What do successful hybrid work models look like today? We explore how to better manage employee expectations and how to overcome the challenges of hybrid working with clear policies that will help set up organizations and employees for long-term growth.
A softening economy has many business leaders expecting to see changes in how often we work from the office. But as we all know, knowledge workers have grown accustomed to workplace flexibility after several years of needing to work from home for our collective health and safety. Working remotely has proven benefits for many employees including better work and life balance, and reduced costs on commuting.
Despite data that shows no loss in worker productivity from remote and hybrid work, some companies have tried to make working from the office more days per week a mandate. After all, investing in real estate and office space is costly. But so is talent retention.
Interestingly, not everyone wants to work from home permanently or every day. Many of us need and want to connect on a human level with our co-workers in person. We want to collaborate, and we want to foster personal relationships. In fact, having a work “bestie” or two can make an incredible difference in our job satisfaction. People who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers and produce higher-quality work, according to Gallup research.
Some company leaders feel it can be difficult to foster a culture of cooperation and understanding over video conference feeds alone. It doesn’t mean it can’t work, but it’s a balancing act between what we all need, what we are willing to sacrifice, and who gets to decide.
Enter, hybrid work policies.
The state of hybrid work policies: By the numbers
As a global organization in the worktech business, we consistently survey and publish our findings. In the first half of 2022, Condeco by Eptura published our “Attitudes to Hybrid Working” report. It found overwhelming support (85%) for hybrid work models — for now and in the future. It also found nearly a quarter (24%) of employees who are fully remote expressed an interest for switching to a hybrid model underscoring the need for more human connection and collaboration. In addition, the study found that 7 in 10 employees agree that hybrid work shows their company cares about employee well-being.
In the second half of 2022, Eptura surveyed 6000 global employees and found that not everyone understands their organization’s hybrid policies. The good news? Those who are aware of and understand their company’s hybrid policies show a positive correlation with how they feel about their organization. Most employees are satisfied or very satisfied with these policies which is great news on the talent retention front. However, there are some reasons for trepidation: Nearly one-fifth (18%) are not happy with hybrid work policies.
In the US:
- 51% say their workplace has updated their remote/hybrid work policy since early 2020
- 28% say they have a remote/hybrid policy, but it has not changed since pre-2020
- 4% do not have a remote/hybrid policy at all
Of those with a remote or hybrid work policy:
- 61% say they fully understand the policy, including any updates
- 29% report they understand it somewhat
- 80% are satisfied with their employer’s remote/hybrid work policy
- 18% are not satisfied with their policy
Dive in. Get the full in-depth report: “2023 Workplace Predictions: 5 Worktech Trends to Watch”
Creating a strong hybrid work culture begins with buy-in to policies
It may not be 100% accurate to say mandates for being in the office will always fail. Ask people who work in financial services, legal, manufacturing, or healthcare. But the last few years have shown major worker turnover across many industries for the perceived loss of flexibility.
So, what is a company to do? Get employees to opt in. Allow employees to have a voice in the creation of hybrid work policies. Then, consistently survey and optimize these policies by balancing what is and is not working for everyone.
“People want to be heard,” writes author Jill Duffy in her PC Mag column “Workers Are Anxious About Hybrid Work—Here’s How Employers Can Get It Right.”
Duffy, who penned the book “The Everything Guide to Remote Work,” explains that “[m]anagers need to remember that workers know how, when, and where they work best. Taking their feedback into consideration is crucial for employees to have buy-in to the hybrid agreement.”
Ignoring employee input will make hybrid scheduling decisions “seem arbitrary or at the whim of the leadership team, which will lead to an erosion of trust.”
Data backs Duffy up: 46% of hybrid employees are engaged at work when their team determines their hybrid work policy, according to Gallup research.
“The practice of asking team members to collaboratively craft their hybrid work policy is one of the most engaging single work practices,” finds Gallup researchers in the article “Coordinating Hybrid Work Schedules — 5 Important Findings.”
Who decides hybrid work policies and required attendance days right now?
Per Gallup data from 8,090 remote-capable U.S. employees, it’s currently a mixed bag but employees prefer to lead their own cause. Given the after-effects of the Great Resignation, this isn’t surprising.
Today, required attendance policies are decided by:
- Entirely on my own: 37%
- Top leadership of the organization: 26%:
- Team managers: 24%
- Work teams: 13%
“Employee input is notoriously effective, from collaborative goal setting to innovation, and now in determining hybrid work schedules,” says Gallup.
Hybrid work policies: Time to pilot, measure, reflect, report, refine, retain
Ok, managers and workplace leaders: You’ve now, hopefully, collaborated with your team about designing a hybrid work policy that works for the collective group or department. And it’s documented with the days per week and agreed to … Now what?
Time to pilot the program, then see how effectively it’s working (or not). Measure the program and refine it. Here are some questions to ask and strategies to use:
- How opted in is the team? Are they adhering to the policy?
- How’s attendance? How many days per week are they actually coming in?
- Establish a regular feedback cadence
- Document and report the feedback
- Communicate the feedback across multiple channels
- Don’t be afraid to revise or refine
- Gain more feedback and report it
Duffy recommends not being afraid to overdo the communication, and if something isn’t working, be open to change. She contends that creating a culture of overcommunication will be one of the most helpful strategies you can use and will end up being reinforced by employees.
“Overcommunicating means giving people information multiple times and in many ways,” she writes. “So in this instance, the hybrid work policy should be discussed and communicated in meetings, written in a shared document, and repeated from time to time in email and Slack or another team messaging app.”
Ultimately, a satisfied employee that participates should lead to a greater sense of trust, community, and long-term growth for the company with higher worker retention.
Learn more about hybrid work and other trends for 2023. Download “2023 Workplace Predictions: 5 Worktech Trends to Watch.”