It’s safe to say that the status quo has undergone some serious changes in the last two years. With COVID-19 having a big say in how we operate at work and in our personal lives, it stood to reason that, eventually, we would see the two collide.
The next and most significant compromise for businesses is the growing implementation of hybrid working – the blending of in-office and remote working into one practical model. While many employers once saw this simply as a necessary evil, it’s quickly becoming not only viable but also one of the most popular and cost-effective ways to run a business.
Many big companies that initially planned to revert to a fully in-office working model, such as Amazon and Google, have u-turned and delayed these plans, with a fair number opting to double down on their hybrid working policy instead.
Data shows clear benefits to this, not only for employers – with increased profits and higher levels of engagement – but also for employees.
Workers everywhere are calling for greater flexibility in a job market wracked with career burnout and mental health issues. For many, hybrid working is the answer.
But it’s not a quick-fix solution. A poorly implemented hybrid working model can, at best, alienate your workforce and, at worst, cause physical and mental harm.
So, here’s what you need to know to properly adapt to this new workplace culture.
The Technology of Hybrid Working
One of the most important questions an HR professional needs to ask when considering hybrid working is, “How do I maintain a healthy and supportive relationship with remote employees without having a physical presence?”.
It may seem that working remotely can limit your choices. On the contrary, a fully committed hybrid working model with an enterprise voip solution can be just as connective and accessible as an in-office model – perhaps more so.
VoIP and Video Conferencing
A robust, hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service simplifies and streamlines team communication using cloud data banks. This is just one part of a larger UCaaS system, which puts all the presentation and scheduling tools that provide conferencing services you need into one place, acting as a virtual office space and promoting a “work anywhere” attitude.
For companies that comprise mostly remote workers, VoIP and video conferencing are essential lifelines between HR and the employee. One of the good things with video conferencing is you get to have little breaks. Learn tensorflow at Databricks or read an article while waiting for your colleagues. With cloud features that are always online, the HR department is always only a button-press away.
Employees who are too anxious to call or video chat can send a message instead, and HR representatives can easily receive these messages while also working from home, without needing to commute to the office.
Benefits for HR
In many ways, there’s more of an open-door policy surrounding remote HR operations than there’s ever been in a typical workplace. The gulf between an employee’s work and social life has shrunk, and sensitive issues can be addressed much more quickly as a result.
Moreover, sensitive conversations can be overtly recorded and archived more easily by HR and the employee. You can use the Dialpad’s remote working phone system to make this process very simple.
Ultimately, it’s much easier to keep track of exchanges between co-workers when those conversations are being hosted online, which can be extremely useful in situations requiring HR or even legal intervention.
An integrated VoIP system for day-to-day remote working is itself a huge deterrent to harassment. An abusive co-worker is likely to think twice about harassing a colleague with several pairs of eyes watching them through a webcam. That alone is enough to recommend this technology to any working HR professional.
Productivity, Health, and Burnout
So, let’s say you’ve gone hybrid, and at least some – if not all – of your employees are working remotely. They may be out of sight, but they should in no way be out of mind. Now that your workforce is out of arm’s reach, how do you keep them productive? And, just as importantly, how do you keep them happy?
Employees are 2.6 times more likely to leave their employer due to burnout. Much of this is attributed to a poor work/life balance and rigid working hours. Hybrid working is increasingly touted as a solution to this issue.
However, a home working environment is not necessarily a controlled one. There’s something to be said for working within a strict office setup. It may seem stifling at times, but it can offer a helpful and supportive routine, not only benefiting workflow, but also health.
At the office, an employee will likely have scheduled breaks, bespoke equipment, furniture, and even a colleague reminding them to get up and stretch their legs once in a while. At home, a well-oiled HR department should provide their remote employees with suitable substitutes.
You can’t station a health and safety advisor in the home of every employee to ensure they’re not injuring themselves, but it’s still the responsibility of HR to keep employees safe and well while working company hours.
A very useful tool is a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessment of an employee’s workstation. Staff can often do this themselves with online supervision. This way, your employee can set up an ergonomically sound work environment – and a healthy break routine – to prevent causing themselves long-term damage in their own home.
Considering Mental Health
Ergonomic changes help a lot. Mental well-being, however, is another issue. Despite many employees preferring to work at least some of the week at home, there are still those who don’t suit this way of working.
When working from home can’t be helped, HR needs to take steps to prevent burnout and dissociation. This can be done through frequent contact, such as checking in on progress, invitations from HR to discuss mental health, and regular video meetings.
There are even virtual mental wellness programs available to remote workers. These measures should help to push away any lingering feelings of isolation or abandonment.
Choosing a Suitable Hybrid Working Model
So, we’ve gone over the benefits and opportunities that a hybrid working strategy can provide. But these strategies can take many shapes. All companies are different, and while an all-remote workforce might suit some businesses, it most certainly won’t suit every business.
Hybrid Working Models Explained
A hybrid working model is, essentially, the ratio of time spent working in-office to time spent working remotely. Remote-first and office-first are the two ends of the spectrum.
But there is a range of different models with a more even balance, such as the 3-2 model, where three or two days in the working week can be spent either in the office or at home.
Ultimately, these different models are just guidelines intended to encourage companies to customize their hybrid working experience. For example, the best SaaS SEO agency would take to a remote working model like a fish to water, but what about a company with a wide range of departments?
Testing Models With Analytics
The main thing to ask yourself is how the model will fit your employees. You can decide who works from home on a case-by-case basis, and if the data you have on your employees suggests that any of them would not benefit from a remote working plan, this should be reflected in your hybrid working policy.
Flexibility is key. For many people, particularly those with children or caring responsibilities, the office can be somewhere to escape to and work free of distraction. When a company decides to be primarily office-based or entirely remote, its decision should depend on the temperaments of the employees and on the work being done.
If your staff has been googling, “create an email with a custom domain,” this is one of the things that you could tell them how to do, and then you can let them represent the company from their living room if it suits you.
ASDA’s policy is to have its head office staff work from home whenever they like, only asking that they commute to important meetings. It’s always good to touch base in person once in a while, but no one likes making an unnecessary trip when a phone call would suffice.
Flexibility needs to be kept in mind when using analytics, specifically. Analytics is a great tool for discerning who is thriving under a model and who is not, but it’s best not to use it to decide on a broad-stroke approach for all your employees.
Avoid sending joint emails to every worker outlining the data and what you expect from them. Send a more personal message. With video conferencing software, you have a literal window into your employees’ lives – with all the bells and whistles included. So use it!
Make sure to use their qualitative feedback in your review of the policy, as well as your broader data, and compare it to the feedback of others to see if changes need to be made to your onboarding process.
What Have We Learned?
Hybrid working is not yet an exact science, but an influx of overwhelmingly positive data suggests we ought to welcome it with open arms.
The fear that a move towards remote working could sever the human connection between workers is not completely unfounded, but it’s up to individual company leaders to decide how far that move is beneficial to both the company and the employee.
With the possibility of further pandemics on the horizon, it’s important that HR professionals learn and adjust to this new way of working so that they can not only continue the same standard of care and vigilance over their employees but also improve upon it with the innovative technology available to them.
With the right approach, there’s no reason why a company with a careful balance of in-office and remote work can’t develop and host a thriving work culture and keep their most diverse and talented people firmly in the loop.