Despite Alberta’s economy opening back up and students going back to school this fall, the pandemic is not over. In fact, as recently as July 27, Dr. Deena Hinshaw declared, “the curve is no longer flat in Alberta.” Meanwhile, cities and towns across the province continue to debate mandatory masks, following bylaws being passed in Banff, Calgary and Edmonton.

With uncertainty looming and public health remaining a priority, many organizations are in limbo, unsure about whether to continue working remotely or to make the gradual return to the office.

Possible Scenarios for the Future of Offices

To better understand the sentiment on how workers view the prospect of returning to the office, Salesforce surveyed over 3,500 consumers worldwide.

  • 37% of respondents viewed full-time remote work as the most appealing long-term scenario.
  • 64% wanted to spend some of their working hours at the workplace.

Across generations, workplace preferences varied.

  • Baby boomers, Gen X and Millennials surveyed were split across the board, with the work from home full-time option pulling in the lead slightly compared to other options.
  • Gen Z, who will soon become the largest segment of the workforce, is most interested in a hybrid approach to work – time split between the home and the office.

Bridging the Gap with a Hybrid Workforce

The hybrid model of home, office, and here (work from here, wherever that may be) is already gaining momentum – and for good reason. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that legacy work styles aren’t as crucial as we formerly thought. In many industries, businesses have completely transformed their operations and delivery models to normalize remote work.

However, research from enterprise software company Aternity found that productivity among remote employees who were forced home due to COVID has dropped in what the report coins a “productivity tax” on remote work.

A hybrid model that splits equitably between work-from-home and office-based workers, with teams made up of employees from both, can be an effective way to re-energize employees who are struggling at home and accommodate those who are not yet ready to return to the office. Ultimately, boosting engagement and productivity while increasing employee autonomy.

Advantages of a Hybrid Model

  • Attract talent and improve retention: By accommodating all employees and allowing for more autonomy, your organization can enjoy the benefits of greater employee satisfaction and lower turnover.
  • Improve employee relations: Studies have shown that organizations that allow flexible work actually have better relationships between management and direct reports. 
  • Improve business outcomes: With greater flexibility, employees may become more serious about documentation, more aware of timing and thoughtful messaging, and more productive with their commute and work-from-home time.

Challenges of a Hybrid Model

  • Organizational culture: When it comes to remote employees, being out of sight can also lead to being out of mind. If HR doesn’t consciously accommodate remote employees and take extra measures to build trust and connections amongst colleagues, remote team members can feel left out and less engaged.  
  • Communication gaps: While conference calls, video meetings and email threads take care of formal communication, informal conversations that happen in-office and aren’t shared with remote colleagues can threaten even the best-laid communication plans.

How to Implement the Hybrid Model

  • Equip your team with technology to bridge gaps. Start with the essentials, including duplicate equipment at home and in office so that employees can be effective in either location. Incorporate an instant messaging app, video conferencing platform, file-sharing system, and a secure Wifi connection.
  • Redesign your benefits package to fit the hybrid model.
    • Instead of catered lunches at the office, provide employees with a monthly lunch budget.
    • Instead of an in-office happy hour, send employees a gift basket that can be enjoyed during a virtual get together.
    • Evaluate your Health and Wellness benefits to ensure they provide flexibility for both in person and remote services.
    • Consider allocating a portion of your benefits budget to employees to upgrade home equipment critical for healthy work such as ergonomic chairs and desks.
  • Adapt your meeting practices. Consider limiting in-person meetings to project kickoffs, with other check-ins and progress reports happening virtually or over the phone.
    • Establish a process for documenting meetings and sharing notes so that employees who are unable to participate will have all the information they need to move ahead.
    • To keep sessions short and focused, encourage agenda-setting happens in advance.
    • Discourage the use of board and meeting rooms in-office. Instead, encourage meetings take place virtually, so no one feels left out.
  • Update your policies. Ensure that your current Work from Home policy, Flex Time policy and any other policy applicable is clear and concise with an appropriate mechanism to address questions and anomalies.

No matter the model, a safe return to the office requires an individualized and flexible plan. Need support? Our dedicated HR Advisors are here to help you overcome any unique challenges you may be facing as you prepare for your back-to-the-office strategy.

Contact us today to book a consultation!

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