Why Hybrid Workplaces Are Here to Stay (And How to Adapt)
Hybrid and remote workplaces predate 2020 but weren’t as commonplace as they are today. They’ve exploded since the outset of the pandemic to remain operational, ensure employee and client safety, and comply with state and local ordinances. However, as vaccination rates have risen and new case rates have fallen, hybrid workplaces aren’t fading away.
Historically, the conventional wisdom among employers was that remote workers were less productive. If an employee was not under direct supervision in the office, they were more prone to distraction at home or likely to blow off work entirely. However, the pandemic has taught many employers that remote employees can be as productive when allowed to work from home – and often are. Accordingly, many businesses have decided to make hybrid operations their new normal and reap the many benefits.
Why Hybrid Workplaces Benefit Employers and Employees
Among these benefits for employers? Greater productivity, higher engagement, and lower absenteeism from many employees, since remote days often allow employees to balance their professional obligations with personal responsibilities more effectively. Employers can also broaden their prospective hiring pool, especially if some jobs remain 100 percent virtual. By recruiting from a broader geographic area, employers can improve their odds of finding the right fit for their company.
Further, by having fewer employees in the office, some companies can reduce their overall real estate footprint and save money. While there’s been much speculation about the future of the commercial real estate sector nationally (and its downstream effects on the restaurant industry) for this reason, broad impacts have not yet been seen. Still, many employers are taking a hard look at their office space needs and may consider downsizing in the near future.
The pandemic also forced many businesses to upgrade their operations and make changes they’d either ignored for years or implemented inconsistently. By adopting permanent hybrid operations, many employers also must maintain these improvements. For example, a company may have neglected to maintain and regularly upgrade their enterprise-wide videoconferencing system in the past. However, they can no longer afford to do so in a hybrid-working environment.
Hybrid work is also quite popular with employees. Days onsite help employees communicate and collaborate more effectively and mitigate the isolation and fatigue that comes with working all the time remotely. Remote work days can help ensure a parent or adult caregiver, for example, enjoys the flexibility necessary to manage work and home. And as the pandemic stays with us, employees may feel more comfortable about their own health and safety returning to the office.
Adapting to the New Normal
Now that workers are regularly returning to the office as part of their employer’s hybrid worker schedules, employers face some challenges. Consider an employer who kept all of their workers at home and held meetings via videoconference. That employer that now holds hybrid meetings with some employees onsite and some tuning in from home offices must determine how to ensure that all employees are operating on a level playing field, enjoy the same levels of engagement, and feel included.
That’s an inherently challenging task but critical to ensuring that employees remain productive and connected to their company. It’s not just important from an employee morale perspective. Even unintentional disparate treatment may place employers at risk of discrimination claims and embroil them in costly litigation. Employers must be thoughtful and strategic in ensuring that employee treatment and access to advancement and professional development opportunities remain the same for all employees in this new environment.
Employers can help all employees transition to permanent hybrid-work operations by clearly delineating work expectations, incorporating employee engagement activities into onsite days, and ensuring managers continuously check in with employees. Fostering communication between employees and managers is critical through formal and informal channels and in-person and technological means.
If you’re looking for support ensuring that your hybrid workplace is equipped for you to operate optimally, give us a call. At Alvarez Technology Group, we’ve been working with clients in various industries to navigate this new normal by helping them plan and identify the right technologies to support their organization. We’re happy to work with your team to provide them with the resources they need to operate effectively. Contact us today to get started.