Key Takeaways from Hybrid Work Roundtable — How to Plan for an Ambiguous Work World
We recently had a conversation with five HR & IT leaders in our webinar, Hybrid Work Roundtable — How to Plan for an Ambiguous Work World. In the discussion, we cover how leaders at Lever, Deskpass, WorkTech, and more are adapting to the rise of worker flexibility. We dive into the following:
- The main challenges that come with managing hybrid workforces
- How HR & IT leaders can plan for these challenges and how they’re listening to employees to drive their strategies
- How to facilitate communication and collaboration in your hybrid workforce
- The role of technology in building a sustainable hybrid work model
You’ll get some great findings from the recording, but if you’re looking for a short and sweet version, here are a few of our key takeaways.
Takeaway #1: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work
One thing that we know about hybrid work is that most everyone wants it. In fact, according to a recent study by Slack, 83% of knowledge workers don’t want to return to five days a week in the office. Even more significantly, in a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 39% of them would consider quitting if their employers didn’t provide a flexible work policy. This percentage increases to 49% among millennials and Gen Z employees.
So, hybrid work is in demand, but what does it actually look like in practice? The consensus — there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but it really comes down to balancing two things — 1) Flexibility and choice in when, where, and how employees work and 2) What works in terms of keeping teams productive and efficient.
Annie Lin, VP of People at Lever, summed it up well: “Hybrid work is about finding the balance between providing more flexibility and choice to employees balanced with what we think will continue to make for a really tight-knit, cohesive, and productive team. Every company will find a different balance, but it’s really important for companies to have a clear point of view on where they want to be on that spectrum.”
So, figure out the balance that works for your organization. For some companies, being hybrid is the best solution while for others, being 100% remote and not even having offices might be the thing to do. Whatever the solution is, have a strong position and communicate your policy.
Takeaway #2: Watch out for potential blindspots around the employee experience
A significant concern that many webinar attendees expressed about managing a hybrid workforce were providing a consistent employee experience. Specifically, 28% of attendees responded that “creating a comparable remote and in-office experience” is a top priority for them.
With managing a hybrid workforce, there are many potential blind spots regarding the employee experience and putting the employee first. During the conversation, George LaRocque, Founder and Principal Analyst of WorkTech, provided a helpful framework to think about the employee experience. He called it the “cultural-technical-physical framework”.
He described it in the following way: “There are three aspects to the way that I talk about employee experience: cultural — your relationships and how you feel about work, technical — the tools that you’re given, and physical — everything about your working environment i.e. your commute, office, etc.”
One thing that many leaders didn’t focus on before remote/hybrid work became the norm was the physical aspect. In fact, George joked that he got many eye rolls when he talked about the physical aspects, but now the physical aspect of the employee experience is more important than ever.
So, when designing the employee experience, consider the strengths and weaknesses your organization has in each of these three dimensions, and especially consider focusing on the physical aspect of the employee experience, as that is the big differentiator between remote and in-person work.
[Related article: Answer These Questions to Build a Better Post-2020 Employee Experience]
Additionally, George touched on the potential blindspot of expectations. He argued, “If you’re setting expectations for employees to work in a hybrid way at home, are you funding some of those changes that need to be made? Think about security, their speed of internet, their working environment, etc.” If you’ve decided upon a hybrid model and have expectations around how employees will work, consider how you’ll support those expectations.
Whether it’s distributing stipends for home offices, funding employees’ internet services, or paying for a subscription to a coworking space, these are all concrete ways to support your employee experience. Andrea Bice, Director of HR at Esler, puts it nicely: “At Esler, we ask ourselves, how do we meet our teammates where they’re at? Just as we meet our customers where they’re at. That’s really what it’s about.”
Takeaway #3: As many challenges that hybrid work presents, there are just as many opportunities
Although there are many challenges that hybrid work presents, whether it’s creating a comparable in-person vs. remote employee experience or maintaining your culture/productivity, there are also many opportunities. We touched on a few during the discussion, and they include the following:
- Leveling the playing field in terms of remote vs. in-person onboarding
- Greater opportunity to build more intentional communities
- Saving on time and resources
According to Annie, two huge opportunities of hybrid work are 1) The fact that companies can now be more intentional about standardizing the onboarding process for remote and in-person workers, and 2) The opportunity for companies to create different types of communities.
She explained, “Before when folks were in the office, it was easy to default to the people that you’re physically around as your primary and sometimes only community, right? Whereas now, you get an opportunity to connect people based on team, location, ERGS, interests, and more. It allows companies to be a lot more intentional about making sure that employees feel a sense of belonging in multiple ways.”
Additionally, Nicole Vasquez, Co-Founder, and CPO of Deskpass, pointed out that not only do employees save time and resources working in a hybrid capacity, companies can as well. Many of her clients are considering downsizing or completely getting rid of their offices. She described, “We’ve had many clients come to us saying, ‘Look, we’ve crunched the numbers. Our company headquarters has been sitting empty for 12–16 months, and now we’re realizing that by downsizing, or completely getting rid of our office(s), we’ll save a ton.”
Takeaway #4: Let your strategy inform your technology, not the other way around
Part of the employee experience framework that George touched upon is the technical aspect, which is all the tools that you provide for your employees. A big part of that, of course, is technology. And speakers really drove in the point that technology shouldn’t drive strategy, rather it should be the other way around.
George suggested using the cultural-technical-physical framework to evaluate your technology needs. He explained, “When you’re selecting these tools ask yourself: ‘Why do we need these tools? Are you trying to solve a cultural problem? A physical problem? Take stock of what you have and identify the gaps.”
[Related article: Are You Using Tech to Solve the Right Problems?]
See what learnings you find in the webinar
I highly recommend watching the full webinar if you haven’t yet! I highlighted some key takeaways here, but we take an even deeper dive into the recording.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sift’s Blog in July 2021.
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