That said, the demand for hybrid and flexible policies is something employers cannot ignore. If you’re still operating under the rushed hybrid policies put in place in March 2020, it’s time to rethink your hybrid workplace and devise a strategy that empowers your workforce, strengthens your organization, and maintains compliant workplace policies.
There are many different ways to approach the hybrid workplace, and we've all seen a number of examples over the past year: all-virtual workplaces, employers that have some in-person employees and some remote employees, and employers that juggle a schedule of mixed virtual and in-person days.
The truth is that no organization will get its hybrid approach 100% right the first time they try it. No two versions of a hybrid workplace are identical, and that's not a bad thing; every organization is different. However, when hybrid workplace systems are arbitrary, ad hoc, and unfair, both employers and employees suffer.
Ad hoc hybrid arrangements are a series of band-aids arranged over the core problem of flexibility. Schedules, tech stacks, and company culture aren't intently built to maximize employee engagement, and the environment is too clunky to adapt to changing circumstances.
If your environment is ad hoc, employees will feel disconnected. They won't have the tools to do fulfilling work, and they won't have loyalty to your organization. But a well-crafted hybrid environment focuses on the employee experience to optimize for both engagement and safety. Greater safety increases retention and appeals to potential applicants. Greater engagement is also a path to greater revenue and employee satisfaction.
According to Smarp, "Companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable." That, in turn, feeds greater growth, opportunity, and job stability, leading to more engagement and profit.
But how do you create a hybrid workplace that empowers and engages employees?
By focusing on resiliency. Your hybrid environment needs to be flexible enough to meet employees' changing needs and adaptable enough to evolve as business requirements change — the desired end result is improved employee satisfaction and continued organizational success. To do so, you need an infrastructure of policies, monitoring tools, and analytics that show where your hybrid workplace is succeeding and where it's taxing the organization. Just like any other business-critical workflow, it needs to be programmatic, measurable, and optimized.
Those that get hybrid work right will outperform those that do not. Willis Towers Watson says, "Companies with high and sustainable levels of engagement tend to have operating margins up to three times higher than companies with low or unsustainable levels of engagement." This ties back to all three concerns of employee retention, company revenue, and overall compliance, and your organization's stakeholders need to know how much engagement matters to culture and overall performance.
Allowing an ad hoc hybrid workplace to linger too long drives down engagement, and it can take revenue down with it. That, in turn, creates a chaotic environment where your HR teams struggle with employee satisfaction, morale, and even things like recordkeeping, and state- and federal-level compliance obligations because they lack the proper information.
Intentionally building your ideal hybrid workplace requires action. Follow these six steps to start making changes:
Create systems of gauging employee mindset and sentiment. Are your employees stressed about COVID-19? Are they overworked? Are poor support systems leading to disengagement and lower resilience? Sentiment tracking and quick wellness checks are the only way to know. These steps don't just provide data — they open the door to critical conversations and let your employees know you're focused on helping.
Get your policies in order. Everyone in your organization needs to know the particulars — and the guardrails — of your hybrid workspace. Clarify:
Once you have a clear picture, your team can ensure it complies with state requirements and that job descriptions, programmed attendance tools, and other mechanisms, are in alignment with it.
Your workplace is a business-critical set of processes, and it needs to be measured just like every other major aspect of business. Sit with your team of stakeholders and create key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can set clear objectives and measurably progress toward improvements. This orients your team toward making important changes and checking in to make sure the results correspond with your organization's needs over time.
Invest in tools that support your new procedures and give you insight into your progress toward KPIs. Your business's current HR tech stack may not be enough, so look for tools that provide attendance tracking, employee wellness and sentiment, case management, and other critical functions.
Sentiment checks are a great start, but they aren't enough. Now that you have basic infrastructure in place, create channels and opportunities for communication. Also, implement two-way communication on a fixed, regular schedule so at least a minimum amount of communication is occurring. It’s crucial to be transparent in this communication — employees appreciate it and it builds a culture of trust.
The first iteration of your hybrid environment may be a great fit now, but it may be a poor fit in six months. Be prepared to make incremental changes, massive overhauls, and modifications in the short-term and long-term so your organization can continue to thrive.
Having the right tools to define, communicate, and measure your hybrid program is essential for making purposeful improvements. At ReturnSafe, we specialize in helping organizations create high-performing hybrid workplaces that prioritize employee engagement while giving managers and HR the data and infrastructure needed to remain compliant with shifting requirements. Contact us today to see how our insights and tools can help your organization.