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5 Surprising Things about Hybrid Work

Written by Dorinda So, Executive Director, pointA

Hybrid work – a combination of in-person or on-site work with at home or remote work – appears to be commonplace these days. Employees are returning to the office for part of the week, and it appears to be the new normal of working.  

However, when asked whether hybrid work was working, most employers and employees are not sure. It seems every single workplace has a different setup and there are mixed reviews on whether it is working and how well.  

We spent this fall exploring this question as part of our work in the Future Skills Centre Accelerator, speaking to leaders at companies to understand the continued challenges of hybrid work and where we can move forward together on solutions that will improve their employee retention, engagement, and health and well-being. We broke down hybrid work into 15 aspects across 4 categories that aligned with a logic model. What we found were some interesting and surprising trends that we would like to share with you.  

  1. Leaders still have a lot of questions and need for clarity – The leaders we spoke to were very honest about their hybrid work situations. Many invested in hybrid work during the pandemic, turning offices into collaboration spaces, introducing new hotelling and space utilization software, setting up employee home offices, and bringing in IT services to help optimize the home and work office.  
     
    But hybrid work is so much more than just tools, policies, and procedures. The pandemic has led to a larger conversation about the value and role of work, which for many employees has led to switching jobs, and highlighted the importance of the uniqueness of each of our work situations. When remote work is introduced as part of a hybrid policy, it erases the line between work and life and for many this happens at the same dining room table. Employers, more than ever before, are faced with many questions about how to best accommodate employees and address their unique needs, while also creating standards around how to communicate, collaborate, or come into the workplace.  
     
  1. Workplaces don’t have a formal, robust hybrid work policy – As employers seek to accommodate employees and figure out what an optimal hybrid policy is so that they can better plan for the future, it was surprising to us that most employers did not have a formal hybrid work policy. In some cases, the policy just outlined when employees were expected to come into the office, and not much else. This was surprising because many organizations we work with are quick to have policies in place to provide guidance and procedures for employees to follow.  
     
    What ensued instead was employee practices dictating the ‘policy’. This was especially true for smaller organizations where there was almost an experimental approach that was taken until everyone found a hybrid setup that worked best for them. Once these schedules were determined, employees followed them and therefore there was no need for a formal hybrid work policy. Some workplaces have since developed hybrid work policies while others recognize that because hybrid work is connected to almost every aspect of an organization, a policy may not be able to encapsulate the entirety and complexity of hybrid work. 

  1. Communication and collaboration issues remain, but were being actively solved – When employees are working remotely, communication and collaboration issues continue to be a challenge for organizations. For some, it was due to the nature of their work, with a lot of highly skilled technical managers who did not always have the training to be able to communicate as effectively virtually as compared to in person. For others, they didn’t have any communication tools and so they relied on emails and calls to communicate.   
     
    However, we found that businesses were actively managing these challenges. Managers were offered training opportunities, and if available HR departments were there to provide support. For some small businesses, employees formed multi-department working groups to address any issues that came up with hybrid work. All of this led to a much more successful hybrid setup and more employee engagement where individuals had a hand in creating solutions for their organization.  
     
      1. Hybrid work is a permanent fixture of employee compensation packages – Regardless of whether companies saved or spent more money on making hybrid work a reality, employers felt that this was a key part of the new realities of working and that this was going to become a permanent fixture of working conditions for employees. For those employers who reduced their office footprint, this meant that there would no longer be enough space for all employees.  
         
        Most importantly, hybrid work brought about employee attraction and retention. Many leaders spoke about the challenges of finding and keeping talent and how allowing for remote work opened up the talent pool significantly. With so many prospective employees looking to work from home at least part of the week meant that hybrid work needed to be part of the overall benefits package. No longer is hybrid work just a response to the health and safety concerns brought on by the pandemic. Now, it is a key feature of a competitive and attractive workplace.

      1. Employers don’t know what’s working – The insights from our conversations with employers demonstrated that there is a gap between the policies, processes and tools, inputs and even workplace environmental factors that make up hybrid work structures and outcomes. There are two reasons for this. First, policies, processes and tools, as well as inputs are areas that the organization has the most control over whereas outcomes are much more difficult to effect change. Second, there is often a time lag between when policies, processes and tools are implemented or updated and when the intended effects occur and are seen in the outcomes.  
         
        Most organizations felt like there was often not enough line of sight into what individual employees were doing, whether they were productive at home or what their concerns were. They were also not able to determine whether their actions led to the outcomes they were seeing or whether they were the result of the Great Resignation, indicative of high attrition rates and low employee engagement. Some workplaces were also part of highly competitive industries where a certain level of employee turnover was to be expected. 
         
        There were very few organizations that were adept at developing measures or KPIs to understand the effectiveness of these changes. Those that did could articulate at what time in the future they would start to see the results of their changes. 
         

      Do you agree? Let us know how your organization is doing! Take our survey today and see how your organization compares to others. 

      If hybrid work is truly here to stay, then it’s important that organizations understand if it’s working well, how well, and what to do if it’s not. We at pointA are here to help support workplaces that aren’t seeing the kinds of outcomes they want when it comes to hybrid work. Let us know how your organization is doing and contact us today if you’re interested in exploring some solutions.  

      Moving forward, pointA will continue analyzing hybrid trends by interviewing our current clients. If you are interested, please contact us today to learn more about our interview process. 

      Image Credit: Daniel Thomas (Unsplash)

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