Catering To A Hybrid Office Environment – Can It Really Work?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most employers would’ve been firm in their stance against hybrid working. People work more productively in the office, after all? Well, as we’ve found out, that isn’t the case for the majority, with productivity being the same if not higher with employees working from home, keeping businesses afloat during this testing time.

Now that most of the concerns around the pandemic are fading, employers are looking at the future of the workplace. It’s expensive to run a building with nobody in it, but many employees are also reporting their work/life balance and overall happiness has improved since working from home. So what is the solution for businesses?

Hybrid working is becoming the preferred option for many U.S. employers, providing a way of reuniting colleagues in the office, while still giving the option for them to work at home too. But can it really work? Here are some things to consider when creating a hybrid office environment for your business. 

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Consult with your employees

To ensure successful hybrid working, employees need to be at the heart of your considerations. The pandemic has affected people in different ways and it’s unlikely that all of your employees will be in agreement on the future way of working. However, by opening up the discussions, you can get a feel of how your teams want to work going forward.

Hybrid working seems to be the fairest compromise to satisfy those who want to return to the office and those who want to continue to work from home. The working landscape has changed considerably over the last two years, so expecting everything to return to how it was is unrealistic. 

From surveys to one-to-one and team meetings, work with your employees to help determine the best approach for your business going forward.

Be clear about rules and expectations

Once you have agreed on processes for your businesses, it’s time to communicate them. Outlining your hybrid working policy will ensure people are aware of what’s expected of them, making them more likely to show fairness to their colleagues and to the company too. Some ideas for ways you can implement hybrid working successfully include:

  • Agree days of the week when all employees are expected to be in the office.
  • Set core hours for when colleagues are expected to be at work, allowing flexibility outside of these times.
  • Protect time for employees to work without the interruption of meetings.
  • Set policies that ensure virtual meetings are taken away from communal areas to minimize distractions in the office.

These are just some ideas, you’re likely to have your own that are better suited to your unique working environment.

Put processes in place to make hybrid working easier

While many teams used productivity software and planning tools pre-pandemic, there is certainly increased awareness as a result of working from home. Using collaborative tools is one way to link teams together, no matter where they’re based, and helps keep all work on track. Adapting to new processes can be difficult for individuals, but it’s important to persevere to help them become adopted fully. 

Overhaul your IT 

Having the right technology in place is crucial for teams who want to adopt successful hybrid working practices. You’ll need to make sure employees can access portable equipment to allow them to travel between the office and home, while also ensuring they have the right applications to work from home successfully.

Unified communications and collaboration ( see UCC-ready networks for more on this) can be a great example of a technological solution that can come in handy here. It can facilitate collaboration across departments and enable the exchange of information faster. Plus, it can allow employees to work on projects in real-time, share ideas, track projects, and respond to customer needs quickly, thereby increasing productivity.

Besides this, Internet security is a key consideration for businesses, and it’s important that you have an IT provider that can respond to different types of emergencies and environments. See the Netwave home page for information about emergency IT repair and support services. Knowing that support is nearby can make you feel much more confident as an employer about any potential IT concerns. 

Help employees reacquaint themselves with each other

Moving back to office life is going to be difficult for your employees, even if it is only for a day or two a week. Some may not have seen each other face to face in two years, and others may never have met at all. A reintroduction program could help your teams get reacquainted with one another and help them feel comfortable around each other again. Some fun ideas for welcoming people back into the office include introducing an effective wellness program and hosting a party. The social element can be an important motivator for people to get back into the office, and you can support this as an employer through different initiatives.

Ensure fairness across all teams

To make hybrid working effective, you need to ensure that fairness is maintained across all teams. People shouldn’t feel left out because they’re working from home, and those in the office shouldn’t feel as though they’re given more work to do. Regular conversations with teams, meetings with video calling options, and continued use of collaboration apps can all help maintain effective working, regardless of where people are based. 

It’s also important that you give remote employees access to some of the services they’d be able to access in the office, such as remote HR. Making sure advice, guidance, and updates are all easily available is important for maintaining effective communications across your entire organization.

Continue to evaluate performance

As the pandemic has demonstrated, nothing is permanent. The hybrid way of working you’ve put in place now may not always work further down the line. Measuring the performance of your business regularly can help you determine if hybrid working is effective, or whether further changes need to be made. Setting KPIs that compliment hybrid working can help you maintain productivity while giving your teams targets to meet to ensure they’re still performing as expected.

It can be difficult to find the balance between what’s best for your business and what’s best for your employees. Hybrid working seems to provide an effective solution, transforming the workplace as we once knew it. How you introduce it to your business is up to you, but be sure to consult with your employees to help ensure the best outcome for all.