While no one knows for sure how long hybrid work arrangements will be supported by C-suite executives and large corporations, it’s safe to say some companies will keep this arrangement intact indefinitely. Employees are generally happier when they’re given more flexibility, and those that feel as though their employers are too rigid will find work elsewhere.
Hybrid work has brought a lot of positive changes to the corporate world, however, these environments do run the risk of creating some new inequities as well as amplifying the issues that already exist.
In order for hybrid workplaces to create an environment that is fair, productive and cohesive, they are encouraged to consider and incorporate these points into hybrid policies and everyday practices.
Companies may have to customize remote onboarding
Virtual recruitment and onboarding practices have become the new norm. It’s easier for qualified prospects to attend an interview from the comfort of their home than having to book time off of their current job and come into an office.
But many new hires may also go through a remote onboarding process. While convenient, it can also be a little overwhelming. New staff don’t have the opportunity to approach their new manager’s desk to ask questions, and they may have special requirements or needs that they don’t necessarily have an opportunity to disclose. Setup alone might be more of a challenge if they’re working from home.
To create a relatively stressless experience, companies are advised to create short videos that take the new hire through all aspects of onboarding. That includes how to set up technology and navigate programs that the person will be expected to use. The employee’s manager should also set a bit of time aside each day for a week or so to give the new hire an opportunity to ask questions, make requests, and share more about who they are and what things can help them thrive. If possible, the manager may want to arrange an in-office day with the new person so that they get a better understanding of how the company operates and who else works there. It’s easier to pick up information and preferred processes when you are able to observe others.
Companies can also implement a buddy system and pair new staff with more seasoned employees. This person can help answer day-to-day questions that are bound to come up, which helps ensure new staff don’t miss out on the informal learning that occurs when people are working beside each other.
Companies must have some patience and do what they can to set the new hire up for success. Every onboarding experience may be a little bit different because every employer learns a little bit differently.
Make it safe and easy for people to take advantage of the hybrid option
Team members who return to the office while others work remotely might form a “group within a group,” thus excluding people who work from home most of the time. This can have negative consequences that impact some employees’ long-term success. For example, a manager in the office may not consider a qualified staff member for an important project simply because they’re “out of sight and out of mind.” This can make people feel pressured to be in the office more often (which defeats the purpose of offering a flexible work option).
There are a couple of points to consider here. First, C-suite executives can evaluate the current state of the workplace. Is this an environment where staff would want to work? Is it easy to find a desk, or better yet, is there a way to reserve an appropriate workspace? Is the equipment, furniture and technology up to date? Can people easily pick up where they left off? All of these components will impact people’s desire to come into the office. The entire point of a hybrid setup is to give staff the best of both worlds. Most will want to come into work some of the time provided the office helps them to be productive.
The other thing organizations must do is find a way to ensure easier access to information. Those working outside of the office should be just as informed about an upcoming project or opportunity as those in the office. Leaders may need to reconsider how they communicate in order to improve the flow of information. Similarly, companies can work on taking down information silos that confine news and data to one team. In order to further growth, companies need to work as one unit. Making information more readily available can help businesses operate more cohesively.
Leaders should create opportunities for organic interactions
When different teams are in the office, people who would not normally talk with each other for work purposes still have a chance to have informal chats during lunch or at the end of the day. Someone overhears a colleague talking about a hobby, or event they attended, and others chime in. That doesn’t happen when a staff member is working from home. One of the downsides of remote work is that it can be isolating. People don’t have the chance to talk with others outside of their team. As such, leaders should think about ways to create opportunities for the marketing team to engage with finance, or for interns to meet with other team leaders.
One solution is to host in-person social events. They work best if they are scheduled close to the workplace, during work hours. However, this doesn’t solve the problem for staff who live in a different province or state. So, having virtual events will be important too. That could be virtual happy hour on a Friday where people are organized into small groups and encouraged to talk about work, weekend plans, etc.
Be aware of conflict
In a perfect world, every team member would get along with each other. But the reality is that there will be people who don’t enjoy working together. If someone is being bullied by another colleague while both people are working from home, it’s harder for a manager to detect and resolve conflict. Losing that insight decreases the quality of a team’s overall performance, particularly when there are highly complex or creative tasks that need to be completed.
To address this problem, team leads must ensure their people feel comfortable enough to speak up when there’s interpersonal conflict. People within teams can hold conflicting viewpoints, and that’s okay. But if intervention is required, managers must be ready to work with both sides and help them find a resolution that everyone can live with. They can also check in with teammates regularly and ask open-ended questions about their current work experience and satisfaction.
Proximity to managers has been shown to increase promotion rates. This is especially true when men report to other men. This problem may be worsened with hybrid work. Women, who are more likely to work from home due to additional obligations that they are expected to attend to outside of work, may have an even harder time getting a promotion.
The truth is that productivity and performance vary based on the individual. Yes, some people really are most productive when they’re in a structured office environment, but creatives may thrive in a setting where they feel more comfortable. Those that talk on the phone all day may have no problem working beside their colleagues, but for those that have to listen to their calls, it can be a huge distraction.
One way to assess whether promotions are being awarded fairly is to audit who gets what – and why. Doing this will help leaders start to see any patterns that can suggest preference of one group over others. Tracking this information also encourages managers to pay attention to their decisions.