The current business landscape is fast-changing and turbulent, leaving many business leaders unsure of how to proceed in 2022. For some, it can be tempting to mandate a return to the office full-time.
Yet, with ongoing uncertainty and volatility, we know that new ways of working will be vital to remaining relevant and competitive in any sector. Leaders who want to adapt and thrive today and in the future must consider the benefits of building a hybrid workforce in the long term.
A hybrid workforce refers to a group of employees who have the option to work from an on-site location (i.e. the office) as well as remotely and/or from home. Ideally, a hybrid work model enables smooth collaboration regardless of where individuals are working, whether they’re on-site or remote.
Employees use a combination of spaces and technologies to communicate, such as informal meeting rooms, hot desks, virtual whiteboards and video call platforms. These allow employees to work productively and collaboratively at a time and place that best suits their preferences.
Hybrid workforces have become increasingly common worldwide. To maintain a competitive edge in the market, leaders should consider offering flexible work options and embracing a hybrid work model.
Read also: combining data and employee choice to drive productivity in 2022 and beyond
As I said in my previous article, the data says it all: the key to getting the best out of your employees is giving them a voice – let them make the call about the working arrangement that best suits them. This will help you keep your workforce productive, no matter where they’re working.
Below are my top four tips to help you get your hybrid workforce right in 2022.
A key challenge for business leaders in 2022 is to rethink and redesign company policies, procedures and operations to align with employee demands for flexibility and hybridity in the workplace. A legacy mindset cannot propel your business forward in the ‘new normal’.
Preexisting beliefs about people needing to be physically present and visible in the office from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, must be examined. What evidence is there to suggest that this model is truly the most effective? And what does the data tell us about alternative ways of working – for example, providing options for flexible and hybrid work?
Some leaders may believe that historical ways of working are superior; that we must eventually return to ‘how we have always done things’.
However, in a CIPD survey1 of 2,133 senior executives in UK organizations, 39% of leaders surveyed reported that their employees experienced enhanced well-being as a result of greater flexibility in hours and ways of working between 2020 and 2021.
Further, more than two-thirds (71%) of survey participants said that working from home had no detrimental impact on their employees’ productivity.
An innovative mindset is crucial to keep employees happy, so they can show up to work (whether physically or virtually) feeling engaged, so as to perform well and be productive.
Read also: elements of continuous improvement
With a hybrid model, your workforce may be distributed over several geographical locations and time zones. To manage the situation effectively, it is essential that leaders communicate clearly and consistently with employees.
You need to regularly share the latest news updates and changes to work policies, and offer opportunities for employees to provide feedback.
This will help your team feel connected to senior management and decision-making; build trust from the top down; and reinforce the message that ‘we are all in this together’.
Leaders must also think outside the box when it comes to communication channels. In a hybrid workforce, some employees will prefer in-person updates and meetings, whereas others will rely on emails, staff intranet news, e-newsletters, video conferences and other digital platforms.
A combination of both in-person and digital communication is needed to ensure all employees feel engaged and included.
According to a Leger survey2 of 2,600 employees across the US and Canada, only around 20% of respondents in both countries preferred to stop working from home entirely once COVID-19 restrictions eased enough to allow them to do so, returning to the office full-time.
In contrast, 39% of Americans and 35% of Canadians who worked or are still working from home agreed that if their employers ordered them to return to the office, they would look for alternative employment with the option to work from home.
Most respondents wanted a hybrid model that involved a combination of remote work and working from the office.
So why do employees want to continue working from home? There are several possible reasons why a flexible or hybrid model might be preferred, including a better work-life balance, more time spent with family, less time spent commuting, reduced spend on transport and takeaway, and opportunities to work from anywhere in the world.
In the ‘new normal’, if employers do not offer employees the choice to work where they like at least some of the time, talent will simply look elsewhere.
With the rise of hybrid and remote work, leaders now have to decide: should they retain and hire remote workers, or revert to traditional place-based recruitment?
From a recruitment standpoint, being able to hire remote workers is a game changer. Leaders can tap into a much broader pool of candidates from anywhere in the world, with the potential to expand organizational reach into new cities and countries. In addition, remote work is an opportunity to diversify the talent pool.
Diversity brings different perspectives, attitudes, beliefs and strengths into the team. By recruiting people from an array of different geographical locations, your organization will benefit from diversity in gender, culture, language, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education and much more.
Organizations can stay ahead of the curve by embracing a hybrid workforce in 2022.
By offering flexibility in hours, working from home options, and varied communication channels, business leaders will be able to attract and retain the best-fit talent for the job. There’s also the potential to diversify the team with a remote workforce and tap new regional and global markets.
If leaders do not shift away from a legacy mindset and adapt to new data-driven ways of working and connecting via technology, employees will find another organization that meets their expectations for hybrid work. A hybrid workforce is not a dream for the distant future – you can achieve it today.