As the pandemic starts to subside in some parts of the world, many employees expect to see more flexible work options. However, 68 percent of organizations have no plan or detailed vision in place for hybrid work, according to a study by McKinsey.
Here are five advantages of the hybrid work model to keep in mind as you plan your return-to-office policies.
[ Need to explain hybrid work to others? Read also: What is a hybrid work model? ]
1. Increased productivity
A hybrid model can offer flexibility and empower employees to work to their strengths, which in turn boosts productivity. By encouraging a culture that views remote work as a positive alternative to completing deep-focus tasks in the office, teams can find a good balance of creativity and collaboration. Employees who need peace and quiet to focus or who thrive in an office setting can be given the choice to work where and when they’re most productive.
According to Gartner, organizations must invest equally in four different work modes to enable a successful hybrid environment:
- Working together, together: Teams are co-located and participate in meetings in a shared space.
- Working together, apart: Teams are distributed but hold virtual meetings.
- Working alone, together: Teams share spaces but do not work at the same time.
- Working alone, apart: Teams are distributed, with individuals performing deep-focus work remotely.
With four modes to choose from, leaders should be thoughtful in designing collaboration opportunities and developing employees’ skills in each area. Hybrid work uses digital tools to support synchronous interaction between in-person and remote participants, and these tools should facilitate participation, collaboration, and communication. For asynchronous work, focus on transparency as much as possible.
Organizations with the biggest productivity increases during the pandemic have supported and encouraged “small moments of engagement” among their employees, according to McKinsey. These small moments are where coaching, idea sharing, mentoring, and collaborative work happen. This productivity boost stems from training managers to reimagine processes and rethink how employees can thrive at work.
2. Improved employee satisfaction and culture
Autonomy is the key to employee satisfaction: If you provide full autonomy and decision-making on how, where, and when your team members work, employee satisfaction will skyrocket.
Autonomy is important for on-site workers, too. Employees who return to the office after over a year of setting their own schedule will need to feel that they are trusted to get work done without a manager standing by.
At our company, mutual appreciation and positive assumptions are guiding principles. When we don’t see each other every day, it’s easy to make assumptions about other employees – we keep these assumptions positive, trusting that everyone is doing their best and making responsible decisions. If we don’t understand an intention, we might ask a question such as. “Can you help me understand what you are doing and why?” Doing this sometimes takes a little courage, but the cultural benefits are huge.
[ How can leaders shape an equitable hybrid work experience for all? Read also: Hybrid work: 4 best practices for fairness. ]
3. More possibilities for continuous learning
Many organizations are performance-driven – but too often, the result is there’s not enough time for learning because employees are too busy performing. An output-focused approach does not enable the long-term development of your employees, and high productivity can mask an exhausted workforce.
Leaders should be humble enough to recognize that learning doesn’t happen only in training courses. Create everyday opportunities for learning and reflection. When the workday comprises back-to-back meetings, it’s difficult for anyone to generate enough mental capacity to reflect or process information. Encourage your employees to take time for self-development, learning, and reflection.
The beauty of the hybrid work model is that employees can choose to work whenever they please, meaning that they can schedule their work outside of regular meeting hours so that they can focus on getting work done peacefully and without being disturbed or distracted.
4. Better collaboration and work relationships
Virtual meetings can play too great a role in hybrid work. According to Microsoft, time spent on weekly Teams chats is up 45 percent per person since February 2020, and the weekly meeting time on Teams has increased by over 148 percent – more than double what it was in 2020. We need to find new, more efficient ways of working that don’t involve workdays filled with meetings.
To do this, adopt a facilitator’s mindset – consider how human relationships work and design work processes that fit team members’ habits and needs. Facilitating dialog about how teams can work together helps individuals understand each other better, strengthens relationships, and improves communication.
5. Improved mental health
According to data from Microsoft, one in five global survey respondents says their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance.
While work and life may rarely be in perfect balance, work-life fit is a vital aspect of any healthy working environment. And hybrid work enables each employee to fit their work and life together in a way that works for them. This reduces stress and helps prevent burnout.
Think of it this way: Work leaks into your life, but rarely does life leak into your work. So if the weather is beautiful now, go outside and enjoy it – you can finish your work later.
Fully remote work reduces human interaction, which can adversely affect your employees’ mental state. Therefore, it’s important to create opportunities that optimize communication and foster mental well-being. This will also strengthen the connections that make teams thrive.
As leaders look to sustain productivity gains while empowering employees to make work-life fit decisions under a hybrid model, they will need to design and facilitate conditions that encourage communication and team building.
When planned carefully and strategically, the hybrid work model has the potential to take your organization to a new level of productivity.
[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]