May 16

Hybrid work is a “not negotiable”

As another Mother’s Day passes with a buzz of flowers and celebrations, I reflect on one of the gains for some women in the past couple of years has been the ability to work from home, for at least some of the working week.  As more people start to return to the office, employers should consider the benefits they have gained in having employees working from home (WFH) before mandating a return to the office.

I am fortunate to be able to work part-time, from home and with flexibility regarding when I work.  This enables me to juggle my kids and caring for aging parents.  This arrangement works well for me and my employer; I have international clients in different time zones so it is not unusual for me to schedule a zoom call for early morning or in the evening.  In return, I can drop my kids at school and attend school assemblies. It’s a win-win. I feel happier, positive and more productive.

This has been the topic of much debate as employers navigate the post pandemic workplace and designing a new work model.  There is a strong case for the benefits of a hybrid model including:

  • Saving time and money – employees save time and money when not commuting and employers save money in real estate.    
  • Social benefits: WFH creates an opportunity for increased workforce participation and a more gender balanced workforce; for parents, carers, people with a disability, and people living in rural areas.  This leads to broader social benefits.
  • Workforce Equity: there is evidence that the pandemic resulted in an equalising effect on access to WFH as it was no longer just for higher level employees.  Employees in less senior roles have proven they can successfully and productivity WFH.
  • Better work and life balance: WFH has provided employees with the ability to better balance other responsibilities such as domestic chores and child responsibilities.  Given that women predominately take greater responsibility for child-raising, caring for elderly parents and domestic chores, the ability to WFH has had a more significant impact for women.

What is clear is that many employees now see remote or hybrid work as essential; it is a “not negotiable”. With low unemployment, and a fight to attract and retain the best talent, a new work model incorporating remote and hybrid work should be part of an Employer’s Value Proposition (EVP) in a competitive market.

Mercers Global Talent Trends 2022 survey results found that:

  • 3 in 5 employees would join a company only if they can work remotely or in a hybrid engagement
  • 74% believe their organisation will be more successful with remote working and/or hybrid
  • By contrast, almost all executives (92%) would like to see their staff in the office and 57% fundamentally believe that work gets done in an office, not remotely
  • The concern of 67% of executives is about the impact of remote working on the organisation culture, with 65% saying they have an apprenticeship culture today where people learn side by side, not remote – requiring a redesign of learning
  • Nearly all HR leaders (91%) think there is more work to be done to build a trusting culture at their company, particularly as many consider shifting to a hybrid working model

Hybrid work is not without its challenges, be aware of and factor in these challenges when designing and managing hybrid work models:

  • the boundary between work and home becoming blurred with employees having trouble in switching off or being distracted at home
  • an increase in employees working longer hours and experiencing fatigue and burnout
  • risks to workplace health and safety, and employee wellbeing (acknowledging that some employees do not have a suitable or safe place to WFH and/or feel isolated and lonely without the social interaction of the workplace)
  • the concept of “out of sight out of mind” resulting in disadvantages to those WFH in relation to opportunities for training, career development and promotion
  • the loss of unscheduled interactions
  • a stigma of WFH and a lack of trust regarding productivity

This leads us to consider 2 questions: How can an employer design a successful remote/hybrid work model?  And how do employers address executive and managers concern about the impact of remote work on culture? 

When designing a hybrid work model, we recommend listening to employee feedback on where, when, and how employees want to work.  The work model design should be based on employee and manager input, with flexibility and agility to respond to changes that occur in the implementation of the model.  Bring your employees on the journey with you, check in regularly on how the model is working and consider what changes are required to get the balance right.

How do you measure employee performance?  Can managers articulate what “good” looks like?  Employees physically in the office does not necessarily make then more productive.  Employees who feel trusted and empowered to have control over their work are generally happier and more productive. 

Train managers to have the skills to manage a hybrid workforce, how do they check in with their team to ensure employees feel included and build relationships virtually. 

Educate managers on being conscious of bias and the potential impact of “out of sight, out mind” and “proximity bias” mentality.  How do they manage a hybrid model without unfairly discriminating in decisions about training, career development and promotion.

Worklogic can help employers design a hybrid workplace to meet it particular needs.  For further information contact us here.

https://www.unsw.adfa.edu.au/sites/default/files/documents/Working_during_the_pandemic_the_future_of_work_is_hybrid_Feb_2022.pdf

https://www.mercer.com.au/content/dam/mercer/attachments/asia-pacific/australia/au-2022-global-talent-trends-report.pdf

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