. They want the hybrid model to work, and they want to be a part of making it work, but there have still been a few bumps along the road.
- The fair-minded: These people feel somewhat optimistic about hybrid work, but still harbor a general feeling of skepticism. At 23% of those surveyed, they can be best defined as wanting to improve the dialogue between management and employees. The fairminded are concerned about employee wellbeing, fairness, and inclusion; they report an overall positive impact of hybrid work on their lives.
- The undecided: This is a category of people who are truly ambivalent about remote work and hybrid setups. At 13%, they’re the smallest number of people in the survey, but they’re a group that sport complete cynicism about the whole thing. Reasons include the fact that they’ve yet to experience any of the considerable advantages of flexible work. They’re more likely to be at organizations that have not issued formal hybrid policies, so they’re working in uncertain environments.
What to consider when designing a hybrid policy
How does one cater to all 4 of these categories? Here are a few ideas:
1. Create a policy and stick to it
Confusing or wishy-washy policies about home office and hybrid work are bound to create confusion and inconsistencies. Clarifying your hybrid policies through active communication is the key—but that doesn’t mean you should create an iron rule that ends up becoming inflexible. Consider hosting regular “re-onboarding” video calls with small groups to make sure everyone understands hybrid policies and gets training on new processes or tools. Avoiding any type of preferential treatment to any employee so as to avoid inconsistent policies is the name of the game here.
2. Think about “core” working hours
To improve flexibility while ensuring collective teamwork, it may be worth thinking about the idea of "core working hours". They refer to daily hours when trams will typically be online and meetings will take place. Many teams opt for 9-12 AM or 2-5 PM—which lets employees also enjoy their time to work on core tasks. Offering flexibility around the “non-core” hours for focused individual work or personal needs such as medical appointments or taking children to school is a great middle point.
3. Use the office as a motivational tool
Remember that the office is always there for your team. As a home base for your company, it can serve to build an inclusive environment by providing opportunities to bond at in-person events devoted to mentoring, celebrating, and socializing. Finally, as Lynda Gratton argues in the Harvard Business Review, ask yourself whether your new hybrid arrangements, whatever they are, accentuate your company’s values and support its culture.
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