Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Before the pandemic, remote work for full-time employees was a rarity. Remote work was often used for employees whose jobs were defined by being away from the office, such as sales. It was also not unusual to use remote work as a negotiation tool, as a way to offer additional compensation that didn’t have any impact on salary bands or PTO accrual rates.
Last year changed the way companies have come to view remote work. Due to COVID, companies had to allow their employees to work from home if at all possible, to keep the business alive. At the time, it was thought that having the majority of employees working off-site would be a temporary thing, but instead, it turns out that allowing people to work from home is a great way to do business.
What’s So Great About a Remote Workforce?
At the start of last year, no one could have predicted that the American definition of work attendance would change completely, from requiring people to be at the office to requiring them to work from home. But, companies adjusted, the idea of work changed, and businesses often performed better than expected. Having employees work from home was not only a great way to keep them from getting COVID, but it also reduced capital expenditures thanks to lower costs in heating, cooling, and cleaning offices. It’s very very popular with employees at all levels, so much so that one in three now say they would resign if they were required to report to an office to work every day.
There are many advantages to having a remote workforce even if, thanks to the vaccine, the situation isn’t quite as dire today. Of course, there are a lot of advantages to having employees come into the office to work. So increasingly, many companies have decided to split the difference and allow employees to work from the office and to work from home, creating, in essence, a hybrid work environment.
Setting up a Hybrid Work Environment
In early 2020, many companies acted very quickly and moved to a remote workforce without a lot of planning. Making such a drastic change so quickly sometimes came with very awkward results, leaving companies to scramble to fix issues as they came up. Now that we’ve all had a chance to catch our breath, companies can move towards developing a better hybrid model of attendance in a calm, rational way that limits surprises.
When your company is ready to move to a hybrid work environment, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Communication is key
Unless your company had a hybrid work model in place before the pandemic, odds are your company had a lot of challenges when they were moving to a remote work environment. Now that the emergency is largely past, your company should review what happened during the pandemic, and talk to your employees about what worked, and what didn’t work, over the last year. It’s particularly important to hear from employees who are in client-facing roles, but all of your people should have a voice. Consider conducting an employee survey to get a clear picture of how your people feel about the last year and what they would like to see going forward.
Collaborate on developing a model
There are a lot of different ways to set up a hybrid workforce model. For example, you could have a decentralized, “remote first” staffing plan, like the social media company Quora. Remote work was well suited for the company, so their CEO decided to continue with a de-centralized staffing model.
Another option might be to have an occasional remote policy, by requiring people to come to work some of the time, say, one or two days a week. The advantage of this policy is that it helps preserve social distancing and preserves some of the savings from having a less populated office.
Your company may also choose to allow employees to decide for themselves whether they will work remotely or not. Companies like Google have developed attendance policies that allow employees to either work remotely or report to a physical office location depending on business needs and personal preferences.
The development of a new attendance policy can be a great opportunity for employee engagement. Using employee committees, surveys, and town halls when you’re developing a new attendance policy will help give your employees the feeling that they are truly valued by your company. And, not coincidentally, their involvement will help you develop a better policy.
Train and recruit with the new attendance policy in mind
Once you’ve got your new policy in place, you’ll need to make sure everyone is aware of and following it. Don’t just roll out a new policy, especially if it’s very different from your current way of doing business, without making the effort to be clear to everyone. Consider providing extra training, especially to your managers. HR and Employee Relations should be prepared to step in whenever confusion about the policy comes up.
It’s important to continue to train your employees on ways to use collaborative technology effectively. By this point, most employees are comfortable using Zoom, but anyone who has ever sat through a chaotic online meeting can attest to the fact that not everyone knows how to use Zoom effectively. And while other collaborative platforms like Monday and Slack may be quieter, it’s entirely possible to miss important contributions if someone doesn’t know how to use them properly. Training your employees in the use of collaborative software is key to the success of a hybrid workforce.
Be sure to make prospective employees aware of your attendance policies. Offering a hybrid work environment greatly deepens your talent pool and can strengthen your talent acquisition efforts.
The COVID pandemic affected every part of our society, especially business. One of the most positive lasting effects is the realization that employees don’t strictly need to be in the office to be productive and to get a lot done. By using a hybrid work model, your company can get higher productivity and employee engagement out of your people.
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