In 2020, everything the American workforce knew to be “normal” was completely turned on its head. The majority of the U.S. workforce was sent home to work remotely (for positions that were remote-capable), in-person meetings were replaced with Zoom calls, and teams had to learn the art of working together virtually.
Now it’s 2022, and we’re navigating new terrain yet again – it’s the first time that employers are exploring the hybrid work model en masse. According to an UpCity case study, 44% of hybrid B2B and B2C businesses transitioned to the hybrid business model.
As companies started bringing workers back into the office earlier this year, many did so with increased flexibility for their employees, giving them the option to work part of the week remotely and part of the week onsite.
As more companies explore the hybrid work model, it’s important for them to remember that this is still all new for the U.S. employer base at large, and there’s no one-size-fits all approach that works for every business. As such, employers need to think about what steps they will take to make hybrid work a success for both their employees and their organizations. The process will require strategic implementation and constant evaluation and adjustment.
Taking a more mindful approach is helpful for both managers and employees, especially neurodivergent workers (such as austic workers, ADHDers, dyslexics, etc.) who may find change especially challenging or who may require additional accommodations.
Before we share helpful tactics for making hybrid work a success at your organization, here’s some information about the current state of flexible work in America.
The First Large-Scale Emergence of the Hybrid Work Model
With employee expectations changing and more flexible jobs dominating the market, many companies that previously never would have considered letting their staff work from home are now offering hybrid and remote jobs in order to stay competitive and improve employee retention.
Additionally, on the other end of the spectrum, major companies that told employees during the pandemic that they could be remote indefinitely changed their tune and started bringing employees back into the office at least a few days a week (i.e. Google, Microsoft, and Apple).
Forrester Research found that more than two-thirds (66%) of U.S. firms allow “anywhere work,” with 51% of those firms offering hybrid work and 15% offering mostly or fully remote work.
Additionally, a Gallup survey of 14,000 U.S. employees found that as we shift from pandemic to endemic, the majority of employees are still on the work-location flexibility track, with hybrid now being the model of choice. Here’s what the data revealed for current and anticipated employee work locations for remote-capable jobs:
Hybrid Working Advantages for Employees
So, why do employees prefer the hybrid or remote model? Gallup’s research shows that workers love the improved work-life balance these employment models provide. And for those who prefer to go into the office at least some of the time, they enjoy the ability to have increased workspace flexibility while still getting some face time with their coworkers and feeling more connected to their teams.
Here are the top five reasons respondents gave Gallup for preferring hybrid or remote work:
- Avoid commute time
- Better for well-being overall
- Flexibility to balance family needs and overall obligations
- Option to work in-person with coworkers
- Feel more productive and connected to their organization
The hybrid and remote models can be especially appealing to some neurodistinct individuals who feel they are more productive in their own familiar settings at home where they can control their environments (i.e., less noise, the right lighting, the ability to sit in more open spaces, greater flexibility with breaks, etc.).
Furthermore, a hybrid model may be a breath of fresh air for any employee who wants the increased flexibility of working from home part of the week while still being able to meet in person with teammates and clients as needed. Or, they may simply want the option of going into the office when they feel it’s more conducive to their work, such as when they’re working on a special project.
However, in order for a hybrid work model to be effective, the employer must ensure that it’s implemented correctly. Check out the following tips for improving the success of the hybrid model within your organization.
How to Make Hybrid Work Work for Your Employees
Every business or organization is different, and your employee base is even more diverse, so there is no magic formula that works for employers across the board when it comes to making hybrid employment a success. You need to look at what’s best for your company and your employees.
However, there are some best practices that you should consider and apply as it makes sense within your organization. They include the following…
When in doubt, over-communicate.
The absence of face-to-face interaction leaves more room for miscommunication or lack of communication to occur, which can be chaos for team workflow and productivity. As a result, when there are employees who work remotely either part or all of the week, managers need to bump up communication with their staff.
It’s best to check in with employees multiple times a week to ensure:
- Everyone is on the same page and clearly understand their assigned tasks and duties
- At-home employees are feeling properly and equipped and supported to do their job at maximum productivity levels
- The team is working together as cohesively as possible
Some employees may experience feelings of isolation when working at home, which can lead to increased anxiety and paranoia about job performance and relationships with coworkers. These types of feelings can be heightened for neurodistinct individuals. Something as simple as a clear and more consistent line of communication can help mitigate some of those issues.
Prepare your team with the right equipment and resources.
Remote and hybrid employees should have access to everything they need to work comfortably and effectively at home.
Make sure they have access to all the office hardware and supplies they need to do their job (a computer with a webcam, multiple monitors if needed, phone, headset, ergonomic chair, etc.), as well as any software programs or tools that can keep them better connected to their team (i.e., a messaging program like Slack or Microsoft Teams, a project management program like monday.com, etc.).
There may also be a need to accommodate hybrid and remote employees with additional resources based on their individual needs. For example, some employees may find they need access to mental health services for help adjusting to their work environment, or they may need to be directed to child care resources. By meeting regularly with your team members, you’ll have greater opportunity to assess their needs.
While general guidelines for your hybrid and remote employees are important, these should be guidelines and not hard-and-fast rules that can never be broken. Be mindful that some employees will be much more productive at home than in the office and vice versa, and therefore they may need adjustments to their schedules in order to reach the highest level of productivity in their jobs.
Additionally, some employees may need accommodations for their in-office workspaces, as certain individuals may struggle with the concept of “hot-desking,” or hopping around between unassigned desks on an as-need basis. If you have a staff member who feels they can’t work with this setup, consider giving them an assigned desk in the type of environment that best meets their needs, such as in a part of the office that is further away from foot traffic and noise.
…But also think about what’s best for the team as a whole.
Flexibility is important; however, this should be weighed against the greater needs of the team. One great example is scheduling.
Should your hybrid employees work in the office on whatever days they choose, or is there a need to coordinate having certain employees in the office on the same days? Is there a need to overlap in-office days for certain types or projects and assignments where in-person collaboration is essential? Managers should consider the individual’s needs, but they must also consider what best serves the team as a whole and set hybrid working policies and guidelines accordingly.
Aim for inclusivity at all times.
However you decide to roll out your hybrid work plan, remember to maintain an inclusive work environment, which includes neuroinclusion. Take steps to ensure that all your team members, where they’re in office or at home, are given an equal opportunity to engage with their teammates and succeed in their roles.
Considering that everyone has different challenges and needs, especially with a neurodiverse workforce, you can better support your hybrid remote employees by taking steps such as:
- Creating clear standards for virtual meetings (i.e., when to mute/unmute, requiring meeting agendas beforehand, etc.)
- Enabling closed captioning for video-conference meetings so they’re easier to follow
- Providing meeting transcripts or notes following the meeting
As mentioned before, the great shift to hybrid work is new territory for many employers. It’s currently an experiment that we’re all trying to figure out as a nation, so it’s not going to be an exact science. With that being said, it’s vital that you continually evaluate what is and is not working and adjust your plan as you go.
With the right strategy and course correction, you can find a hybrid work model that works for everyone involved!