Remote work is here to stay
In industries and roles where it’s possible, remote work will continue to be part of the workplace and continue to exceed pre-pandemic levels. Research by Microsoft on the future of work found that 73 per cent of employees want flexible remote work options to remain indefinitely while 66 per cent of business leaders say their company is considering redesigning office space to fit the hybrid work model. Other research revealed that 30 per cent of employers and 28 per cent of employees see flexibility as a key benefit of hybrid work.
Tips for successful hybrid work
Once you have determined your employees can work from home at least some of the time, there are ways to ensure that it is effective in the long run.
Consider coordinated days in hybrid work situations
While employees want flexibility, they still want some interaction. The Microsoft research also found that 67 per cent of employees want more in-person work or collaboration after the pandemic. To create this balance and enable people to connect, some companies have found that having a set two to three days a week where everyone is in the office together leads to a happy medium between requiring employees to be in the office full time and fully remote work. You can then schedule in-person meetings, or sessions that require creative ideation, for the office days and let people focus on independent work during their remote days.
Cultivate culture, cohesion and connectedness
One of the biggest challenges with remote work is the isolation it can bring. Research by Pitcher Partners and Bastion Collective showed that social isolation is a concern for one in five remote employees. The biggest concerns for employers are overseeing staff and their productivity (28%), lack of social interaction/loss of culture (19%), and communication (11%).
Getting together in the office a few days a week is one way to overcome these challenges. Encourage team members to meet to discuss projects and challenges in person. This could go beyond the conference room to include team lunches and other social events that help employees connect when in hybrid work.
Provide the tools to thrive
Difficulties with productivity and communication can be alleviated with the right tools. The best solutions will depend on your situation but here are a few of the most recommended tools for remote work environments.
- Meeting scheduling: Google Calendar, Microsoft Teams, 10to8, Calendly
- Video conferencing: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts
- Cloud storage and document management: Google Drive, DropBox
- Collaboration and project management: Slack, Jira, Trello, Asana
- Productivity: Desk Time, Time Doctor, Hubstaff.
If you are using remote working tools, consider any areas for improvement. You could have what you need already but are not using them to their full potential.
Protect staff from remote work burnout
While isolation and effective communication are a concern, it’s also important to avoid online meeting burnout, also known as Zoom burnout. Research by the Harvard Business School found that the pandemic led to a 13 per cent increase in remote meetings and extended workdays by 8.2 per cent on average. In addition, the research by Microsoft found that remote collaboration is more mentally challenging than in-person collaboration. Specifically, brainwave patterns associated with stress were much higher when collaborating online than in person.
When organising meetings, consider the impact on employee experiences. Ask whether all employees need to be present or if some can be present for part of the meeting. Also, consider the length and frequency of online check-ins to avoid work burnout. Read more on this topic in Work Burnout: Symptoms and Prevention Tips for SME Owners.
Foster learning and career development
With hybrid work and the decrease in interaction, it’s possible for learning and career development to fall between the cracks. Be proactive with learning and development to ensure that staff are engaged, can maximize their contribution and stay with the business. This can start by discussing learning and development needs, and a creating plan to implement the solutions..
Create a level playing field for remote and onsite staff
If some employees choose to spend more time in the office than others, this shouldn’t be a disadvantage for them. Make sure that remote employees are involved in decision making and get the same opportunities as onsite staff. Being aware of the potential bias against remote workers is a positive first step in creating a fair workplace. Making the Hybrid Workplace Fair (Harvard Business Review) explains that onsite employees have greater access to resources (including technology) and are more connected with onsite managers.
To address these issues, the article recommends getting a clear picture of the ‘hybridity configuration’, evaluating policies and procedures to ensure they don’t create an unfair advantage, and addressing challenges with effective onboarding and performance review and evaluations.
Getting it right with hybrid work in your business
If you are in a business where some roles can be carried out remotely, consider the impact on employees and customers before implementing hybrid work changes. Discuss employee preferences and explain the benefits of your decisions. For example, when setting up coordinated office days, highlight the advantages of in-person collaboration for the organisation. Offering flexibility when possible will go a long way in creating a positive work environment and decrease employee turnover.