With the news that Covid vaccination programs are rolling out across the country in the very near future, there is likely to be an increase in employees returning to the office, at least for part of the week. But how can business leaders prepare their staff for what is likely to be a more nuanced approach to the working environment? A hybrid office model offers the best of both worlds, it brings back what many have been missing while retaining the flexibility that people have become accustomed to.
Many employees have embraced the work from home lifestyle and may be reluctant to return to their desks full-time. Because gaining employee support is essential to any business venture’s success, workplaces need to provide a clear and transparent plan to introduce a hybrid working scheme with their staff’s full support.
Build a Successful Hybrid Office Model
Build on established trust
Business leaders learned to relinquish a significant amount of control when offices worldwide emptied during the Covid pandemic. Trust between management and staff became more important than ever, and by and large, employees responded positively to the extra independence. Many firms found employee productivity increased when they could work from home.
It’s crucial to keep this atmosphere of independence and personal responsibility when staff return to the office. Try to resist the urge to micromanage employees, undoing the bond of trust established during the pandemic. Both the business and the employee can reap the benefits of this new working model if managed sensitively.
Make the most of in-office days
Even with modern technology at our disposal, talking face-to-face with a colleague remains the most effective way to communicate. When employees have scheduled time in the office, it’s crucial to have a clear idea of what you need to achieve. This could be the ideal time for brainstorming sessions or problem-solving sessions.
Employees can use their home working time to type up reports or complete administrative tasks that don’t require colleagues’ input. Similarly, these days are ideal for planning staff lunches or more relaxed social days.
By encouraging interaction between employees, staff are less likely to suffer from the stresses that isolated home working can bring.
There will likely be bumps in the road while getting used to the new way of working, and staff welfare could be one of the most challenging aspects.
Have clear guidelines
When staff are working all week in the office or are fully home working, it is easy to establish a routine. The guidelines are the same every day, and there is no confusion about when an employee should be at their desk or how they communicate with colleagues.
However, when working part of the week in the office and the remainder at home, it can be challenging to maintain a steady pattern. Employees can benefit from having a clear set of rules that implement a structure to their working day.
You can consider implementing rules such as meetings being fully-remote or all together in person. This system promotes a fairer way of working, allowing everyone to have equal input into a meeting. You could also schedule one-to-one sessions with staff to discuss how the new hybrid office model works for them.
Rather than guidelines being a rigid handbook drawn up before we fully understand how this new working format affects businesses and employees, it could be a living document that adapts over time.
Invest in the right technology
You may already have made significant investments in remote working technology, but many businesses may have made short term arrangements while they wait for the end of the Covid pandemic. Now it’s clear hybrid office models are the future of business, this could be the right time to scale up your technological infrastructure.
When you have an IT issue in the office, engineers can come and quickly resolve the issue. However, when managing a remote workforce, you could find you are at the mercy of unreliable broadband in a staff member’s home or slow personal computer speed.
While this inconvenience may interrupt workflow, it can also be frustrating for staff who could feel they are at a disadvantage to other colleagues.
With the money saved on office costs when staff are home working, you could invest in equipment that enables them to stay in touch with management. Because communicating over the internet results in greater security risks, cyber security measures are becoming big business.
By measuring these risks and adopting suitable systems, you can ensure your business benefits from a flexible but secure hybrid working environment.
The Ideal Scenario
Although we didn’t see it coming this quickly, the Covid pandemic has encouraged businesses to move to a hybrid working model more rapidly than anyone imagined. Now that we’re here, it offers firms enormous opportunities to grow more flexibly and for employees to benefit from a better work/home life balance.
Effective leadership is crucial to help employees through an uncertain period. By offering clear guidance and structured support, your business can become stronger throughout 2021.