How to Democratize Resources in a Hybrid Workplace
Research by Gallup shows access to work resources can be a challenge for employees in hybrid workplaces. Left unresolved, this situation could have a negative impact on the success of certain workers, most likely those who work remotely part of the time.
Unfortunately, this is not a new problem. Manager bias in favor of employees in the office is a well-known phenomena known as proximity bias. Joe Du Bey, CEO and co-founder at New York City-based Eden, said this requires organizational change: "To combat proximity bias, a company with remote personnel needs to do a number of things differently than a fully in-office organization."
What steps can managers take to ensure staff have fair access to the resources to complete work?
1. Check with Staff on Resources Required for Job Roles
Remote workers can complete most jobs with suitable investment. While many organizations left it to employees to provision their remote offices during the rushed work from home mandates in the spring of 2020, if working from home is part of the long-term plan, now is the time to reassess the basics.
The inventory check should include desks and chairs designed for prolonged periods of desk work. It might also include new software, hardware and other investments. These investments would be made for office employees, so why not make them for remote employees? The more work employees can complete at home, the more effective they are.
This simple process would solve one of the top challenges for remote workers. Over a third (35%) of work-from-home employees feel that access to work resources is more challenging from remote locations according to the Gallup research.
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2. Ensuring Hybrid Workers are Putting Priorities into the Right Order
The next thing to consider is ensuring remote workers effectively use their time in the office. An employee coming into the office to use equipment that could be accessed from home is not a suitable way to spend their time, especially when technology can solve this.
An employee's time in the office should be spent networking, talking to managers, in meetings, and doing other collaborative tasks. When hybrid workers are in the office, these are also excellent opportunities to build on corporate culture, ensuring all staff know and understand them.
Therefore, managers must find out what resources are being used in the office by hybrid workers and look to offer the same resources for them when they’re not in the office.
Another factor that managers could help with is creating an online scheduling system. Accessed via the company's intranet or on a Google Drive document, this could be a fair and straightforward way to manage resources/staff presences in the office.
One of the key advantages of this is that it allows managers to try and create times when all hybrid staff will be in the office, thus improving collaboration efforts. At least once a week or month, all team members should be in the office.
However, this might not always be possible, and research has found that 98% of meetings usually have at least one virtual attendee.
To help with virtual attendees, managers must also ensure that hybrid workers have a strong internet connection and good communications equipment (video and audio equipment). Some equipment embedded in laptops isn't good enough for professional meetings, and some investments can help.
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Meetings rooms should also be similarly adjusted. Large screens for showing hybrid workers attending the meetings or using Virtual Reality (VR) can make remote staff feel included.
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Another option is to see whether functions can move to a more modern version. Could equipment be provided to staff at home, or new apps/software be utilized for the remote teams to complete the work at home?
Technology has improved in numerous ways and can help with remote work without too much expense. Therefore, managers might have options that reduce the demand for resources in the office.
And it can improve the experience for all. Having VR can help all members of a team feel that they’re part of the same meeting, regardless of where they’re joining it from.
5. Speak to Employees
Finally, communications should always be open with employees. Managers should know what works for them and what is not and how managers and team members can make their work easier. Some employees might feel that hybrid working is improperly managed.
Some studies have found that employees like to work remotely but would like indications of when they might be needed in the office. Therefore, managers might need to take a more active role in managing hybrid workers, giving them details of the days they're expected to be in the office, like the scheduling option mentioned above.
Managers must also ensure that they get the balance of communications right between in-office and hybrid employees. Mark Pierce, CEO of Sheridan, Wyo.-based Cloud Peak Law Group, details how accessible managers fall into a bias trap; "they spend more time engaging with in-office employees over those who work remotely." This proximity bias can create resentment and feelings of isolation in hybrid workers, which can harm performance.
By talking regularly to all employees, managers can discover their needs. Regular meetings should include discussing equipment and resource requirements for working from home. Addressing these issues, managers should see consistent performance and productivity improvements. And it can also help with staff retention.
About the Author
Kaya Ismail is a business software journalist and commentator with years of experience in the CMS industry.