Regardless of one’s own personal feelings on the matter, remote work is here to stay and hybrid work is the future for many remote-capable employees. Given this, it’s important for leaders and organizations to treat and approach hybrid work as an entirely new way of working together instead of an employee perk.
What do the numbers say?
As many companies around the world scrambled to abruptly shift to into remote work at the start of the pandemic, this highlighted just how many jobs were “remote-capable”, a.k.a. could be done remotely from home at least part of the time. In fact, approximately half of the U.S. full-time workforce which accounts for more than 60 million workers are remote-capable. A recent study from Gallup found that while only 8% of remote-capable employees were allowed to work exclusively from home pre-pandemic, by May 2020 70% of remote-capable employees worked exclusively from home. While these numbers adjusted as health regulations have changed over the years, in February 2022 42% of American remote-capable employees had shifted into a hybrid schedule and 39% still worked entirely from home. Statistics Canada recorded similar statistics – in January 2021, 32% of Canadian employees aged 15 to 69 primarily worked remotely from home, compared with just 4% in 2016.
Remote work has also proved to be successful – in fact, 66% of surveyed companies found that adapting to remote work prevented layoffs during the pandemic. Another 2-year study of 800,000 employees found that productivity was stable or increased when employees were allowed to work remotely. Additionally, 54% of employees currently working exclusively from home said they would likely look for another job if their employer stopped offering remote-work options; 38% of hybrid workers said the same.
So, How can leaders adapt?
Compassionate leadership and supporting your people as humans first, employees second is the key. Fostering a positive workplace culture where employees feel seen and valued increases long-term productivity and loyalty. Consistent and transparent two-way communication with your people regarding shifting work arrangements, strategic goals, deliverables, and more provide clarity and comfort during times of uncertainty. Similarly, providing space for your employees to share their frontline experiences and concerns as well as collaborate on creating solutions allows your organization to not only be agile in the market but also boost employee engagement and retention.
There is no one single hybrid work framework or policy that will be ideal for all organizations or even all teams within one organization. Many variables, such as organizational size, workplace culture, teams spanning multiple time zones, and individual roles/work can affect what works and doesn’t work within your own organization’s hybrid work experience. However, establishing general frameworks within hybrid workspaces is extremely important and beneficial for the employee experience. For example, setting boundaries of when employees are and are not expected to be available provides clarity and can help reduce stress and burnout. Similarly, encouraging managers to frequently check in and communicate with their teams can also help provide clarity and increase employee engagement and productivity.
Give a Compelling Reason to Come into the Office
Simply demanding workers come into the office because you say so will only create resentment and possibly lower productivity, especially if it requires a long and unnecessary commute to do work they’re perfectly capable of doing remotely. Instead of having the office be simply a formal place to complete one’s work in, redesign your office to be a space for creative collaboration and fostering camaraderie. In fact, a study by PWC revealed that 87% of employees say the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships– their top-rated needs for the office.
Want more practical tools and strategies?
Join us in our Adapting Leadership for the Evolving Workplace RealizeU course where we explore current successes and challenges within the workplace and co-create a toolkit of practical management strategies to make your workplace (whether in-person, remote, or a hybrid) welcoming, inclusive, and effective.