Does Your Hybrid Work Policy Need a Revision?
In several parts of the world, there are signs that remote work is on the decline. LinkedIn, Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter have all reported a decrease in remote job postings over the past few months.
As the labor market begins to shrink, employers are seeing an opportunity to regain control over work policies and mandate employees back into the office. Starbucks and Disney, for instance, made headlines in January when they issued their in-office mandates for all knowledge workers.
Of course, they're not the only ones. Smaller companies are also choosing to revisit their remote work policies in light of a shifting economic environment.
Meanwhile, employees continue to clamor for flexibility, and experts say organizations that choose to ignore this demand may pay the price down the road through dwindling engagement levels and losing key talent.
So, should companies try to adjust their work policy, or should they leave well enough alone?
The Case for Changing Your Work Policy
Work policies aren't carved in stone. The so-called norm has been evolving for centuries, albeit at a slow pace until now. It's nevertheless important for organizations to remain open to change to accommodate new realities.
Having a policy that is adaptive and flexible in time — something also referred to as a living policy — is crucial to fixing emerging or growing pain points and tending to areas deemed ripe for improvement. "All policies should have a cadence for review," said Kelly Beckner, vice president of human resources at workforce management firm MBO Partners.
Unfortunately, until the pandemic forced businesses into new work models, few of them had such living policies. Leaders would typically focus on improving processes, but few reviewed the place and time work was conducted. That was hardly ever up for debate.
Today's environment is bringing to light the importance of flexibility in the way employees work, and living policies are a valuable tool to finding balance between leaders' wishes and employees' needs. According to Statista, 53% of workers in the U.S. are now working in a hybrid model. That is up from 18% in 2020. Another 26% is working fully remote. This means three-quarters of the U.S. working population now works away from the physical office most of the time.
Survey after survey, we find employees reporting a high level of satisfaction with this new way of working. A Zippia research summary found 44% of employees saying they prefer a hybrid work model, and 55% saying they want to work remotely at least three days per week.
It's clear that employees are happier in today's flexible workplace than they were before. Yet, it's important to keep in mind that for many, a remote or hybrid work policy was put in place only as a temporary measure to a global pandemic. Few at the time could imagine the long-term impact that would have on the workforce.
This means many organizations' policies may not be optimal for long-term use, and leaders may see opportunities to implement further change to the way work is conducted. As we continue to adapt to changing conditions, it's important for both employees and employers to remain open to change, so long as change is implemented as a measure of improvement, rather than a misguided decision based on fear and distrust.Related Article: Change Management When Employees Are Exhausted by Change
Signs Your Hybrid Work Policy Needs to Change
There's a lot on HR teams' plate these days, but leaders can't ignore signs that the very core of the business needs attention. Regularly taking the pulse of employees on their level of satisfaction with the way they conduct work — and not the work itself — is an important part of a healthy living work policy.
Beckner said keeping an eye on market trends, employee feedback and industry best practices is often a great way to ensure your work policy is still relevant. She suggests business leaders ask themselves two critical questions when they're thinking about a change:
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What would happen if every member of your team came to work focused on finding solutions and creating better results?
- Does my policy bolster my culture?
- Does my policy positively impact the longevity or staying power of my employees?
If the answer to either of those questions is no, or if the response isn't a confident affirmative, then it's time to reflect on what needs changing.
Changes to work policies, from Beckner's point of view, should be implemented to reduce employee turnover and improve the company's culture. In other words, any change should be in the spirit of making improvements for employees rather than for leaders. This strategy makes the employee more central to the process.
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Adapting Hybrid Work Policies to — and for — Employees
An effective living work policy evolves with one goal in mind: to help employees cope with work and how it fits into their life. To build a strong, happy and committed workforce, leaders need to consider how they can meet their employees' needs to enable them to do their best work.
Dan Turchin, CEO of HR SaaS company PeopleReign, advocates for regular reviews of employee policies by assessing four elements: employee performance, productivity, morale and retention.
Indications that even just one of these factors is taking a downturn should raise a warning flag for leaders because a small decline in any of them can make a significant difference to the performance of the business. It is much more efficient for a business to tweak the work policy to boost morale and prevent employees from leaving than it is to lose 5% productivity or, perhaps even worse, 5% of its workforce.
Turchin suggests leaders ask their teams one simple question every day. The question should take no more than 30 seconds to answer and be presented as a multiple choice to facilitate analysis. An example of a question that can help is asking employees, individually, whether they believe they were more productive one week compared to another, or whether they're still happy with a particular rule or process.
Leaders may also want to ask for suggestions in how they can make the workplace even better for employees. There may be quick and easy fixes to the policy that would make a mountain of difference for workers. Having a flexible mindset and letting employees participate in building the culture are great ways to make everyone feel valued and important.
Using employee feedback to find signs that a work policy needs revision is a highly effective way to not only stay on top of issues that may be brewing underneath the surface but also to show employees you care, are listening and are ready to step into action to ensure your working relationship is healthy and strong.
About the Author
Kaya Ismail is a business software journalist and commentator with years of experience in the CMS industry.