Companies like Google, Microsoft, Citigroup, Ford, Meta, and Dow Jones, among others, are kicking off long-awaited plans to return to the office. But for most, this so-called ‘great return’ isn’t a return to pre-pandemic norms of the 9-5, in-office traditional work model.
While many organizations will continue to offer fully remote options, it’s more important than ever to build successful hybrid work models for the great swaths of employees who want or need to toggle back and forth between remote and on-site work at times and locations of their choosing. A recent survey of senior executives found that 81% of executive leaders believe hybrid work will be the foremost working model by 2024, yet a whopping 72% of business leaders surveyed also admit their organization lacked a detailed hybrid strategy.
A recent survey of senior executives found that 81% of executive leaders believe hybrid work will be the foremost working model by 2024, yet a whopping 72% of business leaders surveyed also admit their organization lacked a detailed hybrid strategy.
But there is no uniform approach to creating a good hybrid work model.
While a long-term hybrid work strategy looks different for each organization, one thing is clear... building an effective hybrid work program that puts employee needs and wants first requires a Work in Any Way approach that prioritizes continuous adaptation, a people-centric culture and a fundamental shift in day-to-day workforce management.
Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach
Employees want the freedom to choose and personalize their work environments—whether on- or off-site—that meet their needs and goals. As those needs, goals, and challenges change over time, offering workers the chance to work in any way they choose means creating a personalized, flexible hybrid work model. Naturally, this is a powerful tool for attracting and retaining top talent.
What does it mean to personalize your approach to hybrid work? Essentially, by giving employees the freedom to choose when, how often, and to what end they work on-site—as well as the flexibility to change these arrangements based on their personal or professional needs—empowers them to collaborate in-person when needed while remaining productive remotely when they choose.
For example, some flexible hybrid work models allow employees to choose when they come into the office (rather than dictating fixed in-office or work-from-home days or hours), even if it’s only a few days per month or per quarter, while working remotely at a location of their choice the rest of the time. Other companies are promoting a fixed number of “open days” to their employees, where offices are open and employees are free to come and go on-site as they please.
Ultimately, it’s about providing the freedom for employees to choose the time and place for in-office collaboration that they, along with their managers’ support, decide is necessary to achieve their goals and thrive.
Embrace values of trust, autonomy
Adopting a new work model can present certain challenges or concerns, but clinging to outdated thinking, processes, or expectations that don’t align with what employees need and want isn’t sustainable either.
Creating a hybrid work model that will succeed in the long-term requires bold leadership and a shift in thinking at the management level as workers are trusted to manage their own workloads. Building a culture of trust and autonomy happens when managers empower their team members, not micromanage them.
Managers should also understand that giving workers the freedom to choose (and modify along the way) their work experience doesn’t mean not holding them accountable to goals or mutually agreed upon expectations. A truly flexible hybrid work model gives workers autonomy to get the job done in whatever way they think is best, empowering them to take ownership of both the outcome and the process. And data shows that empowered employees report feeling more motivated, inspired, and engaged, ultimately leading them to a higher employee satisfaction and increased productivity.
Invest in the right infrastructure, tools
Building a successful hybrid work model that works long-term requires more than drafting up a one-time company policy on in-office days. The workers’ revolution is an evolution, and the hybrid work model needs to be constantly evaluated and reimagined on a regular basis to meet the changing needs of the worker.
As hybrid work models evolve, employers must ask themselves, what programs or technologies do we have in place to support a flexible hybrid work model that’s continuously adjusting to meet employees’ needs? What policies and procedures allow managers to measure productivity in a hybrid-specific environment while not holding employees to outdated norms and expectations?
To stay on top of these issues, many companies are staffing up their workforce management teams with professionals who specialize in designing and managing hybrid, remote, or flexible work environments at scale. For example, since 2020, there has been a 60% increase in job titles related to the future of work in the labor market and a 304% spike in open roles that reference “hybrid work.”
It’s no coincidence that company leaders are recognizing workplace transformation as paramount to the core values of their business and investing in the infrastructure needed to build sustainable, scalable hybrid work models. It’s time to recognize that hybrid work programs, while here to stay, are moving targets that will eventually become a part of nearly every company’s DNA.