Authors: Kathleen Schulz Rebecca Starr
In some way, shape or evolving form, hybrid work arrangements are here to stay. There's plenty of enthusiasm about the flexibility offered by combining in-person and remote work. And as interest in remote-compatible jobs grows, so does the need for documentation, process consistency and acceptance of technology.
While most organizations have yet to define a clear strategy for hybrid work, initial feedback is positive. Three-quarters of employers (75%) offer some form of hybrid work option. And overwhelmingly, it's met or exceeded expectations (43%) or is progressing despite some bumps (44%). Just 13% report challenges that have them rethinking their strategies.1
Adapting to cultural shifts introduced by hybrid work
When remote work took a firm hold in 2020, managers and team leaders may have suspended their traditional focus on productivity levels. Teams that previously worked together in person typically had a good sense of each other's capabilities. Now, with the increased outflow and influx of talent, dubbed the Great Reshuffle, employers need to determine how to successfully integrate new team members. More broadly important is reinforcing or improving the work culture that existed before the shift to a hybrid model. And notably, 1 in 3 (33%) already believe their organization's culture has improved due to hybrid work.1
Technology increasingly facilitates hybrid work, and both employers and employees are mostly over the learning curve. Organizations leverage chat technologies or video conferencing to help ensure teams are connected, no matter where they physically sit. But employers that proactively minimize the demands of work, which may be higher due to labor shortages, can better manage the employee experience and maintain a culture that productively sustains remote work. Policies and programs that support this objective help to improve retention.
Labor market power dynamics continue to give employees a bargaining edge over employers, at least for the time being. In recent months, a consensus was building that failing to offer a flexible work environment poses a significant risk. One study found that 25% of employees quit their jobs in 2021, and the reason given by 41% of them was a lack of flexible work schedules.2 Potential vulnerabilities for employers include talent attraction and retention, employee engagement and performance, and overall wellbeing.
With millions of employees now comfortable with hybrid work, employers need to balance the desire for flexible environments with the importance of engaging in person, sharing ideas and building relationships. Supporting policies should reflect departmental priorities in line with organizational goals.
Succeeding with proven technology, effective communication and an emphasis on employee growth
Employers and employees alike had to overcome sudden technological challenges when businesses switched en masse to remote work, and that transition continues. Organizations are still building out reliable infrastructures as they focus on synchronizing capabilities with changing needs.
Technology improvements can enable a more connected experience for remote employees. New advances include 360-degree cameras with artificial intelligence that can zoom in on speakers and provide panoramic views of those participating in person. Digital whiteboards support collaborative brainstorming efforts regardless of location, while enhancements like workforce experience applications help manage schedules and determine logistics of work locations such as the availability of seating or meeting rooms.3