Over the past two years, the workplace has evolved from forced remote work to experimentation with hybrid environments, and these changing patterns will only continue as organizations figure out their ideal workplace model. While business continuity is still top of mind, one thing is certain – organizations must focus on keeping employees happy. Recent research suggests that requiring employees to abruptly and fully return to office will not accomplish that. In fact, a recent survey by the ADP Research Institute found that 64% of workers said they would seek out a new job if they were asked to go back to the office full-time. The threat is real, too. In March alone, 4.5 million American workers quit or changed their jobs. The numbers show it but so do conversations. Our recruiting team has found that more and more applicants are seeking other jobs because their employers are forcing them back into office.
Sure, employees want to get back together with their colleagues, but they also want the autonomy to decide when and how they do that. The ability to be more flexible, spend time with loved ones, and work from a place that best suits the individual has seen employees thrive. If that’s taken away from them without their say, they will look for work elsewhere. To reverse the course of resignations and keep business running smoothly, organizations must be more strategic with their hybrid work models, ensuring that it works for everyone.
Here are three ways leaders can make a hybrid work model work out swimmingly:
Think of the office as the new “offsite”
We’ve all lost money on unused office space over the past few years, but don’t use lifted restrictions as an excuse to start making up for it right away. While remote work was forced upon us in a matter of days to weeks, welcoming employees back to the office should take months to years. An abrupt change will scare employees off, and some may not even be in a situation where they can come back every day.
Rather than reinstating physical office processes, like the 8-5 cubicle grind, get creative. Start thinking of the office as the new offsite and reinvent in-person collaboration to get the most out of time spent together. The office can be viewed and valued as a meeting place for collaboration (QBRs), recognition (award ceremonies), and more. For instance, we recently welcomed our Wrikers back to the office with a Global In-Office Collaboration Day where they could sit in on our monthly all-hands meeting, enjoy lunch with colleagues, and catch up with their teammates. It was inspiring to see pictures of the day shared over Slack, and the short time commitment took any unnecessary return-to-office stress off our shoulders.
By turning the office into the new “offsite,” you’ll ease employees back into in-office work and create a fun space for them to engage and collaborate with old and new colleagues. Just make sure to select the activity wisely and ensure it’s a memorable experience that keeps employees coming back.
Build Hybrid Habits
We’re all creatures of habit. Prior to the pandemic, we were used to hopping into a conference room to brainstorm on the fly or stopping by a colleague’s cubicle to ask about a project. These were everyday habits that kept work running, and it was frustrating if we had to work separately from our teams. Now, it’s frustrating to commute back into the office to work together with our teams because we know the truth about remote work – it actually works in most cases. Breaking the habits we’ve formed over the past few years of connecting with teams over Slack huddles and Zoom calls is going to be tough. But if we want to make hybrid work work, we need to build new habits.
Team leaders, I’m looking at you. What can YOU do to motivate your team to come together and energize them?
Consider where your employees are located. You’ve probably leveraged a larger talent pool and hired remote workers over the past few years. Are there clusters of teammates in certain areas? If so, how can you encourage them to get together? How about a structured prospecting day for a sales team with happy hour following? Or getting your development team together in the same room to start and finish an agile sprint? By understanding where teams are located and the work that benefits most from facetime, you can begin to create touchpoints that will one day become their new normal.
It takes leadership, creativity, and consistency to build new habits for the hybrid environment, but it will pay off with a re-energized team that has less Zoom fatigue.
Bring it all together, no matter where they are
Leaders also need to think about creating an effective hybrid environment from a technology standpoint. For instance, by deploying a shared digital workspace, work can get done all in one place. Yes, this has been stressed over and over again, but it’s time we make it a reality. Employees need a standard and transparent environment where teams have equal access to applications and information.
How does that work? Leverage work management software that integrates all of the tools your teams love, such as intelligent technologies that enable real-time communication (ie, Zoom, Slack), collaboration (ie, Miro, Google Suite, Microsoft Teams), and creation (ie, Adobe, MediaValet, Bender, and Tenovos).
Look into tools that allow for automated workflows, enable cross-functional collaboration, and measure an employee’s success not by how many hours they work but by their contributions towards agreed-upon goals. These solutions can ensure transparency throughout an organization, enabling teams to share information and make sure everyone is on the same page regardless of whether they are working from a corporate office or their home office.
For organizations and employees to be resilient (and happy) in the era of hybrid work, they need to provide the best possible experience while fostering a collaborative, flexible culture that today’s workers have come to expect. Keep strict office policies and closed, silent work styles firmly in the past. Approaches that create an environment of transparency, openness, and employee potential should be the norm as we take on this new world of work.