Hybrid Work Models: A Mindful Approach

In a post-pandemic world, both employers and employees have had their past perceptions of work life challenged and both groups have had to adjust to new approaches, particularly when it comes to hybrid work models.

Although some companies are reverting back to pre-pandemic all-in office policies, the benefits of hybrid work are more apparent than ever. Employers would do well to put well considered strategies in place to effectively implement and sustain the benefits that a hybrid working model can bring, and strike the right balance between productivity and employee mental health.

Hybrid Work Models and the Fundamentals

Hybrid work is broadly defined as a model where employees are expected to attend their workplace for a set period during the working week while being permitted to work from a location other than the office for the rest of the time. If popular opinion is anything to go on then hybrid work models have been strongly embraced by employees with some 86% saying they find the model as providing the best of both worlds, they get to connect with colleagues and maximise their productive time by avoiding office distractions and a commute, to name a few.

This type of working has also evolved to include several sub-categories of workers such as:

  • Anchored – These are typically front-line positions and workers’ roles necessitate that they have a personal, assigned workspace that is linked to a specific workplace process. This role can be ‘hybridised’ by offering secluded or private enclaves for employees which they can access without leaving the office.
  • Untethered – These workers do not have a dedicated workspace, but their role requires them to be at work for a set amount of time per week, which may include shift workers’.
  • Destination – Often, but not always, these are professional employees. Their role allows them to work when, where, and how they want. They typically come to the office to take part in collaborative work such as meetings, complex problem-solving, or mentoring.

With these categories of hybrid-workers all having somewhat different needs and responsibilities, establishing a coherent work policy can be challenging for companies.

Proper Implementation Creates the Advantage

The Gartner Institute, in surveying over 400 different organisations, found that the key benefits of correctly implemented hybrid work models are as follows:

  • Increased worker performance
  • Reduced fatigue (burnout)
  • Improved employee retention

One of the challenges that exists with transitioning to this model is that companies will suddenly notice the benefits and seek to fast-track the transition to this approach. The result is often an inefficient and unproductive adoption of the hybrid work models that actively works against the company’s goals and causes unnecessary stress amongst their workers.

While the inherent semi-autonomy that comes with hybrid work may seem concerning to business leaders, workers that feel heard and supported (despite their remote employment) continue to remain productive.

Therefore, it is crucial that a structured approach, underpinned by active listening and discovery from employees, reinforced with open and clear communication is utilised, when adopting such a model. Of course, making use of centralised software platforms that encourage collaboration, while also promoting communication and connectivity, organisations make this so much easier in aggregating and facilitating all this (and more) in a single place.

Hybrid Work Models in Practise

Understandably, there can still be concerns about making use of hybrid work models, especially when compared to the ‘longevity’ of traditional models. However, considering some examples of companies that have transitioned to these new models offers some valuable alternative perspectives.

Early Advantage

Gary Cookson, an author with over 20 years’ experience in human resources, details a specific example in his HR for Hybrid Working book.

A business dealing with employee benefits out of London, implemented a hybrid work scenario several years before the pandemic. Remote working was at first challenging and at times even disruptive. Key to achieving success was ensuring all employees had access to appropriate technology and the adoption of a flexible mindset by the executive team.

In the medium-term the adoption of this work model gave them a distinct advantage during the pandemic and re-affirmed the need for companies not to remain stagnant in their working models, but to undertake some forms of controlled experimentation.

Values Based

A South African company specialising in legal analytics, used hybrid-style work settings during the pandemic out of necessity and found that through their established organisational culture (values of trust, flexibility and empowerment), they were able to keep utilising a remote office work environment afterwards. Days in the office are now used for meetings and other, more deliberate human interactions, which helps to boost internal collaboration, client connections and service.

These are just two examples of successful transitions throughout the working world and reveal that while new working scenarios may at first be turbulent, proper implementation can create balanced and productive remote work settings.

Mental Wellness

The mental health of workers plays a significant role in creating a stable and productive hybrid working environment and plays an important role in ensuring a balanced work life when away from the office.

Many will recall the uncertainty during the pandemic and these concerns continue to extend to life even now, given economic challenges and the generally stressful socio-political climate across the globe. Therefore, organisations should seek to provide support for their employees and not add to any tension they may already be experiencing.

Regularly checking in with workers and showing real concern for employee mental health goes a long way in creating an inclusive culture – even in remote office situations. There are many ways technology can enable this approach and even something as ‘simple’ as employee surveys, can be enormously beneficial in aiding an organisation’s understanding of its employees’ emotional state.

During the early transitional phases of hybrid environments, employee communication is key. It is crucial for management to stay connected and encourage open communication and feedback from employees. Having a listening tool that gives employees a voice and makes them feel heard can go a long way to improving the success of the hybrid working model. One way to achieve this is by using two-way communication where employees can provide input and ideas, give feedback and make suggestions. By listening to staff and being accommodating towards their needs, organisations are well on the road to success – according to one source, 74% of employees report they are more effective at their job when they feel heard. This is especially important when workers, who are accustomed to structured work environments, now find themselves operating independently.

Employees Best Benefitted by Hybrid Work Models

Author Jill Duffy, in The Everything Guide to Remote Work, suggests that work retreats and similar functions are excellent ways to gauge which kinds of employees will benefit from hybrid work.

Dr Annemarie Lombard, PHD, uses Sensory Intelligence®  to determine the suitability of candidates for hybrid working. Backed by years of scientific research, Sensory Intelligence® assesses how people’s senses shape their experience of the world. By understanding sensory thresholds, it is possible to create the optimum work environment for employees, and who is best suited to remote, office-base or hybrid working. Using this information, HR managers are able to make informed decisions that will be to the benefit of employee wellbeing and increasing productivity.

Furthermore, companies should take note of the worker roles and responsibilities when considering hybrid approaches. Those entrusted with high levels of responsibility (especially in manufacturing) may need to have less flexible hybrid working conditions, as they could be required to be available on site more often. And what you also don’t want to create is unhappiness because different rules apply to different people.

Given how varied the lives of many workers are, there are other aspects to consider. For example, an employee with young children will view hybrid work differently to someone who has grown children, a dedicated work area with no distractions and connectivity.

Overall, companies need to take steps to determine the right balance between employee mental health, personal conditions and their roles and responsibilities. Leveraging technological solutions can yield important insights into the work patterns of employees and help companies make informed decisions.

Key Takeaways

It is evident that the working world is changing, and businesses need to evolve alongside it to retain competitive advantages and footholds in their respective markets. The hybrid work model can be used to balance employee wellbeing and company productivity while reducing mental burnout and boosting staff retention.

Let us help you navigate your hybrid work model using the survey and two-way communication features of Wyzetalk’s employee engagement solution. Talk to an expert today.