How to Develop Policies for Effective Hybrid Working

The hybrid working environment is no longer a post-pandemic experiment. On average, office attendance is 30 percent lower than before 2020 with most remote-capable workers going into the office just 3.5 days per week. Even though most companies have had a few years to work out their hybrid plans, many still struggle to balance remote and in-office teams.

How to Develop Policies for Effective Hybrid Working

If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, there are a few best practices you can follow to create fair and effective hybrid work policies that your employees appreciate.

Evaluate true in-office needs

When are in-person teams actually needed?

Managers often believe that in-person work enables better collaboration and communication because teams can work together throughout the day. However, these opportunities to talk with colleagues can also create distractions.

One survey by Microsoft found 68 percent of people don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the day. Two of the biggest obstacles to productivity are too many meetings and inefficient meetings.

Instead of choosing an arbitrary number of days or hours for employees to work in the office, take a step back and ask yourself:

  • When do we benefit from having everyone in the office (for example all-hands meetings, prep for big projects, celebrations)
  • Who actually needs to be in the office and when. Perhaps only some of your staff come in each day.
  • How will we measure success from in-office days. If you’re still paying for an office space, make sure it’s worth the spend to have employees come in versus staying remote.

These questions will help you set policies around who, when and why employees come into the office each week or month.

Know what employees need

Do your employees hate changing their desks every time they are at the office?

When hybrid work first became popular, companies viewed this practice as a natural pairing with the new company policies. Instead of giving each employee a desk, companies reduced their office sizes to accommodate a portion of the workforce. This allowed them to save money on real estate while making the work spaces feel more full.

However, recent data tells us that employees actually hate changing desks. It makes them feel unsettled and eliminates personal elements from the workplace. If you want your team members to feel productive in the office, they may also need a workspace to call their own.

Set flexible ground rules

Are all-or-nothing hybrid rules having a negative impact?

A common mistake that companies make when developing remote work policies is refusing to make any exceptions to their rules. However, in the four years since the start of the pandemic, many employees have built new lives around remote and hybrid work. They might not be able to follow your guidelines perfectly.

For example, one remote worker told Business Insider that their company issued a return-to-office mandate but he had moved five hours away from the nearest branch. Countless other workers have also moved to different regions and states where they can work remotely.

Even local workers might need exceptions to your hybrid rules. Parents of small kids have to keep up with school and daycare hours. Some people might only be able to work in the office on certain days of the week.

Implementing all-or-nothing policies seems like the fairest option for everyone, but they also come with a risk of losing good employees to another company that’s more flexible in their policies.

Invest in the right technology

Are your employees able to work effectively?

Your hybrid work environment will only be successful if your employees have the right tools for the job. Audit the current technology used by your team members and identify any weaknesses that reduce productivity or prevent communication. What you needed when you were just remote has likely changed—employees need to be set up for success.

For example, now might be a good time to update your phone system so your staff can make calls over the Internet.

While people management is a significant part of developing hybrid work policies, you also need to develop an IT infrastructure that supports both remote and in-office work.

Allow for evolution

Can your policies shift as you learn?

Too often, companies want to create utopian hybrid work environments that accommodate every team member and optimize collaboration. However, no office is perfect. Your policies and plans might have some issues that need to be adjusted based on the needs of your team members.

Whenever you create workplace changes, give them time to play out. Wait at least 90 days for your staff to get used to the new guidelines and adapt their workflow to them. You can then decide whether these policies were good for the company or should be changed.

Too much change can overwhelm your staff. Plus, if you immediately give up on any policy improvements because of a little negative feedback, you’ll never know if they worked for everyone else.

Know that hybrid work is the new normal

Many younger team members who entered the workforce during the pandemic only know hybrid work. For them, this isn’t a grand experiment but rather the standard work environment.

As you develop hybrid policies, focus on the long-term goals of your company. Your technology investment, in-person meeting windows, and remote work exceptions can drive your company forward. With planning, compassion, and mindfulness about what your employees need, you can make hybrid models work.

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