Tips for Managing a Hybrid Workplace
Updated: Dec 22, 2022
Employees loved the work from home policies that companies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. They gave employees greater flexibility in living their lives. Employees were able to spend more time with their families, better manage household activities, save money on fuel and less time in traffic. Since so many employees loved working at home, why are so many companies shifting back to requiring employees to come into the office? Companies like General Motors claim that they are requiring employees to come back to work to boost productivity (5). These claims tell us more about the company’s ability to be productive with a remote work environment, than the effectiveness of work from home policies. The companies that can master remote and hybrid workplaces will have a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining talent.
Decisions such as allowing remote, or hybrid work can have a significant impact on the demographics of a work force. In executive coach David Lancefield’s article Stop Wasting People’s Time in Meetings he cites that “64% of GenZ and 63% of Millennials consider their office to be their laptop, headset and wherever they can get a strong internet connection, compared to only 48% of Gen X and 32% of Baby boomers” (3). The decision to require employees to come back to work will have less impact to Gen X and Baby boomers because they put less value on remote working and have spent more of their careers working in an office. For GenZ especially, the last two years have set their expectation on what work life should be. In fact, many recent college graduates, spent 50% of their college years taking remote class where they developed remote working skills. Younger workers have the skills and desire to work remotely and will gravitate to organizations that give them greater flexibility.
There is a growing trend of GenZ employees not seeing the same value in social relationships with co-workers as previous generations. In a recent survey completed by Capterra half of workers between 18 and 25 said they found workplace friendships minimally or not important (1). Over the last few decades people have been in search of work life balance. One way that younger workers are finding that balance is by creating clear boundaries between work associates, and personal friendships. For this reason, they see less value in working in an office where there is more pressure to engage and interact socially with co-workers.
For companies to retain their best talent, they need to be willing to change with the times and create cultures that support remote workers. As a multi-unit operations leader, I learned early in my career that I did not have to be physically in front of my team to influence their performance. As a leader, I have been able to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that I have been able to track remotely to determine if employees are completing the key task necessary for the company to achieve business objectives. Establishing goals with employees, and tracking their results is a key skill for managing remote workers.
Reviewing performance metrics gives you quantitative feedback on the work of remote employees. In addition, leaders can complete check in calls and hold scheduled one on ones to get qualitative feedback. One of the biggest advantages to being in an office environment is the ability to walk over to a person's desk and having a conversation with them. When employees are remote, leaders must develop new routines for connecting with employees. The combination of check in calls and scheduled one on ones provides a good balance between structured updates, and impromptu discussions.
When I was the Manager of Franchise Marketing and Recruiting, we implemented a hybrid work policy that allowed recruiters to work from home two days a week. We found that this led to a significant boost in recruiter productivity. Weekly one on ones with employees allowed me to set expectation for productivity, capture best practices from recruiters, and share those best practices with their peers. In addition, we established a cadence of weekly and monthly face to face meetings to encourage peer to peer interaction and provide a sense of shared purpose. I attribute the boost in productivity to the disciplines that we put in place around communication, and the improved morale that working from home generated with the team.
Being successful in a hybrid workspace requires leaders to develop new skills. Instead of companies reverting to unpopular work in office policies, they should identify new processes and technologies to enable productive work from home environments. James Hunter in his book The most powerful leadership principle (2002) talks about the value of servant leadership, and the business benefits of leaders putting the needs of their employees ahead of their personal needs (2). In man
employees come back to the office is rooted in the leader’s inability to lead a remote work force, verse the employee’s ability to effectively work remotely. Leaders within corporate America should take a strong look at their leadership skills and ability, and work to develop new competencies that will enable remote working. This will boost morale and allow them to better meet their employees' needs.
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with your Path Coaching and Consulting. He specializes in coaching service for managers, executives and small business owner.
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Ellis, L. (2022, August 17). Americans Are Breaking Up With Their Work Friends. Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/forget-work-friends-more-americans-are-all-business-on-the-job-11660736232
Hunter, J. C. (2004). The world’s most powerful leadership principle: how to become a servant leader. Waterbrook Press.
Lancefield, D. (2022, March 14). Stop Wasting People’s Time with Meetings. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/03/stop-wasting-peoples-time-with-bad-meetings
Shepardson, D. (2022, October 24). GM launching return to work plan for salaried workers in January. Reuters.