One of the most significant long-term consequences of the pandemic for employers is the common expectation among employees to spend at least some of their time working remotely.
Gartner research has suggested that nearly half (45%) of the global knowledge workforce are now doing their jobs from home two to three days a week, while for a quarter (25%), their home is their primary workplace.
This should be a positive trend for businesses and employees alike. According to Gallup, hybrid and remote workers are likely to be more engaged than those who are based exclusively on-site.
However, you'll only benefit from hybrid working if you have a strategy that makes sense for your people and the business as a whole.
1. Communicate constantly
Communication is key to healthy working relationships and productivity, regardless of whether your employees are office-based, remote, or a combination of the two.
A McKinsey report showed that employees who feel properly included in detailed communication are nearly five times more likely to report higher levels of productivity. Research by RingCentral also highlighted frequent communication as the most important company action to make people feel connected to their organization.
This should be a particular priority when you have people working remotely and therefore not getting as much face-to-face contact with their colleagues and managers as they might have had in the past.
Consider approaches you can take to encourage and enable healthy conversations and dialogue at all levels of the business. This could mean using dedicated software and collaboration tools to help people stay in touch, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Basecamp.
2. Enhance the physical workspace
It's important to acknowledge that the long-term feasibility of hybrid working can vary between individuals and roles. This is particularly true for the IT department, where employees often need to be on-site to gain secure access to servers and other infrastructure vital to their jobs.
Those people who are required to spend a lot of time in the office shouldn't feel like they're being disadvantaged or unfairly treated, compared to those who have the option to work from home.
Connect with your employees to discuss what you can do to make the office a pleasant and productive place to be. In addition to essentials such as safe, comfortable and properly equipped workstations, your on-site workers could benefit from provisions such as meeting rooms and lounges where they can take breaks or collaborate with their colleagues.
3. Optimize the virtual space
As well as having access to everything they need in the office, hybrid workers shouldn't face barriers to doing their jobs comfortably and effectively from home.
Fortunately, the remote working revolution has accelerated the development of various tools that make it easier than ever for people to be productive outside the office, from videoconferencing software to cloud storage and file-sharing services.
However, this doesn't mean IT managers should take it for granted that people can work efficiently from any location without technical support. Hybrid and remote workers should always be able to access help and solutions to common problems, such as performance issues with endpoint devices and lapses in internet connectivity.
It's also advisable to set standards around remote collaboration and virtual data-sharing. This prevents vital information from falling through the cracks and also helps you maintain high security standards.
4. Maintain your company culture
Company culture is an essential element in the broader performance and success of your business, impacting everything from employee engagement and satisfaction to recruitment and retention. Less than a third (32%) of people who rate their work culture as good have considered quitting their jobs, compared to 90% of those who rate it as poor, according to the Global Culture Research Report 2022 from the Society for Human Resource Management.
As you shift to a hybrid working model, be sure to consider the risk of your cultural identity being compromised in the transition.
If key aspects of your culture are more naturally suited to the physical workplace - open-door policies and lots of face-to-face interaction between managers and employees, for example - consider how this can be maintained in a virtual environment.
Another positive practice is to follow clear processes to measure your company culture. This helps you build a data-driven picture of performance in this area and identify where you can make improvements.
5. Collect and act on employee feedback
Your staff are the ones who will make hybrid working a success for your business. They're also the people most affected by how your model is designed and the impact it has on the overall employee experience.
It's crucial, therefore, to collect regular feedback from your workers. An effective way to gain as much input as possible is by giving people lots of ways to share their views.
You could create a dedicated feedback channel on your communication platform of choice, for example, and also make a standard employee experience survey available to staff at all times.
Remember that busy workers might struggle to prioritize this amid their other responsibilities, so make sure you're providing the time people need to fully consider their responses.