Even though remote work is still recommended, it’s no longer mandatory and workers will gradually be returning to the office. Should your organization consider a hybrid work model?
This is the big question. After finally hitting their stride in the new work-from-home reality, companies are having to develop plans to bring employees back to the workplace. Many organizations are wondering whether they should opt for a hybrid setup, with some days of telecommuting and the rest in person. Or should everyone just come back to the office full-time?
The hybrid work model: pros and cons
Managers are currently facing an unprecedented situation and unfortunately there’s no proven formula for navigating these uncharted waters. Companies need to weigh the pros and cons of the various possible work arrangements and choose the one that bests suits their needs in today’s new reality. They should also leave room for adjustments in case the model needs fine-tuning down the line.
According to a CROP survey conducted in May 2021 for the Ordre des CRHA-CRIA du Québec, 38% of workers would rather continue working from home full-time, while 24% would like to be given the freedom to choose and 18% would prefer following a hybrid model set by their employer. Additionally, 23% of respondents said going into the office is worthwhile for meetings and team discussions.
The hybrid model is generally considered the most attractive because it lets employers and employees reap the benefits of telework while keeping the drawbacks in check. To help you decide what’s best for your company, here’s a summary of the pros and cons of remote work.
Advantages of teleworking for employees
- Time savings and productivity gains;
- More autonomy in carrying out duties;
- Reduced stress, as there is less direct pressure from managers and fewer disruptions caused by background noise or chatty coworkers;
- Less money spent on transportation, parking and meals;
- Improved quality of life and wellness (work/life/family balance);
- Better for the environment thanks to reduced transportation.
Advantages of teleworking for employers
- Reduced monthly expenses (e.g., leased office space);
- Increased productivity (no travel time or unexpected disturbances);
- Decreased presenteeism and absenteeism;
- Larger pool of potential candidates (workers who live in remote areas or have reduced mobility);
- Improved profitability;
- Better for the environment;
- Enhanced talent attraction and retention (thanks to a better employee experience).
Disadvantages of teleworking for employees
- Risk of psychological distress (loneliness and isolation);
- Frequent distractions for some workers (children, neighbourhood, television, etc.);
- Hard to disconnect from work;
- Decreased sense of belonging and dedication to the company;
- Increased risk of injury due to poor ergonomics (neck pain, back pain, dry eyes, etc.);
- Harder to make a name for yourself in the workplace (promotion/salary);
- Skill development is less organic;
- Harder to forge social ties with colleagues and supervisors.
Disadvantages of teleworking for employers
- Less team cohesion;
- Risk that the corporate culture and values become diluted or disappear altogether;
- Reduced employee engagement;
- Risk of employee fraud (in the form of stolen time);
- Communication challenges;
- More difficult team management for supervisors;
- Risk of increased CNESST costs (due to limited control over ergonomics);
- Risk of overlooking some employees for promotions, special projects, etc.
Consult our thematic section on teleworking to learn more about its different facets and to help you improve your remote work practices.
How to adjust to the hybrid work mode
If your organization opts for a hybrid work model, there are a few key things you’ll need to set up and adjust as needed.
Get the right work tools
When the pandemic first hit, a lot of companies had to make a quick switch to remote work, even though they didn’t necessarily have the tools their employees needed to work efficiently. As a result, they grappled with things like a lack of mobile computer equipment, Internet network issues and trouble accessing information because it was stored on site and not digitally. If this was the case for your business, you should:
- Create or update your list of the workstation equipment required for each position, taking proper ergonomics into consideration (e.g., headset, tablet, laptop, ergonomic chair, screens, etc.);
- Assess your current IT systems to make sure they can support your preferred work model (e.g., integrated management system to ensure the integrity and availability of required information).
Develop a formal communications structure
In many organizations, communications are mainly in the form of informal, in-person conversations. When you switch to a hybrid work model, you’ll need a more formal internal communications structure to make sure important information flows in both directions and is relayed to everyone as needed.
Organizations should also establish criteria to help people decide when meetings should happen face-to-face and when it’s ok to talk remotely. The deciding factors should include the purpose of the meeting, the topics you need to cover, the people invited to attend and the number of participants required. Here are some tips for taking action:
- List all current meetings and make sure you cover all management levels (e.g., team, management committee, executive committee or project kick-off, ideation, kaizen, etc.);
- Determine the main meeting objectives, participants and recommended format (in-person or remote).
Adjust your HR management practices
All human resources (HR) management practices are affected by your work setup. Organizations that choose a hybrid model will almost certainly need to adjust their practices to suit the new work arrangement.
From the outset, companies will need to clarify what they expect from employees (work from home vs. from the office) using a survey and formal telework policy. Other ideas include:
- Adjusting the onboarding process to allow new recruits to meet their colleagues and develop a sense of belonging within the organization;
- Adjusting the communication method used for employee performance appraisals (in-person or virtual meeting). Ideally, these meetings should happen face-to-face, but managers may also have to make adjustments to suit the meeting location and approach;
- Reviewing the criteria assessed during performance appraisals. Performance appraisals should focus more on achieving results and participating in projects. 360 reviews were very popular in the past, but they were very difficult to do as they involved input from managers, peers, customers and suppliers. However, the peer review aspect could become more interesting since working virtually requires different communication and interaction skills than in-person setups;
- Protecting worker health and wellness by adopting a policy that gives them the right to disconnect.
While hybrid work arrangements remain challenging for organizations to implement, this revolutionary shift has many benefits. So much so, in fact, that we’re sure to see a turning point in the market. Whether or not you decide to adopt this approach, you will need to remain flexible and sensitive to your employees needs during this adjustment period.
Our experts can assist you throughout this process to implement winning and engaging solutions with your teams.
07 Jul 2021 | Written by :