Hybrid work policy - have you got the balance right?
Developing a hybrid work policy is about striking a balance, but with strong opinions across the spectrum, where exactly is the balance? Getting it wrong can create a backlash - a policy that’s too tight may not meet individual needs and a policy that’s too loose might not meet the team's needs... and some fear they risk the performance of the organisation. How can HR respond to these fears and balance the needs of employees?
Hybrid work policy - what's the best approach?
It’s a complex question without an easy answer, adding to the challenge are major contextual drivers:
- A tight talent market, give employees what they want or risk losing them
- What’s good for the team might be at odds with the individual
- How do we ensure a collection of individual choices benefits the whole?
- Different roles and circumstances are more compatible with remote work
- How do we support leaders with performance fears about hybrid work
Finding the balance
Developing a return to office policy is all about striking a balance, but with strong opinions across the spectrum, where exactly is the balance? Getting it wrong can create a backlash eg Apple.
A hybrid work policy that’s too tight may not meet individual needs:
- Impacting ability to integrate work and life
- Making employees feel disenchanted from a lack of trust
- Increasing cost of living with commute expenses
A hybrid work policy that’s too loose might not meet the needs of the team:
- New team members may struggle to forge relationships
- Junior employees not seeing/hearing role models of what good looks like
- Empathy for each other may drop without the regular flow of casual conversations.
How much autonomy for hybrid work?
Our principles bring us back to creating the right environment vs telling people what to do, in a belief that the real solutions lie within ourselves.
But letting people make return to office decision on their own can have challenges too. Not because of malice or poor intention, but because many of us suffer from common biases, for example:
- When granted total freedom to make a decision, human nature will often choose what is easier for oneself over what is best for oneself. eg. If it’s beneficial for a person to be in the office x days a week but it feels like too much effort on the day, they might just stay at home. Similar to go to the gym or stay in bed - it can be tough decision!
- If a person takes a purely individualistic decision for when and where they work without considering the impact or needs of other team members, it might be inadvertently reducing the effectiveness of others on the team.
Different organisations are approaching this challenge differently.
What type of hybrid work policies can work for everyone?
As employers are asking people to return to the office and employees are expressing the desire to stay home different organisations are experimenting with different approaches. Managers and team members can together contemplate nuances of the role, the team, work/life integration, wellbeing and, ways of working. Here are some of the approaches that your team members maybe interested in.
- Splitting the week: Employees can work from the office for part of the week and work remotely for the rest. For example, an employee might work in the office from Monday to Wednesday and work remotely from Thursday to Friday.
- All in one or two days: This approach focuses on bringing the team together at key times of the week. This allows for a regular rhythm for meetings that are collaborative and connects the team, while giving everyone freedom to work from home on other days.
- Splitting the team: Organizations can divide their employees into groups and have one group work from the office while the other group works remotely. The groups can switch places after a certain period, such as every two weeks.
- Flexibility in location: In this approach, employees can choose to work from wherever they want, whether it's the office, home, or a co-working space. The location would depend on the individual's needs and preferences.
- Flexible hours: This approach allows employees to choose when they want to work, as long as they meet their deadlines and complete their work. For example, an employee might choose to work from 9 am to 5 pm in the office on some days and work from 1 pm to 9 pm at home on other days.
- Rotating shifts: In this approach, employees can alternate between working in the office and working remotely in shifts. For example, an employee might work remotely for a week, then work in the office for the following week.
- Work from anywhere: This approach allows employees to work from anywhere they want, as long as they have access to the internet and can perform their job duties. It gives employees complete freedom and flexibility in choosing where and when they work.
We suggest a hybrid work policy that offers a high level of freedom at the organisation level, with scope for managers to co-design arrangements with individuals on their team. This avoids the dangers of a one-size-fits-all and allows a more granular discussion around individual circumstances. If the policies being made now are rooted in a mutually rewarding employer/employee relationship (not a power imbalance), these flexible work arrangements can become an enduring win for all.
