Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a growing revolution in the way we work. Ever since the pandemic sent millions of workers home to wait out the storm, we adapted to a new reality. But as restrictions lift and offices reopen, many employees are anxious to find out what the future of work has in store for them.
A recent survey from Adecco showed that 53% of office workers are keen to establish a hybrid way of conducting their role.People have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home. Avoiding lengthy commutes can give them more time with their families or allow them to sneak in a gym session or yoga class before sitting down at their desks.
Employees find remote working can be more productive too. Admin tasks requiring our undivided attention are easier to complete when we aren't battling the background noise and distractions a shared work environment can bring. But it's undeniable that we all miss that human interaction crucial to getting certain things done and our sense of belonging among our co-workers.
So along comes hybrid working, offering the best of both worlds, right? Sadly, a recent Mckinsey study has shown that where employees face uncertainty around company expectations for remote or hybrid working, they are
2.9 times more likely to burnout. So how can organizations provide their teams with the clarity they need to make the most of this new way of work?
But a remote working policy isn't about setting rules. It's about establishing guidelines, so employees know where they stand. It should empower teams to work in the way that suits their roles the best. For example, software engineers who undertake extensive coding might prefer to get set up at home and come into the office occasionally. In contrast, marketing teams whose job duties tend to be more collaborative might want to be based onsite more frequently for creative brainstorming sessions.
Without establishing some basic expectations, it's easy for feelings of unfairness to grow. Soon employees can feel like there is one rule for one and another for others which will only expedite the disconnect that can develop amongst remote workers (whether fully remote or partially so).
It's important to note that it's ok to still be figuring this all out! As businesses, we are all adapting to the new normal, and it helps to be transparent with employees. Remote work policies can come with a caveat that this is new territory and that you might need to tweak and adjust as you go along. As we will see, bringing your employees into the process can help retain the spirit of camaraderie and is a crucial step to ensure any policy works for as many team members as possible.
Hybrid working offers an exciting new chance to reinvent the way we work. By creating a policy that reflects your team's input, you demonstrate trust in your staff to do what is best for their productivity and wellbeing. When done right, both employee and employer can reap the benefits for years to come. But where should you start when trying to shape the future of your business in the hybrid working world?
Each team's metrics will undoubtedly be different so don't get too bogged down in numbers. It's vital to home in on the anecdotal feedback as well. Are employees happy with the new policy? Are there any indications that team members might leave? If you need to dig a little deeper and love transparency, don't be afraid to open it to the floor at your next all-hands meeting!
No two businesses are the same, and each organization will have specific needs for their remote work policy. However, the following themes are typically included in most companies' policies.
For example, in our recent round table, Elyse Hamilton shared Aesop's struggles as an organization to coordinate remote work arrangements for their laboratory technicians. In cases like these, it's even more important to lay out who can work remotely and why within your policy.
After the pandemic, the nature of remote work policies has shifted. In the past, policies tended to determine where employees could work outside of the office. These days the focus is more on outlining expectations around when employees must come into a shared workspace. But this new trend doesn't mean you shouldn't include clarification around remote work locations. Now is the time to say if you prefer your teams not to hole up in coffee shops or face the tax complications of converting to digital nomads.
Organizing which days teams come into the office can be complicated, and there may be differing considerations for full-time and part-time workers. Many businesses have reduced their office spaces and now need to consider the potential pitfalls of hot desking. Add in the complication of social distancing, and things get even more complex!
One option is establishing a rota where each department comes in on a specific workweek day. Companies can supplement this tactic with a booking system for employees to reserve a spare desk if they want to come in on additional days. Whichever approach you choose, be transparent regarding when employees need to be in the office in your remote working policy.
Establishing parameters around the number of hours employees must be contactable is an excellent way to keep the flexibility workers are looking for while ensuring teams can effectively get through their to-do lists. Allowing flexibility outside of these key time frames gives staff the autonomy to work when they are most productive and to be able to schedule around aspects of their home lives.
Whether it's having time to pick up the kids from school or to go to a yoga class we enjoy, the last two years have shown us the importance of having a good work/life balance for our professional longevity.
Your remote working policy needs to address who will be organizing the equipment, whether there will be a stipend or if employees will need to submit receipts for reimbursement. Your policy also needs to clarify whether the equipment is solely for business purposes or whether staff can utilize it for personal reasons.
Depending on your location, there will likely be different legislation regarding cybersecurity and privacy for customers. Your remote working agreement must state all the risks and give your teams clear steps and tools like VPNs to avoid them. After outlining these considerations, ask a lawyer to double-check there isn't anything else your teams need to keep in mind to protect themselves and your business.
Defining how teams can keep in touch can remove a lot of crossed wires and headaches down the line. Boil down how virtual meetings should occur, and the software teams need to stay on track as we transition to a hybrid work model.
On top of overtime issues, there are several legal implications when employees work remotely. From taxes to benefits, legislation can vary state to state, so it's vital to seek legal counsel to ensure you are law-abiding on all fronts.
Your remote working policy should also reassure hybrid workers that they have the same legal protections and rights as their in-office counterparts. Sharing the training, benefits, and career progression staff can expect is important to reassure employees and create a supportive and legally compliant hybrid workplace.
Catherine Mann, policymaker for the Bank of England, has
sounded the alarm of a possible "she-cession"and further widening of the inequality gap as we move to increased remote working.
Mann warns that women will be left behind if employers favor office workers over remote employees. This is because women are more likely to take on flexible work arrangements to accommodate child care than their male counterparts. Executives can lead from the fore by working from home a couple of days a week to demonstrate that hybrid practices won't hinder progress within the organization.
Making space within your remote work policy to address how managers will check in to discuss career development can also help assuage these concerns, as can creating occasions to celebrate people's achievements and contributions. Setting up virtual and in-person all-hands meetings or offsites are just two methods of showing your employees their work counts.
Since setting up a home office, many workers report increased anxiety, stress, and various new aches and pains. Making provisions for both mental and physical wellbeing within your remote work policy is essential to aid employees in handling the challenges of working away from the office.
Rather than a ping pong table and a stocked snack cupboard, many companies are using hybrid working as an opportunity to swap out their in-office perks for apps or subscriptions that promote health and wellbeing. Plus, after having experienced how exhausting hours of zoom calls and video conferencing can be. Including limits to the number of virtual meetings employees can take in a day is another excellent addition to any flexible work policy.
Ask employees to schedule creative brainstorming sessions, sales meetings, and other more effective face-to-face activities within your remote work policy to promote better communication and team building. While we continue to battle new variants, guidance for in-office days might also include a code of conduct around testing and other covid regulations depending on the location of your worksites.
Creating opportunities to socialize and celebrate your wins is even more vital in a hybrid working model. Incorporating virtual and in-person gatherings into your remote working policy is a step towards strengthening your company culture. Include annual, bi-annual, or quarterly lunches or offsites to get colleagues together to catch up, build trust and have fun as a team.