Hybrid working health check: Four questions for your business in 2023
When companies pivoted to a policy of remote or hybrid working during the pandemic, they had little choice in the matter. Employees seized the freedom to work more flexibly, and for many businesses a ‘new normal’ of hybrid working evolved ad hoc and began to crystallise.
In 2023, with an estimated six in 10 employees in Europe and North America working in hybrid teams and three-quarters of employees saying they prefer the model, habits are starting to set in stone. The window is closing to take stock and purposefully forge a model that works for your business. Time for a hybrid working health check? Here are four questions for HR teams to consider in H2.
1. How well do your company’s values align with the reality of hybrid working?
You may need to consider what hybrid working means for your ability to realise your values. For example, if your values focus on collaboration and teamwork, has hybrid working impacted people’s ability to work together effectively? Are you going to have to work harder to live up to your ideals?
Or perhaps this might even be the time to refresh your values for the new normal? If hybrid working has sparked new thinking around work/life balance, freedom or flexibility, now might be the time to establish this in the principles of your business.
An alternative solution is to explore new ways to stay true to your original values. For example, if you once had popular on-site training days that embodied core values of learning and growth, you could focus on reigniting the same passion for a virtual alternative or encourage employees back to the office for less regular but bigger events, giving plenty of advance notice to maximise participation.
2. How do you cultivate a sense of togetherness?
In a survey of 1,750 office and professional workers from seven European and North American countries, 40% said they missed the social connections and casual conversations that come with the office environment.
Companies need to assess how they can balance employee expectations of flexible working arrangements with the purpose-driven and inclusive culture that is key to employee engagement and therefore retention.
Solutions might include shorter but more regular meetings – perhaps with a fun Friday element – manager check-ins to discuss employee morale and wellbeing and designated office days that encourage social interaction and knowledge exchange. Connecting people across departments on collaborative projects and creating more time for networking, whether virtual or on-site, will also foster a sense of togetherness. Above all, communicating a sense of shared purpose from the top will remind everyone that they are united, wherever they happen to be.
3. Can you successfully manage behaviours from a distance?
Pre-pandemic, many employers were suspicious of remote working, believing employees might be inefficient and that productivity would nosedive. Multiple studies show these fears weren’t realised – in fact, productivity went up.
Compliance and performance are not a given, however. So, companies need to consider how they will communicate standards, model behaviour and provide adequate oversight from a distance.
Even though more than three-quarters of Gen Zs say they would consider looking for a new job if their employer asked them to go into their workplace full-time, they are also the group most likely to miss out on the benefits of on-site work – mentoring from senior staff and accumulation of soft skills, including communication skills.
As well as driving performance, visible and approachable leaders inspire greater confidence and higher levels of wellbeing in employees, research shows. Yet managers and supervisors are more likely to work from home than people in more junior roles, according to UK government statistics.
Leaders need to prioritise being accessible and approachable to employees, especially during onboarding, providing clear direction on company performance expectations and soliciting regular feedback. Clear articulation of the company’s values, culture and shared purpose will set the tone as will well-structured goal setting and tracking, for example on professional development metrics.
4. Can you still deliver your employee promise through hybrid working?
Many companies worry that hybrid working will dilute their organisational culture, translating to lower levels of performance and innovation.
At least one study suggests the opposite is true, with 64% of hybrid and 66% of remote employees claiming their organisation’s culture had a positive impact on their job, compared to just 52% of on-site employees.
But, there is no doubt companies need to work harder in a hybrid model to maintain the cultural ideals critical to keeping workers engaged in order to deliver on the company’s vision.
Key issues to think about are how you onboard people effectively and how you provide equitable access to learning and development opportunities, a critical component of talent retention.
While offering the flexibility now expected by many employees, companies need to get better at communicating the benefits of being in the office to safeguard culture and development opportunities, especially for junior members of staff. Are you providing a welcoming, convenient and comfortable office environment that appeals to your employees and gives them space to both focus and connect with others?
It’s clear that hybrid working has brought many benefits to the workforce and companies, and it is here to stay. But it brings new considerations for HR professionals, and it’s important to act purposefully to get the most from hybrid working and avoid any unintended impacts before they become too ingrained.
At People Made, we advise businesses at all stages of growth to define their company culture.
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