Before the pandemic, most organizations prioritized their physical sites. Companies expanded operations and market reach by opening new offices in new locations and staffing those offices with people who came in every day.
The pandemic, however, triggered the world’s largest remote work experiment. Practically overnight, millions of people started working from home — and they found they could remain productive and effective while doing so. The unexpected global shift to remote work proved to be a success for employees and employers alike.
Now, as some areas are loosening restrictions, office buildings are opening again. But bringing people back to those offices is no simple effort. New social distancing regulations require minimizing the number of people in shared spaces, while factors like closed schools and no childcare leave some employees unable to head to the office at all.
Rather than rushing back to the physical-first practices of the pre-COVID days, many organizations are responding to the new realities of the office by implementing hybrid work models. It’s not all working from the office or working from home, but a balance of both.
How to Make Hybrid Work Succeed
What exactly a hybrid work model looks like will depend on the needs of the particular company. For one organization, it might mean some employees keep working from home while those who can go to the office do so. Other companies might implement staggered schedules, in which all employees come to the office, but at staggered times to maintain social distancing. For example, some employees might work from the office in the morning and then from home for the afternoon, while another group works from home in the morning and then from the office during the afternoon.
Regardless of how your organization implements hybrid work, it’s important to orchestrate employees’ work arrangements with productivity concerns in mind. For example, if some employees are coming to the office, it’s important to think about which employees would benefit from being in the office together. Collaboration is a strong driver of productivity and positive office culture, so it makes sense to bring employees who regularly collaborate into the office together at the same time.
But productivity isn’t the only factor to consider as you develop a hybrid model. It’s also critical to take convenience into account. Some employees might prefer to work remotely, while others may have caregiving responsibilities that make coming to the office very difficult. Consider basing office attendance solely on necessity: If a staff member has some responsibility that really needs to be fulfilled in the office, then it makes sense to mandate their presence. If, on the other hand, an employee can easily fulfill the day’s tasks from home, it might be best to ask them to work remotely as a safety precaution.
A recent Hibob study found that 60 percent of employees are comfortable returning to an office environment, but that also means 40 percent of workers are not ready to come back. These differences are personal and cut across age groups and professional roles. Employees may have all kinds of concerns regarding their safety, regardless of the steps your company takes to enforce social distancing, especially if they or their loved ones are in high-risk categories. It’s important to exhibit empathy in these situations. Some team members will not be able to come back to the office for several more months, and managers should do their best to support these employees during this time.
When planning for the big return, HR leaders should keep employees informed and encourage their feedback on the transition. It’s a good idea to survey employees to see who is ready to come back to the office and what challenges they will have to overcome in the process (e.g., public transport, school system closures, risk factors)…