6 Steps to Make Remote and Hybrid Work Fair to All
It almost goes without saying that the way we work has shifted dramatically in recent years. Remote work has flourished over the last 18 months, with some businesses choosing to abandon their physical offices in favor of work-from-home setups. For some employees, they no longer are restricted to a single location to get work done.
However, for others, there is still some appeal to having a physical office where workers can come together most days of the week, with the flexibility to work from home on a few occasions. According to Accenture, 83% of workers prefer this hybrid model. Whether or not the pendulum swings back to a preference for in-office work, the reality is remote work is hear to stay for the near future.
With some employees choosing a digital nomad lifestyle that allows them to work anywhere year-round, companies trying to manage both their nomads and in-office employees who can't travel to the same degree need to consider a few rules to ensure workplace harmony.
Here's what organizations can do to create a fair working environment for everyone.
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Choose a Model That Suits the Company
Ultimately, company leaders need to make a choice that fits the organization. "The best model for your workplace is the one that suits your current teams and the people you're trying to recruit," said Adrianne Barlow, senior business people partner at San Francisco, Calif.-based Codility, a testing and recruitment platform for software developers.
This includes taking into account differences in geography and demographics. Many organizations already consider themselves remote-first. However, when many employees are located in the same city, it might be good to schedule a time for everyone to meet at a physical office or co-working space.
Listen to Employees
While it's important to make things fair for everyone, businesses should trust their employees to choose the option that's right for them. This way, no one decides to work in an office when they would rather work from a remote location.
Fairness doesn't come into question when employees have some power to make a decision, said John Keating, managing director of Manchester, England-based digital marketing agency Dark Horse.
"Individuals have different wants and needs, and to that end, fairness shouldn't be an issue. Some may want full-time in the office, and some will want the opposite," he said. "It's not a right/wrong situation."
Barlow said surveys can sometimes help develop answers to what employees want. Through surveys, her company was able to glean that "most, but not all, of our employees liked working remotely and having the flexibility to live outside major metropolitan areas or not worry about their commute time," she said.
However, having the flexibility to do both should be extended to those who aren't entirely sure they're ready for 100% remote.
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Consider the Role
Even though many people worked remotely over the last few months, not every role can be made into a remote role. And, of course, some essential workers such as healthcare workers, grocery store employees and emergency personnel never had the choice to work remotely or not.
Certain operational roles require an in-person presence, said Louis Alterman, CEO of Norcross, Ga.-based Stratix, an IT service management company. "So we have to delineate between those where it's possible and those where it is not," he said.
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For some roles, it may be beneficial to have one office location and encourage members of a particular team that works closely together to meet in person when possible.
When some employees are working remotely while others are in the office, it's important to do things that bring the team together and avoid having them feel disjointed. Team-building events and get-togethers in places where everyone can attend is one way to achieve this.
"Make concerted efforts to foster camaraderie and consider specifically budgeting for team-building events or off-sites with plenty of unscheduled time built in for more casual interactions," Barlow said.
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Remember, It Starts at the Top
While listening to employees is essential, it's also critical to remember that the final decision should depend on what's best for the company.
"In our company, we respect individual choices wherever possible, but the collective comes first," Keating said. "We also look to build a culture where individuals want to put the collective first, also."
Even though getting everyone to buy in to the needs of the many rather than the few is difficult, having a company culture that encourages this can help establish a fair work environment.
For the majority of organizations, the hybrid workplace is a new undertaking. Companies need to take this into account when considering how to approach balancing in-office and remote work.
"Old methods for communication and feedback need to be revised," Alterman said. "We use data to understand how the team functions and are prepared to make frequent tweaks and changes to keep everything running smoothly."
Clear communication from the top and making changes when necessary can help companies to achieve success.