Like many business owners, you probably experienced remote working on a large scale for the first time as lockdowns forced employees to work from home. And, the results surprised many business owners. They discovered productivity did not fall while many employees found the experience to their satisfaction.
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With restrictions easing and employees able to return to work, attitudes towards the office as the main workplace have changed. An increasing number of employees prefer the perceived benefits of working from home and are reluctant to return to the old ways.
By way of balance, employers now find it important to offer a hybrid work model where employees have the choice of working from home or in the office – full or part time – with the flexibility to use the office when it’s essential.
That sounds fine in theory, but how can you make hybrid working efficient and maintain a healthy balance that benefits both office and home-based employees?
Technology proved to be the key to productive home working during the pandemic. Equipping employees with laptops or tablets, setting up collaboration solutions like Zoom, Cisco Webex or Microsoft Teams and providing secure access to company services, applications and data enabled them to continue working efficiently.
That remains true for the hybrid work model — all employees should have equal access to the tools and data they need. Fortunately, the cloud enables that balance. By moving your applications and services to the cloud and putting a fast Internet connection in place, your employees can access all their tools and work effectively, wherever they are located.
Collaboration and Contact
Technology is also essential for keeping your employees in contact. How do colleagues maintain contact when they are physically separated – the problem of isolation for home workers is well founded. Just as important, how do they collaborate when they are members of project teams?
In a hybrid environment, setting up Zoom or other software is a start, but the changes should go deeper. In the office, how should you allocate and structure meeting spaces? A mix of small, large and informal ‘huddle’ spaces equipped with easy-to-use collaboration systems will give your teams the flexibility to accommodate people in the office and bring in colleagues who can’t attend in person.
In the hybrid work model, the traditional office layout of open space and individual desks is no longer suitable. The space has to be flexible to meet the needs of permanent office-based staff while providing practical workspaces for occasional users.
Reimagining the office was a recurring theme during the pandemic as businesses aimed to make their premises safe against infection. And, safety remains a concern among employees reluctant to return to the office.
By maintaining social distancing in the office layout and enforcing measures with automated access control technology such as contactless reception and digital signage, you can ensure that both office and home-based employees work in safety.
Mentoring, training and career development programs are all essential elements in building and maintaining a skilled workforce. But, in a hybrid environment, it’s important to ensure that employees who choose to work from home don’t miss out on opportunities to improve their skills.
That could lead to an imbalance where office-based staff are perceived to have better opportunities for promotion because they are more ‘visible’. So, it’s important to put in place training and development programs that can be delivered online, as well as in person.
Management and Support
Visibility is also a critical element in the way you manage your employees in the hybrid work model. While management and supervision on site are part of the normal working process, maintaining a working relationship with remote workers can be more difficult.
That makes it important to establish routines for reporting, checking in and holding informal or review meetings so remote employees feel involved. The formal calls and reports enable you to manage workflow and ensure that productivity is maintained, but the informal calls are equally important . They help employees feel involved and give them an opportunity to discuss any issues they might have.
Work-life balance is central to the success of the hybrid work model. The experience of working from home during lockdown made employees realize they could have greater control over where and when they worked. And with that control came the freedom to divide their time between work and their personal interests, leading to a better work-life balance.
That may be easier for home-based workers, but can office-based staff achieve the same flexibility? There is a pressure to be seen and to work long hours. Offering your office teams flexible working arrangements can help overcome that issue and ensure everyone in the hybrid environment enjoys the same work-life balance.
Time to Thrive
The hybrid work model can help your business thrive in the post-pandemic business environment. But, it isn’t just a matter of allowing employees to choose their preferred workplace; there are many adjustments to make to ensure a healthy balance between work in the office and work at home.