Work-life balance and everyday routines went for a toss as the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut everyone indoors. Government announced a nationwide lockdown, completely changing life. While most were confused as to what was happening, it was the internal communications teams, and the Human Resources department that worked towards stabilising this volatility.
While other aspects of life may go back to normal once the lockdown ends, the shift in work arrangements is going to be a permanent one. As remote working became the norm, employees moulded themselves to follow a routine that separates their work life from home. Every problem that meant sending a meeting invite, transformed into a quick email, leaving conferences only for the truly important situations. Reliance on digital mediums increased and quickened some processes while interpersonal relationships and face-time went down. And in all of this, client needs and expectations too drastically changed.
But as the lockdown begins to ease, it’s possible that things will change – yet again. The idea of a hybrid workforce isn’t new and at the moment, many organisations are experimenting with it.
What’s Happening In The Part Lockdown World
A hybrid workforce is one that offers its employees flexibility in terms of work environment. It is semi-remote, while also being able to pick a fully-remote work style. This model is not concerned with where the work gets done as long as it gets done on time and with the same effectiveness. It is concerned with employee performance and after testing this first hand in a pandemic situation, employees’ minds have changed.
A Gartner research done keeping in mind the current situation says that out of 2500 employees 78% want to work remotely for a part of the work week, while more than half said they would love to work remotely forever.
As workplaces begin to open, the HR department and the leadership teams are now making plans to successfully deal with employees working remotely as well as on-site. Even in countries where lockdown has been lifted, many employees find going to the office uncomfortable – because of safety concerns as well as preference change. This has led to organisations accommodating needs by offering semi-remote, fully-remote or flexible hours and days.
Rethinking Hybrid Lifestyle
With the work lifestyle shifting towards a hybrid model, many organisations have begun rethinking processes to make remote work easier for employees. This rethinking will be a step towards offering support by bringing relevant tools, technologies and equipment to employees’ homes, to ensure no productivity loss. According to Gartner’s research, almost 70% of organisations have shown interest in carrying through with such an equipment transfer.
At the same time, organisations will also want to track employee productivity for those working remotely. While frequent manager-employee conversations and effective internal communications are some way to achieve this, investing in tools that help analyse productivity would be a credible option. Such tools track log-in times, track the office computer for usage durations and also organisational emails.
With remote working comes the question – what role will the corporate office space play in the part-lockdown/post-pandemic world? Many corporates have large spaces at the moment. But with only a few employees working on-site and most working flexible hours, how much office space will actually be needed and what it will be used for, has put the corporate world in deep thought.
All said and done, the most important aspect to manage with a hybrid workforce is that of sustaining organisational culture.
Implications Of Managing A Hybrid Workforce
Productivity is key, and even those organisations who’ve seen the benefits of remote working are concerned about maintaining their culture. Especially with a part of the workforce working from home/remotely and others on-site, aligning company values with their everyday behaviour. Maintaining and measuring culture when everyone is under the same roof can be challenging, and even more so when they aren’t together physically. With team-building activities or other training and development workshops for employees, regular interaction can be maintained.
Although, research has shown that employee engagement rises in a hybrid work setup, and organisations will have to move away from the usual punch-in/punch-out mindset. Managing employees and building interpersonal relationships is all about making connections, appreciation and setting goals. This is something that can be achieved with clear internal communications and pulse surveys. One thing to remember is that things are going to change and adapting with them is crucial.