After two years of remote work, many offices are transitioning to hybrid work setups in an effort to regain some normalcy. In fact, according to an ABC News report on new hybrid office spaces, up to 57% of newly constructed offices are being specifically designed with this setup in mind. Analysts say this reflects how necessary hybrid setups will be for the foreseeable future. However, while businesses and leaders may be excited about hybrid working, workers who have become more accustomed to remote work may not share the sentiment. Therefore, to make the transition positive and to ensure that work teams are just as (if not more) happy and productive in their new setup, here are some practices that offices must observe:
1. Offer flexible work hours
Just because you’re partly returning to the office, doesn’t mean you can immediately impose pre-pandemic office hours. Following the forced adoption of remote work in 2020, many employees have found that they prefer the flexibility that this setup allows them. In fact, 95% of workers have said flexibility is now critical to workplace satisfaction. Consequently, in a hybrid setup, the best compromise here is to offer flexible working hours. As shared in the U.S. Chamber’s listicle on ways to keep employees happy, embracing flexible work hours is the best way to ensure both you and your workers can achieve a good work-life balance. Depending on your organization’s needs and your employees’ preferences, you could allow employees to pick the days they come in or the shifts they fulfill. In this way, you still get your necessary work hours both in-office and remotely without compromising your staff’s satisfaction.
2. Establish communication protocols
With the ability to see your employees face-to-face again, this doesn’t mean you can just flood them with constant communication. Remember, during the height of remote working, over-communicating was already a huge reason behind employee burnout. This is a practice you don’t want to carry over into a hybrid setup. Instead, establish clear communication protocols early on. As suggested in a post on HR tips for remote employees by Maryville University, having rules of engagement for communication can ensure that no boundaries are crossed and everyone’s time is respected. This can also be said for hybrid employees who straddle two working setups. A few ways to do this can be to determine core workday hours, assign uses for communication platforms, schedule check-ins, and enforce cut-off hours. In this way, your employees can rest assured that no matter where they’re working, they can reach who they need to without being subjected to micromanaging or excessive communication, either.
3. Commit to mental health
Last year, almost half of all adults workers in the U.S. reportedly suffered from at least one mental health issue. Consequently, 76% of workers say mental health benefits are not a critical factor in evaluating jobs. That said, you can do your part to alleviate their mental health concerns, especially now that their schedules are about to be adjusted once again for hybrid setups. Although there is no one set way to target mental health concerns in the office, you can show your sincerity by implementing different efforts. Some of the ways to do this, which we previously covered in our article called “3 Proven Strategies for Prioritizing Mental Health While Working”, include offering healthier food, creating avenues for human connection, and offering mindfulness resources. Through these efforts, your employees can at least feel supported mentally, emotionally, and physically whenever they’re in your office.
4, Cement safety and hygiene initiatives
A large part of the pandemic may be behind us, but the possibility of infection is still present. For many workers, this poses a threat not just to themselves but to the more vulnerable loved ones they may live with. As such, it’s important to make them know that they’re as safe in your hybrid workplace as they were at home. Introduce new and improved safety measures that underscore cleanliness and sanitation, since Forbes’ Harris Poll survey of hybrid employees reveals 58% of workers would like to see this in their offices. To do this, invest in useful sanitation items that you can disperse in the office. Think hand sanitizer stations, contactless fixtures, and disinfectant sprays or wipes. Additionally, do share how you’ve amped up your office disinfection approach. By letting employees know how and when their spaces are being cleaned, they will feel more confident in safely returning to work.
Although hybrid setups require some adjustment, they can be the best of both worlds if done right. When work teams are able to see and experience hybrid work setups that have been designed thoughtfully and rolled out carefully, they can become some of the most valuable and loyal employees.
Written for happierway.org by Cassie Cooper