What managers may fear about hybrid working
Managers may have several fears about hybrid working, including:
- Communication and collaboration challenges: Another concern for managers is the challenge of maintaining effective communication and collaboration among team members who may be working from different locations. Managers may worry that remote workers will feel disconnected from the team and may not be able to collaborate as effectively.
- Technology issues: Managers may also worry about technology issues, such as internet connectivity or software problems, which could affect the productivity of remote workers.
- Potential for work-life imbalance: Managers may worry about the potential for work-life imbalance among their team members. Remote workers may find it challenging to switch off from work, leading to burnout and decreased productivity.
- Difficulty in managing remote workers: One of the main concerns for managers in a hybrid working environment is the difficulty in managing remote workers. Managers may worry about how they will ensure that remote workers are staying productive and meeting their performance goals.
- Difficulty in measuring performance: Finally, managers may worry about how they will measure the performance of remote workers. They may worry that they will not be able to accurately assess the productivity and effectiveness of remote workers, leading to unfair evaluations and potential conflicts within the team.
Overall, managers' fears about hybrid working may revolve around the challenges of managing and measuring performance in a remote work environment, maintaining effective communication and collaboration, and ensuring work-life balance for their team members. By acknowledging these concerns and addressing them proactively, organizations can create a more supportive and productive hybrid working environment.
How can HR teams can help manage those risks
To make hybrid working arrangements effective, HR teams can provide employees with the necessary tools and resources to work efficiently, collaborate effectively, and stay connected with their teams. Many organisations have already explored and implemented these tools during the the pandemic. These include;
- Communication and collaboration tools: HR can provide employees with tools such as video conferencing software, instant messaging apps, and project management platforms to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues. These tools can help remote workers feel more connected to their team members and facilitate effective collaboration.
- Virtual training and development programs: To ensure that employees are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in their roles, HR can provide virtual training and development programs. These programs can be accessed remotely and can help employees enhance their skills and learn new ones.
- Virtual wellness programs: HR can provide employees with virtual wellness programs, such as yoga or meditation classes, to help them maintain their physical and mental well-being while working remotely.
A clear and consistent performance framework
Now that employees are returning to work the importance of the underlying performance settings is being elevated. There are three main areas that support a clear and consistent performance framework .It is critical in a hybrid working environment that employees know what is expected of them and managers know how to manage. The key elements that underpin hybrid working are;
A clear performance policy
In a hybrid working environment, employees may be working from different locations, and managers may not have the same level of oversight as they would in an office environment. This can make it challenging to track performance and provide feedback. By having a clear and consistent performance policy, managers can provide employees with a roadmap for success, outlining the goals they need to achieve, the metrics they will be evaluated on, and the expectations for their performance. This policy can help to promote accountability, ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals, and provide a framework for evaluating employee performance regardless of where they are working from. It can also help to ensure that performance evaluations are fair and consistent, providing employees with the feedback they need to improve their performance and achieve their goals, even in a hybrid working environment.
Explore Crewmojo's performance policy template here.
Key routines document
A key routines document is an effective tool for promoting productivity and performance in a hybrid work environment. It provides structure and clarity for employees' workday by outlining a consistent routine that prioritizes critical tasks, optimizes time management, and establishes communication and collaboration expectations. By providing a clear routine, the document also helps promote a healthy work-life balance and accountability for employees to meet their performance goals. Overall, a key routines document is crucial in supporting the productivity and success of a hybrid work environment.
You can see an example here.
Outcome-focused one-on-one templates:
HR can provide managers with outcome-focused one-on-one templates that focus on the achievement of goals. These templates can help managers track progress, provide feedback, and set priorities with their employees. By focusing on outcomes and goals, managers can ensure that their employees are productive and effective, regardless of where they are working from.By using these templates, managers can maintain clear communication, set expectations, and track progress, ultimately helping employees achieve their goals and drive the organization's success, regardless of their location.. Explore some of our templates including
By bring together these elements we can support managers to lift performance while balancing the risks and benefits of hybrid work,