Prior to the pandemic, HR managers debated the viability of remote work. During the worldwide lockdown, businesses were forced to allow their employees and contractors to work remotely. Some remote work statistics suggest that employees were more productive when they worked from home.
In 2020, many organizational experts predicted the death of the office space. Up till now, their predictions haven't yet come to fruition. Instead, there seems to be a conflict between continuing with remote work and returning to office work.
While some employees preferred one model, some others yearned for the traditional office work setting. To find a middle ground, organizations began adopting the hybrid working model.
Recent research revealed that 55 percent of workers in the United States reported that they preferred to combine working remotely and in the office.
The Hybrid Working Model
Hybrid work came to the fore when work leaders began balancing remote work and traditional office work, allowing their employees to work remotely, in the office, or both.
Although the hybrid working model is now the rave of the moment, many employers and employees struggle to adapt and maintain productivity in the workplace. Some have found the transition to remote work very challenging.
Some challenges identified with the hybrid work model and which can affect productivity are:
- Social isolation
- Disconnect between workers
- Unfair treatment of workers
- Longer working hours
Maintaining productivity when you have your workforce scattered in different locations is now the primary concern of many organizations that have adopted the hybrid work model.
The following tips are some of the best ways to manage a hybrid working model to maintain productivity.
1. Encourage open communication
In a physical office environment, it is much easier for managers to communicate with the employees. The hybrid work model implies that the employees of an organization can work from different locations. The implication is that some employees may not be on the same page with others on what management expects.
Open communication creates trust and makes it easier for employees to reach out to management about their problems. When the manager is aware of the employees' difficulties, it becomes easier to resolve them.
Because many employees in a hybrid model work in different shifts and places, it is sometimes difficult to get all of them on the same page. According to a recent survey, nearly 60 percent of employees who work outside the office reported missing out on important information.
On top of that, the employees sometimes lose focus on what management expects, which affects productivity. Managers must, therefore, be clear on what they want from employees. For example, if managers want to follow workers' progress, they may require each of them to file a monthly report of their projects.
Overcoming the communication problem, therefore, is crucial if you want to succeed in a hybrid environment. The following are some strategies you can use to increase effective communication in a hybrid work model.
- Create communication channels
- Ask for reviews.
- Give clear directives
- Create personal engagements
- Be respectful
Managers must ensure that all employees have access to communication channels, whether they work from home or in the office.
One of the best ways to have open communication is to make employees understand how their opinions contribute to the company's growth. Large enterprise companies have jumped on a trend of hosting a podcast for internal use, that employees can listen to so they better understand what executives are envisioning. Smaller companies can do this with something as simple as a monthly email.
2. Be flexible
The hybrid working system is synonymous with flexibility. Flexibility means that there are no hard and fast rules regarding work.
It also means experimenting with different models. Managers can discover what is best for their organization by letting workers decide where they want to work.
Although there are many variations in hybrid work, all of them have one common characteristic: flexibility.
The traditional work model is rigid, as all employees know when to resume and close from work. On the other hand, the hybrid system is a combination of different work models with emphasis on employees working from where and when they are most productive.
Flexibility in a hybrid work model is all about giving employees options. For example, workers can choose if they want to work from the office, remotely, or partly from the office and home.
The flexibility of the hybrid work model also allows workers to determine if they want to work in the early morning, the day, or during the night.
Also, some experts have noted that flexibility in a hybrid working model involves workers taking part in making crucial decisions in the organization.
When managers involve workers in decision-making, they will better understand and fix their needs, which will increase productivity.
3. Organize the tasks
Another way to increase productivity in the hybrid working model is for managers to identify where workers can best do their jobs.
It is not every task that you can carry out from anywhere. Some require you to be physically in an office to do them.
One task that can be conveniently carried out at home is recruiting. So far, nothing shows that HR personnel who are recruiting from home are not as productive as their work-from-office counterparts.
Many organizations have discovered that their HR personnel can perform their duty of finding qualified candidates for their vacant positions from home.
With the right technological tools, the HR department can screen candidates over the internet or on the phone and make their recommendations to the management.
It is vital for managers who want to hire workers who can work from home to know some remote hiring principles to get the best candidates for those positions.
Managers have a responsibility to organize tasks according to every employee’s capacity. It is, therefore, important to identify where workers can give their best.
4. Set boundaries
In a hybrid work model, managers can lose control over what their employees do during working hours. Many workers have taken advantage of the workplace to engage in non-work-related activities.
Not being in control is a challenge, especially for those employees who work outside the office environment where distractions abound.
The following are ways to set boundaries for your workforce and keep your employees focused on the job at hand.
- Hold regular meetings – Regular meetings remind workers they are working in a structured system and are accountable to management. Holding regular meetings also helps to keep everyone engaged and promote the human aspect of working in the office.
- Operate an open-door policy – Workers who have direct access to their management are more likely to stay focused. Having an open-door policy will help employees work faster since they can get quick assistance from management.
- Have an agreement from the onset – Another way to set boundaries is to agree with workers on working hours and when they can work from the office or stay at home.
- Give and receive feedback – Having a dedicated channel for giving and receiving feedback with your workers will help keep them engaged.
Remote employees in a hybrid work model can get confused over work time and personal time. Setting boundaries from the onset is one of the time management techniques that will sustain employee productivity.
5. Provide productivity tools and support
It will be nearly impossible to maintain a productive hybrid workforce without the right technological tools to connect the dots.
Having access to the right tools will keep the employees connected with everyone, including management and customers.
Communication is vital in a hybrid working model. To stay productive, all employees working in the office or remotely must access the same information.
Fortunately, there are remote productivity apps to help bridge the gap between employees working in different locations.
6. Create a suitable working environment
In a hybrid working model, the management has little or no control over the environment in which remote employees work.
The work environment is a determining factor in productivity. A remote employee who does not have a conducive place at home to work from will not be productive.
According to a study by Kermit G. Davis, only 58 percent of respondents have proper working chairs at home.
It appears many employees do not see the need to set up a proper working space at home. Also, another survey shows that a staggering 72 percent of remote workers are not working from a dedicated office space. The report also found that about 40 percent of remote workers don’t even have a proper working desk.
Some companies like Shopify and Google have realized the importance of having a proper office space and have offered their workers stipends to pay for essential remote office furniture.
Companies can help their remote workers to set up a proper home office by creating a budget to help employees have everything they need and be more productive.
Creating an office space at home will help workers avoid distractions and focus on their work to boost productivity.
It's also a good idea to keep realistic hours. Don't expect remote workers to put in more hours just because they're working from home or in other comfortable areas. There is a relationship between work and sleep and it should be maintained in a healthy way.
7. Recognize personal differences
Some workers who thrive in certain work conditions may struggle to keep up with assigned tasks in another environment.
As individuals, workers are different. Some are most productive when working alone, while others give their best when working in a group.
Managers must therefore recognize these factors and encourage workers to adopt the system most suited for high productivity. Trying to force some workers to adopt a particular working model will backfire.
The hybrid work model is still an evolving phenomenon as most organizations are trying out different approaches to see what works for them. Although the hybrid model has some challenges, there are ways to manage it and maintain productivity among your employees.
Getting the best out of a hybrid work model requires administrators to learn the skills required to manage employees in different work environments.