The pandemic influenced the business models of most companies. To maintain continuity, businesses were forced to implement a work-from-home approach. Businesses increasingly relied on hybrid workplaces during the third wave of the epidemic.
When situations started getting normal, businesses began to design their return-to-office strategies. Strong business cases, HR automation, and changed employee expectations created challenges for the future of hybrid work.
Let us understand the future of hybrid work in detail to strategize effectively.
The Future of Hybrid Work | An Overview
With appropriate technology infrastructure and contemporary HR practices, businesses seek to achieve the optimal balance between on-site and remote working environments with hybrid work models.
Throughout the epidemic, remote workplaces reduced costs and increased productivity which helped both businesses and individuals. However, post-pandemic, without compromising employee involvement or company culture, hybrid workforce models strengthen resilience, improve employer branding, promote agility, and result in cost savings. In short, became the most convenient choice for most organizations.
How did Microsoft, Amazon, and Swiggy successfully adopt the hybrid work model?
Case Study 1
Microsoft – Employee-driven Flexibility
Microsoft’s hybrid work policy considers business and individual needs. Employees can hold one-on-one discussions with managers about their preferred way of work. The policy provides clear guidelines about the flexibility of the work site, location, and timings. It also empowers managers to approve team-specific flexibility requests.
Working from home for less than 50% of the work week does not require approval. Employees can also work more than 50% of the week from home by securing manager approval. Microsoft also allows flexible timings for most roles. Manager approval is required only in cases of relocation or reduction in the number of work hours.
Case Study 2
Amazon – Team-specific Decisions
The employee roles and the nature of their work drive Amazon’s hybrid workplace policies. It adopts a personalized approach for each team. Instead of mandating a minimum of three weekdays in the office for corporate events, Amazon gives its team directors the authority to decide on these matters. Additionally, it offers the choice to work remotely for up to four weeks a year from any location inside the employment country.
For employees working in fulfillment centers and AWS data centers, physical presence is necessary for meeting customer service objectives. These roles do not fall under hybrid work policies.
Case Study 3
#3. Swiggy – Permanent Work-from-Anywhere
As part of its ‘Future of Work’ policy, Indian food delivery unicorn Swiggy has declared a permanent work-from-anywhere option for its employees. After the pandemic, corporate business operations and technology groups would continue to operate remotely while coming for a week once every three months for in-person bonding. However, employees who deal with their restaurant and delivery partners occasionally work from home.
How has the concept of a ‘Hybrid Workplace’ evolved?
According to the 2021 Nascomm Return to Workplace Survey, 83% of companies with more than 1,000 employees are likely to adopt a hybrid approach to work. Additionally, 40% of employees plan to work from their workplaces just a few days per week.
Hybrid workplaces have evolved from being a benefit for employees to being the norm across enterprises. Let’s take a closer look at the different phases-
Phase 1- Remote Workplaces
The onset of the pandemic required the shutdown of workplaces and the adoption of entirely remote working methods. Online video sessions replaced work-related and casual team interactions typical of a physical office setting. Businesses use cloud-based automation tools and video call technology to assist staff complete jobs efficiently.
Phase 2- Flexible Scheduling
Businesses first focused on replicating an office working pattern in a remote setting. They utilized monitoring techniques to guarantee that workers participated and were kept online during office hours. Most HR teams soon understood that employees needed flexible schedules due to the pandemic’s increased family obligations. Technology and HR regulations have included flexibility in work hours as they have progressed.
Phase 3- Soft Opens or Reopens with limitations
Businesses have started to reopen their workplaces with some limitations as the pandemic fades. While coming to the office may not be mandatory, it is encouraged for roles that require in-office collaboration, customer proximity, or specialized infrastructure.
Phase 4- Remote-First Hybrid Models
Most company executives do not wish to return entirely to in-office work due to the tremendous cost and performance advantages of remote working for individuals and organizations. Businesses choose hybrid models for positions that allow remote work and flexible hours.
Major Benefits of the Future of Hybrid Work
The hybrid workplace is the new digital workplace, growing quickly. Why? Because businesses realize that their employees want flexibility, choice, and control — especially millennials — and the more they can provide this, the happier employees will be.
Let’s look at other major benefits of hybrid workplaces-
#1. Enhanced Employee Productivity
Per the 2021 Gartner Digital Worker Experience survey, flexible work hours and savings in commute time are the two most important reasons for increased employee productivity. Employees can plan and execute their work better by leveraging digital efficiencies.
#2. Improved Employee Well-being
Hybrid workplaces empower employees to be productive without compromising on work-life balance. It reduces stress and improves employees’ mental well-being crucial to the overall employee experience.
