From Working Remotely to a Hybrid Workforce: Embracing the Newest Workplace Trend

Employees spaced apart in a conference room at the office, while a presenter stands at the front of the room with more employees present via video conference behind him.

This past year brought about many changes, especially changes to the workforce. Perhaps one of the biggest changes was the initial switch to a remote workplace. Many companies quickly adopted a work from home policy this year, and it looks as though those policies will be sticking around, if not permanently, as we see companies trending towards a hybrid workforce model.

While some businesses have started to transition back to a physical office, the days of Monday through Friday in an office space appear to be a thing of the past for many – especially those industries where serving clients doesn’t require in-person duties.

As we get further into 2020, and the pandemic is still a major consideration, quite a few businesses have chosen to adopt a more hybrid approach, splitting time between in-office and working remotely, rather than returning fully to a physical workspace. And why not? There are many benefits to adopting a hybrid model — even post-pandemic – and companies will need to consider embracing this next change in the workplace.

Positive Results from Remote Working

It’s important to note the benefits and positive impact working remotely has had this past year. While it may be surprising to some, remote working actually led to increased productivity and employee satisfaction. While many companies worried that working remotely would have the opposite effect on productivity, reducing commuting time, eliminating office distractions, and the flexibility to work during the time of day that best fits each individual, actually produced increased efficiency among the workforce.

Increased satisfaction was another result of remote work. Employees put so much value in work-life balance that according to a recent study, 42% of employees surveyed would take a cut in their pay in order to work remotely, and with an improved work-life balance, retention was increased by 46%.

In addition to improved efficiency and employee satisfaction, another positive result of remote work was a decrease in operating expenses. A recent survey conducted by Hubstaff showed that remote work helped prevent layoffs in 66% of companies. By not having to maintain a physical office space, businesses can reduce costs by cutting back on rent expense, office supplies, and utilities, and 44% of companies surveyed expected to see an increase in profit with these savings.

Another positive, unforeseen side effect of remote work is the impact it’s had on the environment. With companies significantly cutting back on travel, there has been a noticeable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions around the world.1

The New Hybrid Workforce

During the past year, businesses that never before chose to utilize remote work, were forced to embrace it. Many of these companies are planning to, or have already, reduced their office space for the remainder of 2021 and well into 2022. As the world prepares for a post-pandemic life, companies are starting to test out a return to the office, with a new hybrid way of working—part in-person at the office, and part remote work.

Businesses are developing this hybrid workplace in order to maintain efficiency and employee satisfaction of remote work, while keeping some level of collaboration and interaction. This could look like dedicating a specific day, or days, of the week to office meetings, with the other days allocated to remote work.  The in-person days could be dedicated to collaboration, such as brainstorming new projects or team building exercises, while the remote days are reserved for work that can be performed individually. This will also most likely cause a re-organization of the office space, removing the need for cubicles and requiring more open spaces better suited for collaboration.1

The physical office space itself may look a little different as well. Returning to the office a few days each week still requires safety measures and precautions. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends spreading employee desks apart by six feet, or to install barriers, or partitions, whenever six feet cannot be maintained. The CDC also recommends using signs, tape marks, and other visual cues to locate where employees should stand to maintain proper distance in conference rooms, hallways, and other high-traffic areas of the workspace.

How to Implement a Hybrid Workforce

If the hybrid workspace is something your company is looking to implement, you’ll want to approach it wisely. During implementation, company leadership must consider all aspects of the experience, paying attention to these four areas: company culture, employee expectations, performance management, and innovation.

Company Culture:

Leaders will need to focus on how they can maintain their culture in a hybrid environment. Since company culture is present in all areas of the employee experience, leaders will need to find ways to maintain it when employees are working apart. And while culture doesn’t need to completely change, it will need to adapt to the new model. For example, having frequent and more informal check-ins with employees can replace one-on-one meetings in the office, and encouraging employees to use phone or video chat to replace “hallway chats” and breakroom conversation.

Keeping with company traditions will also help maintain a healthy workplace culture while working remotely. Annual celebrations, working sessions, or after-hours company-sponsored festivities can be moved virtually, rather than canceled altogether.

Employee Expectations:

As with any new policy, expectations are key. It’s important to set clear expectations for your employees around the hybrid workforce. It should be clear what is expected of employees when they are in the physical office space vs. when they are working remotely. This will ensure the success of the hybrid workforce and will create a feeling of trust and accountability among your employees.

Performance Management

As many business owners have discovered, being in a physical office space does not necessarily translate to increased productivity. As mentioned above, employees can be much more productive when working remotely. However, tracking employee progress and performance prove to be more difficult. By moving to a results-based performance measurement, managers are better able to set clear objectives and track progress of their staff, managing any issues and improving performance along the way. Using project management tools that help record and track employee progress on tasks, or implementing a time and attendance platform, can also help keep track of employee performance and give employees clarity on what they need to be working on and how it will be tracked.

Innovation:

The purpose of the hybrid workforce is to have employees together, in the physical office, for means of collaboration. This allows employees dedicated days during the week for collaboration which helps foster new ideas and innovation. Companies will also need to find ways to promote collaboration when employees are remote in order to maximize productivity and innovation.3 For example, encouraging the use of online tools like Teams or Zoom, where employees can come together virtually to share ideas and work on projects.

Whether you are looking to enhance your remote work policy, or adapt a new hybrid model, QBS is available to assist. Our human resource experts stay up-to-date on the latest workforce trends and can provide your business with the guidance and resources you need to implement the most effective strategy for your workforce.

Sources:

Forbes- The Future of Work: The Hybrid Workforce

Forbes- Rise of the Hybrid Workplace

Hubstaff- The Pandemic’s Impact on Remote Work and Where We Go From Here