In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced business owners worldwide to a brand new set of challenges, including how to maintain productivity despite ever-evolving guidelines and restrictions for in-person work. Before long, many companies discovered that flexible work strategies were not only feasible for their teams but were often preferable. In fact, a recent survey from McKinsey found that when employees were given the option to work remotely, 87% took advantage. The benefits, such as reduced commuting time and greater autonomy, seemed to support a better work/life balance for teams exploring the hybrid work environment.
Once given the green light to return to their offices, many employers fully bought into the hybrid work experience, allowing employees to work both remotely and in person as needed. Now, it’s clear that hybrid work is here to stay — but just as every company approaches it differently, so, too, do its employees.
More now than ever, it’s important to design an employee experience that takes the individual into consideration and provides room for flexibility instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. Is the work you do conducive to devising an in-office/remote hybrid work schedule? Would incorporating a four-day schedule work for your team? Regardless of the approach you choose, companies should develop a framework for how their employees — both onsite and remote — will work together now and in the future. Whether you already have a hybrid work strategy in place or you’ve just been winging it, the following findings and tips can help you and your teams stay on track while creating a stronger sense of connection.
Gartner research recently found that human-centric work environments are the most beneficial to both performance and retention. According to the research, organizations that focus on the human factor are 3.8 times more likely to see higher employee performance, 3.2 times more likely to retain employees, and 3.1 times more likely to see reduced fatigue among employees.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Putting a greater emphasis on employee autonomy has clear ties to performance and satisfaction. Gartner found:
- Employees who are given more freedom in their work schedules are 2.3 times more likely to achieve higher performance than those without that level of autonomy.
- Autonomy reduces worker fatigue by 1.9 times.
- Workers with higher levels of autonomy are 2.3 times more likely to stay with the organization.
Create Meaningful Connections
Despite employers’ efforts to seamlessly adapt to the hybrid work model, a 2022 Gallup poll showed that 32% of respondents said they felt less connected to their organization’s culture. This data illustrates that, even in the age of constant connectivity, some additional steps may be required to ensure your team is feeling engaged.
So what can you do to stay connected with your remote teams?
- Invite remote workers to company events regardless of their location; make it easy for them to join virtually whenever possible.
- Invest in quality technology for those who need to join meetings virtually on a regular basis. It may seem too simple, but microphone and video quality matter more when the bulk of your interactions are taking place online. When these tools don’t function as they should (or produce low-quality voice and glitchy video), they can disrupt your meetings and alienate those who’ve dialed in.
- Make new remote hires feel welcome by setting up virtual meet-and-greets. If possible, host an in-person welcome lunch to help foster connections right out of the gate.
Prioritize Team Collaboration
In addition to the aforementioned obstacles that can result from an underdeveloped hybrid work strategy, and perhaps even more alarming, 30% of Gallup respondents noted a decrease in team collaboration. When team collaboration goes down, productivity tends to trend in the same downward direction. Create time and space for employees to convene — remotely or in person — by prioritizing regularly occurring meetings between team members involved in the same projects. Doing this provides a channel for employees to collaborate, communicate, and remain productive.
We’ve now had over two years to develop the hybrid work strategies that best fit our companies, but there is clearly still room to improve for many business leaders. What works for some teams won’t work for others, so it’s vital to continue to check in with your remote and hybrid teams, identify areas of improvement, and continually work toward crafting a strategy that works for everyone and keeps everyone working.