#3. Lesser Operational Costs
Enterprises can opt for hybrid workplaces and significantly cut real-estate leasing costs and facility management expenses. Reduced absenteeism, decreased travel expenses, and lower attrition adds to the cost savings.
Challenges in Managing Hybrid Workplace
Burnout can result from productivity paranoia that exacerbates in a remote environment. Per the 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index Pulse report, 87% of employees report they are productive at work, while only 12% of leaders say they are fully confident about their team’s productivity. If managers use micro-monitoring tech like click-tracking, employees may get caught up in endless attempts to prove their productivity. It can lead to digital overload and burnout.
#2. Mismatched Workspaces
In hybrid meetings, with a part of the team in the office, virtual attendees find it tough to be active participants in the conversation. Casual work settings may not be best for group meetings because of distractions and background noises. So, communication and collaboration would be difficult to manage in mismatched workspaces.
#3. Cybersecurity risks
Remote employees may use personal or public Wi-Fi networks. These are susceptible to unauthorized access. Enterprises must implement secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and multi-factor authentication protocols to ensure security.
How to Effectively Manage Hybrid Workplace?
According to Mckinsey’s research, although nine out of ten executives envision a hybrid model of work in the future, 68% do not have a detailed plan for implementing hybrid workplaces. It is tougher to manage hybrid workplaces than in-office or fully remote environments.
Following are some best practices for hybrid workplace management:
#1. Personalize Hybrid Work Policies
It is not prudent to dictate a one-size-fits-all approach with fixed work-from-home days or hours. Allow employees to choose in-office days and timings based on their lifestyle and personal commitments.
#2. Build a Culture of Trust and Autonomy
Managers must provide clear, measurable performance goals and adopt an outcome-based approach to evaluating their team members. Managers should rely on employees to be productive by making their own scheduling choices rather than micromanaging them.
#3. Focus on Automation
Mental well-being and flexibility have become non-negotiable components of employee experience. Automation initiatives aligned with long-term hybrid work strategies are a must for enterprises to retain talent.
Enterprises that can leverage cutting-edge HR technology applications for streamlining employee collaboration in hybrid environments will continue to reap the benefits of increased productivity and improved employer branding.
Invest in HR automation that facilitates collaboration, feedback, and employee engagement. Also, you must ensure your remote workplace software offers top-notch security protocols and complies with multi-location data privacy regulations.
#4. Empower Managers
Managers must be given the power, resources, and training necessary to lead teams in hybrid work environments by their leaders. Managers must be able to establish team-specific standards, accept requests for flexible scheduling, and authorize the purchase of home office supplies.
#5. Frequent Check-ins and Feedback
Managers should constantly monitor employees’ emotional and mental health and ask for feedback on the hybrid workplace. They must be more deliberate about expressing gratitude, highlighting achievements, and celebrating them with staff members.
Role of HR Technology in Hybrid Workplace
Following are some crucial areas you must automate to power your hybrid workplace environment,
HR Teams can use applicant tracking systems (ATS) for handling end-to-end hiring cycles. Automated resume screening, interview scheduling, virtual video interviews, and online skill assessment tests enable an end-to-end remote recruitment process.
Maintaining involvement and business culture might be difficult with less in-person contact. However, businesses can develop emotional bonding among their staff through carefully thought-out communication strategies, incentive schemes, and collaboration platforms. To recruit and keep top talent in hybrid environments, opt for a shorter, more intense induction program in the office, followed by virtual introductions with remote teams.
Automated meeting schedulers, virtual whiteboards for brainstorming, and shared document editors enable effective collaboration. Video conferencing tools, chat software, asynchronous messaging apps, and internal social media ensure streamlined team communication.
#4. Payroll Management
HR teams must rely on automation to tackle compliance challenges related to multi-geography payroll and tax calculations in hybrid work operations. Automated time-keeping, overtime approvals, and self-service portals for employees ensure a hassle-free payroll process.
#5. Asset Administration
Remote working necessitates assigning employees with company assets such as laptops, mobile phones, and workstation furniture. Automation tools can help HR teams track and manage these assets across locations.
#6. Performance Management
Performance Management in a remote environment can be challenging. Automated tools that enable clear goal-setting, real-time visibility into performance, and automated reminders for regular manager interactions help execute performance appraisals without any year-end surprises.
Industry trends are changing and, with it, the way in which organizations function. Hybrid work, executive coaching, and virtual training solutions have all become more popular recently.
Hybrid work is changing the way we work, but so far, the message has been mixed. Some people claim they’re losing their freedom and flexibility in the workplace. Others say it makes them happier and more productive. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, hybrid work is here to stay for good because employers are starting to see benefits with this new approach to working.