Hybrid Work: The Next Normal?
As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many questions about what this means for returning to an in person work environment. We settled into a “new normal” for the past 15 months as we all transitioned to remote work and we did so in such a prompt and critical manner. In our previous article Remote Work: 7 Key Steps to a Strong Transition, we discussed this adjustment to a “new normal” as a result of the pandemic with how to engage your team and your customers, and manage your own successful transition.
So, what is the “next normal”? It’s where we are headed as our communities begin to relax restrictions. As a result of this, employers are both feeling safe and supported to do the same. For many of us this means a transition from a fully remote to a hybrid work model that provides desired flexibility to all employees.
Employers have a duty to care for their teams and they also have the responsibility to ensure their business operates to meet the needs of their customers. This pandemic has brought both of these statements sharply into focus, and even more so as we move into our “next normal”.
It provides the desired flexibility for employees. The impact of returning to an office on a full time basis can be great for employees of all demographics. The experience of a work from home environment may be vastly different for a young professional than the experience of someone who has an empty nest. In both scenarios, the hybrid model gives people the freedom to work when and where employees are most likely to thrive. On some days this may be in the office collaborating with peers, while on other days it may be at home focusing on a project or deliverable.
How to Make a Hybrid Model Successful
- Governance model – Ensure you have the right people in the right seats setting the direction and making decisions. All meetings should be facilitated with a purpose to ensure optimal communication, collaboration and clear next steps.
- Communicate clearly and often – It is important for both employees and employers to communicate expectations. Operating in a hybrid model may invite some gray areas that can lead to confusion. Communicating clearly and often will remove any assumptions about deliverables, deadlines, or the expected work schedule.
- Optimize technology – Many of us implemented technology in a hurry when employees were sent to a remote environment in March 2020. Now is the time to consider whether or not the technology that was implemented can be optimized for the future of a hybrid work environment.
- Training – Train your team on any new technology you have implemented. Also be sure to train on approach, expectations and procedures to execute a comfortable working environment whether it is in the office or remotely.
- Consider logistics – When considering a hybrid model and employee schedules, it is important to understand the impact this will have on your operation. Leaders should look at their business and its needs and understand what is needed to ensure an optimal operation.
- Document procedures – Consider documenting enterprise-wide expectations of employees within the hybrid working environment that provide flexibility but also guard rails to assist with the effectiveness of your organization, such as minimum days a week in the office, or specific meeting dates in office.
- Team engagement – Work with your team to understand what they need. If we have learned anything in the remote environment, it’s that we need to be flexible while still working towards a common goal of getting the job done. Engaging your team in understanding what they need to commit to completing their work while also providing flexibility will allow for greater engagement from your team.
- Collaborate – As some employees return to the office and others continue to work remotely, it is more important than ever to continue to collaborate through weekly meetings or even a daily huddle. This will allow for a sense of community to remain, regardless of working environment.
The Future of Hybrid
It is clear that the way we work has been forever transformed. The way we operated in 2019, will not be the way we continue to work as we emerge from the pandemic in 2021. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do think hybrid work models may be here to stay.
Disclaimer of Liability: This publication is intended to provide general information to our clients and friends. It does not constitute accounting, tax, investment, or legal advice; nor is it intended to convey a thorough treatment of the subject matter.