If there is anything positive that has come out of the COVID pandemic, it is the realization for many organizations that many in their workforce can be effective working from home. Remote working has always been around, but the reality is that many organizations refused to participate because they were afraid of it. Perceptions were that employees wouldn’t work as hard at home, they would become distracted etc. In reality, the list may have been a mile long in some people’s head. However, the pandemic forced their hand. Your organization may have been one of these. In order to keep people safe, organizations were forced to let their employees work form home and to their joyous surprise realized that those employees can be just as productive (many more so) than they were at the office. So, remote working is here to stay.
Remote working has numerous advantages to both the organization and the employee. Those advantages included but are not limited to:
- People can work from anywhere, making it easier to recruit.
- Overhead per employee is lower
- The time spent commuting is given back to the employee making them happier and more productive.
- More flexibility for the employee.
- Less time spent in meetings resulting in more time for the employee to be productive
- Increased productivity – Multiple studies have shown that productivity increases as much as 20-25 percent when employees are working remotely.
However, even organizations that have a large percentage of their workforce remote don’t have all of their employees remote. That means that the organization has a hybrid workforce (combination of remote and in-office employees). Even before the pandemic some organizations had a hybrid workforce. The pandemic sped up the process.
A hybrid workforce presents challenges that a workforce that is 100% remote or 100% in the office does not.
Navigating this hybrid workforce can be a challenge. Because of this, there are a few adjustments that an organization may need to make to minimize the challenges and facilitate the success of the hybrid workforce.
- Identify the positions in your organization that can be worked remotely and be open to having people do these remotely. Some jobs by the nature of the work don’t lend themselves to remote work.
- Examine your corporate culture and work environment. Do your culture/values/competencies account for remote workers/hybrid workforce? Are there modifications that need to be made?
- Focus on outcomes, not time in seat. As we indicated many managers worry that if you are not able to see people doing their jobs and manage that activity, productivity will suffer. However, the research shows the opposite. Research shows that productivity has gone up as they have added remote working. So, completely changing your management approach with both in-person and remote workers to an approach that focuses on managing outcomes and performance rather than activity should make your employees feel better knowing you trust them to get those outcomes and work hard to achieve them. We have been pleased with the results this approach has yielded for our organization.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – With an in-person workforce, impromptu meetings can happen easily. Stand-up meetings may happen a lot. These take up a lot of time. With a hybrid workforce, communication needs to take on a different form and needs to be more frequent. It is easy to forget about remote workers because they are not there with you. Out of sight, out of mind. Set regular scheduled communications opportunities for all workers (remote and in-office). Establish communication channels (such as MS Teams groups) that make it easier for the workforce to communicate with each other. Team meetings should be shorter and focus specifically on what needs to be discussed with not a lot of the small talk that might occur if everyone was in person. Learn how each person likes to be communicated with and use that information to make communications with each individual more efficient.
- Bring your team all together at certain points in time (if possible). This doesn’t have to be on a frequent basis but it does help to have the complete team camaraderie occurring at least once during the year. It creates a cohesiveness among the team that is hard to get without being in the same room.
- Know as much about your employees as possible – You may know names of their family members/kids or where they live but that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about their work traits. How do they like to be managed? How do they like to be communicated with? How do they learn? Do they need interpersonal interaction or would they rather work on their own? Knowing these things before you hire someone helps you understand how best to manage this person to full effectiveness (whether they are in-person or remote). The best way to gather this information is from a well constructed behavioral assessment that gives an organization all that information and more. The assessment can be done after the hire is made.
The Hybrid Workforce is here to stay. In my opinion, it is a good thing. Organizations just need to make sure that they are doing the right things to manage all of their employees (remote and in-person) to full effectiveness.