Despite early skepticism, experts now admit the success of the remote work experiment. Even before organizations ironed out the kinks, studies like one recently published by Texas A&M were beginning to measure long-term effectiveness of work-from-home arrangements. They concluded moving outside of a physical office after a natural disaster (or pandemic) caused no loss in productivity but instead boosted resilience and in some cases increased individual output.
Now, there’s even more potential with a workforce acclimated to virtual operations. When asked how much more or less efficient they felt before and after their exposure to work-from-home options, Americans on average said they were 6.97% more effective at their jobs following the change. Plus, remote employees also love this new model.
At least 97% of respondents in the 2022 State of Remote Work study said they wanted to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. Organizations are taking note and responding in kind. Though few of us are outright strangers to the idea of remote work, there are ongoing questions about the right balance between in-office and work-from-home days.
As with most paradigm shifts, an out-of-the-box solution won’t do. Creating a hybrid work policy requires you to create an amalgam between your unique situation and the best practices the vanguard is implementing. Here’s how to strike that balance.
Building the Right Processes
Let’s start with the basics. Your workflows and processes need to be able to shift between on-site and remote operations. That’s not an easy premise, but there are some key guidelines.
Whenever a project requires intense concentration, a work-from-home scenario can be superior for IT professionals with a dedicated space. It’s easy to unplug from distractions and defend productive time to knock out coding sprints or dig through complex analytics. When quick collaboration or updates are needed, you can simulate the office structure with routine standup video calls or quick Teams or Slack message.
Even situations that have traditionally benefitted from face-to-face interactions (brainstorming, team building, etc.) can be conducted with remote workers. Virtual whiteboards can allow in-office and remote team members to contribute ideas and build a shared mind map. Video conferencing platforms have been used since the start of the pandemic to build bonds between remote coworkers. There will be some glitches, but the range and maturity of digital tools are making these interactions easier to handle in a hybrid workplace.
One of the clear challenges has to do with time. Many work-from-home conversations have been paired with the idea of flexible work schedules. Whenever possible, it makes sense to accommodate the scheduling desires of those people who are excelling at performance and deliverables. However, there will always be certain times when you need everyone available. That’s when clear communication and an empathetic explanation of your stance can justify a handful of fixed meetings as well as the occasional in-office visit.
Creating a Culture That Shifts
What motivates and rewards your workers might have to change too. When there is a physical office, organizations have defaulted to face-to-face team building and rewards. Bagels and snacks around the office or even outings after or during work hours have given professionals a boost or a chance to unwind. With remote workers, these motivators lose their efficacy. As businesses explore their own hybrid work policy, there is an opportunity to redefine motivators and morale boosters so both remote and in-office workers are kept happy.
What is the intrinsic motivation of your team members? Do employees work hardest when they feel proud of their work? Are they spurned on by a sense of purpose or larger meaning? Will they work harder for your business if they feel there is mutual trust or that they’re exploring new frontiers? Everyone will have their own answer but understanding the collective and individual incentives for your team can ensure you accomplish your goals.
What about rewards? Or recognition? The nature of hybrid work eliminates the idea that you can reward everyone equally – maybe that’s for the best. As we mentioned, people are motivated by different things and businesses that can navigate these preferences that will excel in the long run.
As far as rewards go, we’ve explored the idea with our referral program, which offers a variety of options. When it comes to recognition, organizations can call attention to their team through virtual means as well as all-team meetings (we celebrate our top performers at our annual Team Retreat). Always be open to trying new strategies in addition to keeping what works.
Exploring The Right Fit for Your Organization
Even with all these considerations, there’s rarely justification for a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work. Not every employee, position, or business unit will benefit from the same approach. Only by tailoring your policy to different factors can you retain top performers.
For example, creating mobile applications or platforms entails less of a need for in-office time. Most of developers’ contributions can be made remotely, thanks to everything from GitHub for version control and Dropbox for file management to Zoom for team calls and Teams for communication. However, network or systems administrators who need to run on-site data centers or facilities with dedicated physical servers need to spend more of their time on-location. Each role should be evaluated before any decision is made.
Additionally, the reevaluation of your hybrid work policy can even expand your ability to hire candidates who have been traditionally overlooked. Often, tech professionals with a disability have been limited in where they can work because of accessibility restrictions of office spaces. Remote work has offered a safe and low-investment way to incorporate IT talent with disabilities into your organization. In those cases, a work-from-home arrangement would need to be predominant compared to other workers.
Sometimes, preference needs to come into the mix, especially because it’s vital to retention. Work from Home Research found that working from home two to three times a week has a comparable value to Americans as a 5.96% pay raise. Employees are far more likely to stay with a company that fulfills their work environment needs.
Choosing a Hybrid Work Policy for the Right Reasons
As with the above recommendations, your hybrid work policy should be driven by your business needs. Some organizations need a core group of on-site personnel, but the decision to require any 100% in-office employees should be based on justifiable work requirements rather than leadership’s preference or knee-jerk responses.
Also, never hop on the bandwagon without good reasons. Just because Elon Musk decided to require Tesla employees to return to the office doesn’t mean his rationale is right for you (especially because he might be using this tactic to shed employees without layoffs).
As hybrid work policies become a chosen norm rather than a reaction to a global pandemic, we’re going to see greater variety in how businesses will operate. Stay open to their lessons. As long as your business remains receptive to change and embraces best practices, you’ll continue to retain and attract the best people to guarantee your place in the future.
Creating a hybrid work policy is only the start. You need to hire the right people first. Reach out to Capstone IT to find experienced IT professionals who can thrive anywhere – whether they’re at home or on-site.