After two years of navigating workforce health and safety protocols to maintain business operations amid a global pandemic, organizations are starting to consider “post-COVID” workforce strategies.
Now that employers can look beyond legal issues like vaccine mandates to strategies around return-to-work logistics and organizational culture, another question lingers: Is bringing employees back to the workplace full-time the best idea?
For employers, the barriers are falling. Even the states that implemented the strongest social distancing tactics against COVID-19 are easing mask mandates. And employer vaccine mandates are no longer a legal concern, following action by the Supreme Court in January.
For employees, though, those who don’t need to go to the office, don’t want to—at least not 40 hours per week.
Among employees working remotely, 58% would leave their jobs if they aren’t able to continue working from home at least some of the time.
Digital technologies and automation software, like they do, evolved quickly to help remote employees organize work, stay on task, and collaborate with colleagues. From virtual assistants to AI content creation, the workforce has never been more productive.
So, what’s holding back hybrid work?
Behavioral scientists suggest employers and employees simply need more time to pivot “back to normal” and get out of their comfort zone. Which feels fair, given that we’re all pretty exhausted from the emotional whiplash of living through “unprecedented events” for two-plus years.
Employers looking to take steps toward a period of “precedented” events—at least as it pertains to work—can look to three guidelines to successfully move forward with a hybrid work model.
Apply the best of both remote and in-person work to create a hybrid blueprint.
Employees generally most value flexibility in work hours and deadlines, as well as improved work-life balance from working remotely. However, in-person work of the “before times” allowed employees more time for personal connection with leaders and colleagues, as well as an ability to more easily hit the off switch in transitioning from work to home.
When implementing hybrid work models, taking these needs and values into account can help employers more effectively shift day-to-day work expectations for the better to make a real difference.
Employers that allow teams to collaborate asynchronously are paving the way for talent to perform at their best more often. A bonus: these work models prevent burnout and offer greater work-life balance to mitigate mental health concerns (which we know is top of mind in 2022).
Address the skills gap.
The same amazing technologies that help employees connect no matter where they are in the world, tend to throw users curveballs every once in a while. While Boomers stereotypically struggle with digital devices, no one is immune from the occasional rainbow wheel of death.
Training can go a long way in easing IT troubles. Stressed out with important materials on the line, even the most tech savvy employees could use a refresh on the basics. While they’re at it, employers should remember to include cybersecurity guidelines in tech trainings—it just takes one click to become susceptible to a hacker.
In addition to addressing the digital skills gap, soft skills and emotional intelligence are more crucial than ever. As employees may collaborate face-to-face, over video, or instant chat, leaders need to be available however employees reach out and communicate with both efficiency and empathy.
Employers that help employees gain new knowledge and cross-train whenever possible will increase engagement and create unique career paths to retain experienced employees.
Put people first.
From work arrangements to benefits utilization, the key to succeeding with hybrid work in 2022 is to create programs (or refresh existing ones) that seek to help the individual.
Hybrid working saves time and money for both the employee and the employer, but that’s not to say it doesn’t come with its own drawbacks. Avoid burnout by encouraging employees to set boundaries on sitting and screen time.
Plus, with fully remote work taking the forefront these last couple years, some employees may be hesitant to seek out the in-person connection that hybrid work boasts. Safely seeing colleagues in-person, whether after hours or at the office, can relieve loneliness and add a dash of spontaneity back into the workplace.
It’s a new beginning for employers and employees alike. Dive deeper with our white paper, Go Hybrid or Say ‘Bye-brid.’