Hybrid Working and What It Means for HR
While the term ‘hybrid working’ is not new to those in the world of work, it’s one that’s fast become a major player for organisations throughout the pandemic in order to keep employees safe whilst abiding by ongoing rules and restrictions.
Flash forward to the present day, where restrictions have eased and people are starting to trickle back into the office, and hybrid working is no longer a reactive backup plan, but rather the new and preferred working model for employers.
However, while these changes are convenient for many employees, they mean big changes behind the scenes for employers and HR leaders.
What is hybrid working?
Before we jump in any further, let’s discuss what hybrid working is.
Hybrid working isn’t simply having the option to work from home, but rather a type of flexible working where individual employees split their time between working in-office and working from home.
Hybrid working models work so well because they combine the best of both worlds for many employees when it comes to establishing an enhanced work-life balance, ultimately contributing to higher levels of productivity during working hours.
What does hybrid working mean for HR?
During the pandemic employees truly began to appreciate remote and hybrid working, as it gave them more time to spend (safely) at home with their families, their pets, and even on their own.
It comes as no surprise that employee expectations have now changed. People don’t want to go back to their regular 9 to 5 hours working in an office anymore, worrying about a commute, additional child care, pet care, or taking an afternoon off for an appointment.
Instead, they’re demanding flexibility. So much so, in fact, that the rate of employees resigning from inflexible roles is at an all time high across every industry, with numbers that haven’t been seen for a decade or more.
This means that HR leaders and teams need to make some changes to attract and retain employees for the long haul.
Here are some key points to consider:
1. Maintain company culture
While hybrid working is, of course, convenient, one of the main issues it poses to organisations is the potential for declining workplace culture.
An effective company culture is the foundation of any successful business, and HR and C-suite leaders typically spend years cultivating a company culture they can be proud of.
This means that moving forward, how teams and leaders engage with each other is imperative to maintaining a thriving business.
Ensuring that managers and team leaders have regular weekly team catch-ups - virtual or otherwise - is a great way to do this. It’s also important that each call is not strictly work related as sharing stories and smiles across the organisation should be considered a key aspect of employee wellbeing.
In other words, leveraging technology to reinforce workplace culture rather than reinvent it will help keep employees happy, productive, and motivated.
2. Make employee wellbeing a priority
Working remotely and being isolated for so long had many employees feeling as though their mental health and wellbeing was diminishing.
This was due to a lack of in-person contact with family, friends, and colleagues, but also due to the stress that the pandemic brought to people all over the world.
Before COVID-19, HR and business leaders definitely didn’t have employee wellness at the top of their list of priorities, and it came back to bite them with nearly 3 in 5 employees feeling the negative impacts of work-related stress.
To this end, HR needs consider that one of the main benefits of hybrid working is that it allows employees to establish a better work-life balance, and when HR works to implement hybrid workplaces for the long term, they’re sending the message that the organisation is in full support of employees and the flexible working arrangements they need to keep healthy - physically and mentally.
If you’re an HR professional stuck on how to create a comprehensive wellness programme, SHRM has a great outline you can reference.
3. Focus on inclusion and diversity
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are familiar items to HR teams, but alongside employee wellbeing initiatives, they’re being pushed to the forefront to be included in the set of main priorities for the years to come.
That being said, the pandemic has created somewhat of a shift in what diversity and inclusion can mean. While we all experienced the effects of COVID-19 together, for instance, each of us had a diverse experience. Whether that be due to our living situations, our family, or a change in our workload, it was all entirely unique to each individual.
Pair this with the fact that the majority of the workforce isn’t present in the office on a daily basis, and diversity and inclusion becomes more important than ever.
To this end, HR needs to:
- Open channels of communications so employees can voice questions, concerns, and feedback.
- Work with senior management to make sure there is a top down sense of collective responsibility in maintaining a safe workplace for everyone.
- Ensure that all employees, including remote and hybrid workers, are able to take part in team building activities (even if it’s virtually).
- Work with L&D to make onboarding, training, and development more accessible to everyone in the workforce.
- Check that the right technology is in place and being implemented effectively to support employees in this new era of work.
4. Work closely with L&D
As mentioned in the point above, HR should consider working with L&D to make sure that training and onboarding is accessible to everyone in the organisation, especially those on a hybrid working model.
The trick here for HR is learning how to implement a workplace structure that ensures leaders and managers are equipped to deal with the new way of working.
A few questions HR leaders should be asking in support of their hybrid workers, include:
- Do our training programmes come with the necessary tools to train a hybrid workforce? If not, how can we fix this?
- Is our existing training sufficient for our employees and the skills they need to thrive in their roles?
- What does training look like for our organisation when we can’t bring everyone together in a classroom?
HR teams will have to treat hybrid training entirely differently than typical face-to-face learning and development. Instead, it’s about working smarter to keep employees engaged by adapting existing training practices, making use of digital learning, and making sure L&D is accessible - no matter where your employees might be.
The last couple of years have truly demonstrated how important it is for HR teams to be proactive in preparing for change.
If HR leaders work with their organisations to keep on top of current and forthcoming industry trends like hybrid working, then they’re all the more likely to attract and retain the right employees with the best talent in the future, ultimately helping their organisation become truly resilient.
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