Do you have a strong hybrid work policy in place?
In the dynamic landscape of remote work, there is a growing divide between the ongoing desire for flexibility among employees—especially project consultants—and the preferences of employers for more in-person interaction and collaboration.
While remote work offers autonomy, many employers value face-to-face interactions for benefits such as accelerated onboarding and immediate response times. This tension prompts a crucial question: How can businesses strike a balance that meets the evolving needs of a dynamic workforce while ensuring effective talent management and strategic initiatives?
For employers, the decision between an on-site, remote or hybrid model is complex. Mandating a specific model carries the risk of narrowing the talent pool, particularly in smaller markets with specialised skill needs. The distinction between hybrid and hoteling is crucial in this context.
While hoteling involves a flexible, unassigned workspace often associated with remote work, a true hybrid model combines a scheduled in-person presence with flexible remote work, fostering collaboration without sacrificing flexibility. This nuanced approach proves effective for strategic, long-term initiatives, promoting knowledge-sharing, accelerated project timelines and robust professional relationships.
For the foreseeable future, the dominant working arrangement will likely be hybrid, offering a compromise that provides career-minded individuals with remote flexibility while addressing employer concerns about productivity. Given its prevalence, the hybrid model requires thoughtfulness and policy in order to be the most effective.
What should a hybrid work policy include?
A great hybrid policy should be clear, concise and consistent. It needs to clarify the organisation’s expectations regarding hybrid work while answering basic questions like:
- How many days should employees be in the office each week? Is there a minimum expectation?
- Is it a flexible schedule, where employees can decide which days they come into the office, or is it predetermined by HR or management?
- Does the schedule vary from team to team? For example, does one team come into the office on Mondays and Wednesdays while another does Tuesdays and Thursdays?
- What is the expected work schedule for in-office and work-from-home days? Are there set working hours, or can employees determine their own schedule?
- What should employees know about communication expectations, taking breaks and time off?
Remember, the lines between work and personal life can be blurred while working from home, so it is important to address all of these factors in a hybrid policy.
What are the potential legal issues of a hybrid work policy?
Because hybrid work looks different from organisation to organisation, it is essential for HR leaders to clearly define what the hybrid work policy is up front. Clear, written documentation that details the policy can also help avoid any legal issues. There are certain compliance obligations to review, including tax obligations, Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) regulations and other legal considerations that may also vary from state to state.
Beyond that, it is important to ensure the hybrid work policy is consistent across the organisation to ensure everyone is being treated equally, without any discrimination by race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and/or pregnancy status. Preference should not be given to certain groups or individuals, and a clearly stated policy can help empower leaders and managers to ensure hybrid work policies are communicated and followed consistently across the organisation.
What are the pros and cons of a hybrid work policy?
There are countless benefits to hybrid work, many of which have been documented over the last several years. According to a 2022 Gallup survey, many employees reported that the flexibility provided by hybrid work did not just improve their work/life balance, but it also increased their productivity, improved their working relationships and made them feel more connected to their organisation’s culture.
A similar survey concluded that employee engagement was highest for hybrid or fully remote workers, meaning hybrid work is not just a nice-to-have—to many workers, it is essential.
Hybrid work offers benefits to organisations as well. Not only does it save money on operational expenses, like the need for additional office space to house a growing workforce, but it can also help increase productivity and bolster employee engagement. In fact, one study found that hybrid arrangements reduced attrition by 35%, representing a huge cost-saving benefit.
On the flip side, hybrid can be difficult for those who are not used to managing remote teams. Some individuals and managers may find it hard to collaborate without in-person communication, while others struggle to maintain healthy boundaries while working from home. Without a clear policy in place, as well as ample training and resources available to assist employees and managers with the process, hybrid work can feel like an imperfect compromise.
How should a hybrid work policy be enforced?
As with all things, it is critical for organisations to enforce hybrid work policies consistently and fairly across the board. Exceptions should not be made for certain groups unless they are clearly documented and in alignment with legal requirements—like the use of accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Organisations should also tap into technology and training to keep everyone protected, as hybrid work can cause increased cybersecurity risks—especially for employees using their own devices or home networks—which is why thoughtful planning is key. Regular cybersecurity training and awareness, resources and intervention for managers leading hybrid teams, and other forms of education can all help make the transition to hybrid work successful.
What to do if you want to end hybrid
Realistically, hybrid working arrangements may not be the best option for every person or industry. As many organisations continue exploring what the return to the office looks like, it is important to assess whether ending a hybrid policy is a “must-have” or simply a convenience. Is hybrid work “not working” for the organisation, or does the organisation’s approach to hybrid work need to be adjusted?
When it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, the demand for hybrid work continues to rise, with one study finding that 68% of employees prefer hybrid work, 28% prefer to be fully remote, and only 8% want to be in the office full-time.
Before ending a hybrid work policy, organisations should take the time to connect with employees, determine what works and what does not and use that feedback to determine what returning to the office should look like in a way that balances the needs of the organisation with the preferences of its employees.
About the author: Tracey Power is the Chief People Officer at Vaco Holdings, a global provider of consulting, managed services and talent solutions serving more than 5,500 active clients with nearly 10,000 employees. This article was first published on Human Resource Executive.