The Hybrid Workplace is Here to Stay
How Do Companies Adjust?
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant shift in the way work gets done in the U.S. and around the world. Companies adopted remote work to maintain business continuity during the pandemic. However, as restrictions eased, many employees were reluctant to go back to the office. During this time, companies learned some benefits from a remote workforce. This set the stage for employees to negotiate working from home at least part of the time, and companies to develop a hybrid work option, where they would come into the office periodically.
Here is a collection of hybrid workplace adoption statistics for 2023:
- Most employees see the value of a moderate amount of time in the office. In the post-pandemic shift in 2022, Gallup found that 4 in 10 employees want to be in the office 2 to 3 days per week, and 3 in 10 employees would prefer spending roughly 1 or 2 days in the office each week.
- Accenture’s “Future of Work” survey reveals that the “productivity everywhere” model is used by 63% of high-growing companies. 85% of employees with flexibility to work anywhere intend to remain with their current employer for a very long time. Conversely, 37% of employees think about switching jobs if they can’t work remotely.
- Workers overwhelmingly don’t think they should be penalized for working at home, with 83% saying they would leave the job if paid less for working from home.
- 74% of CFOs plan to shift at least 5% more of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions in 2023.
Managing a Hybrid Workforce
In today’s hybrid work environment, managers are under tremendous pressure to maintain team engagement and productivity. Their role has become even more critical than before, as they are often the primary point of contact for their direct reports. According to the 2022 Gartner Culture in a Hybrid World Employee Survey, 60% of hybrid employees rely on their direct manager as their primary connection to their company’s culture. However, the demands of the modern working environment have put a strain on managers, who are facing increasing responsibilities, wider spans of control, and depleted team resources.
While senior leaders expect managers to implement corporate strategy, especially in hybrid work, employees expect them to provide a sense of purpose, flexibility, and career opportunities. These expectations do not always align, which is why executives must evolve managers’ roles, equip them with new skills, and provide them with additional support to drive team performance and engagement in the hybrid work environment.
Hybrid Work Challenges
One challenge of hybrid work is maintaining a sense of team unity and collaboration, as employees are not physically present in the same location. To address this, organizations need to invest in tools and technologies that facilitate communication and collaboration between remote and in-office employees. This includes video conferencing platforms, virtual whiteboards and other communication tools. Companies must also ensure that employees have access to the resources and support they need to work effectively from home, such as ergonomic equipment and IT support.
Another challenge of hybrid work is managing employee productivity and performance. Organizations must establish clear performance metrics and expectations for both remote and in-office employees to ensure that everyone is held to the same standards. This includes establishing regular check-ins and communication channels to provide feedback and support. For more on building strong remote teams, read our blog on strategies to position your out-of-office employees for success.
If not already in place, there are several project management tools that are great for both remote workers and in-office teams. Here is a list of top recommendations for 2023 from Forbes Business.
Hybrid Work is Not Just for Telecommuters
This year, we’ll see a new type of hybrid work emerge for frontline workers, for industries such as healthcare and manufacturing. This type of hybrid work is all about improving the employee experience and finding equitable flexibility. A Gartner Frontline Worker Experience Reinvented Survey at the end of 2022 shows 58% of organizations that employ frontline workers have invested in improving their employee experience in the past year, and another third intend to do so in the next year.
So, what does that mean? Gartner data shows the top three things employees want to create hybrid work for frontline positions are:
- Control over work schedule
- Paid leave
- Stability in work schedule
The survey noted other types of flexibility that are important to workers, such as input on what projects/tasks they work on, who they work with and how much they work.
When staff are more satisfied with their work environment, company loyalty grows, adding benefits like better customer service, higher productivity, and profitability.
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Successful Hybrid Work Programs
Several companies are pioneers in successful hybrid work programs, providing a roadmap for others to follow. For example, software company GitLab has been fully remote since 2011 and has documented its processes and best practices in a public handbook. The handbook outlines the company’s policies on everything from communication to hiring and provides a blueprint for other companies to follow. The company website also has extensive information on how to establish a hybrid work model here.
Another example is Microsoft, which has implemented a “hybrid workplace” model that allows employees to work from home part-time but still come into the office for collaboration and social interaction. The company has invested in technology and infrastructure to support remote work, including a virtual collaboration platform called Teams, and a new add-on for Office 365 called Places, scheduled to launch this year. Places will make it easier for hybrid team members to collaborate in person by showing who is coming to the office and when, suggesting which meeting times are best for in person meet-ups, and what space is available.
Possibly the hybrid work program getting the most attention this year is Airbnb’s Live and Work From Anywhere program. Launched last fall, the company allows all but a very few employees to live and work in over 170 other countries for up to 90 days per year per country. Workers also have the option to go into one of Airbnb’s 26 offices.
Teams gather periodically for in person group meetings, which the company sees as critical to success. Scheduled gatherings are intentional, with a team called Ground Control ensuring Airbnb people are in the right place at the right time for these large gatherings.
By decentralizing Airbnb’s main office in San Francisco, the company is saving a ton on office space and overhead, even when calculating in airfare to fly staff in for group meetings. Airbnb Chief Financial Officer Dave Stephenson has this to say: “The business has actually never performed better since we moved to this program. It’s working really well for us.”
Stephenson says the program has also lifted hiring constraints, since employees are not required to live near an office. A key success indicator is employee satisfaction and a near record low attrition rate.
Reshaping Hybrid Work
As organizations find new ways to connect and collaborate in the hybrid world, executive leaders must think beyond the limitations of legacy work models. The workplace role is shifting from a physical space to meaningful and efficient connections. Leaders should make the most of limited in-person time with carefully crafted group meetings, and significantly increase the pace of employee training to match the skills-based needs of today’s work.
Finally, invest in tools and technologies that facilitate communication and collaboration between remote and in-office employees, establishing clear performance metrics and expectations, and providing employees with the resources and support they need to work effectively from home or the office.