The way we work is changing right before our eyes. Many leaders assumed that as the threat of COVID-19 receded, we would get back to normal in short order. However, even as offices were re-opening, it was clear that many organizations could see the benefits of adopting a hybrid work model as the norm, rather than going back to 100% in-person work.
Chief among the benefits of hybrid work is that the vast majority of workers prefer it to working fully remotely or fully in-person. In 2021, 70% of workers stated that they “wanted flexible remote work options to continue” and 65% said they wanted “more in-person time” with their colleagues. In addition to having this positive impact on the employee experience (or maybe because of that impact), hybrid and remote workers also tend to be more productive than in-person employees.
However, the shift toward hybrid work is not without challenges. In particular, there is a risk of hybrid employees beginning to feel shut off from the organizational culture, employee experience, and even benefits like on-site gyms and happy hours that in-person workers enjoy. Over time, this disparity between in-person and remote work can weaken an employee’s sense of belonging, which can reduce engagement and make it harder to retain them.
Here are three ways HR leaders can actively address this phenomenon and boost engagement among all employees.
1. Train Managers and Employees in the Best Practices of Hybrid Work
So much of the employee experience happens in the flow of work among managers, employees, and their peers. You can improve employee engagement, collaboration, and productivity a lot by helping your people adjust to hybrid work with training and support on how to do it better.
2. Make Benefits and Wellness Available to All
You might be surprised to know that many of your company-sponsored benefits and wellness initiatives are not optimized for hybrid workers. Just because everyone has health insurance doesn’t mean that everyone has equal access to all of the programs your health plan offers. Take a look at what you offer today and ask yourself, “Does this benefit make sense for hybrid/remote employees? Is there a comparable alternative program we could use?” For example, you might offer access to a gym on-site as part of your wellness strategy, but your hybrid employees will probably never use it. In that scenario, you might want to consider using a scalable wellness app that offers access to gyms and other fitness solutions wherever your employees are.
3. Seek Out Tools that Support Hybrid Work
As your organization transitions to the new world of work, it is highly likely that at least some of the technology you used to get work done before (e.g., chat, project management software, learning management systems, and more.) aren’t that well-suited to the way your organization works now. Supporting a hybrid workforce means ensuring all of your people can effectively work, learn, communicate, and collaborate. If your current tech stack can’t support this goal, HR has a role to play in advocating for tools that will.
Smart organizations are learning to bridge the gap between hybrid and in-person workers by investing in employee experiences that work for all stakeholders. The right training, programs, and tools can go a long way to creating a happier, more productive organization.