A long and empty workplace hallway - Hybrid Workplace Concept

Who's In Charge of Your Hybrid Workforce Strategy?

December 17, 2021 Digital Workplace
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Flexibility is the new normal for many companies as they adapt to remote work, either wholly or partially. While adopted grudgingly by many companies, remote work offers many benefits to employees, giving them more free time to do things they wouldn't have time to do before. It also means companies benefit from greater access to talent.

As organizations look to the future, many companies are adopt a hybrid work model rather to balance the flexibility of remote work with the need to be in the office. According to data from Microsoft, 70% of employees want to have flexible work options, while 65% want more face time with coworkers in the office. Creating a hybrid option can provide the best of both worlds for companies, but it comes with challenges.

One big one is who's in charge. As companies adopt the hybrid work model, there needs to be clear decision making about how to manage a hybrid workforce and who will do it. 

How to Keep Everyone Aligned

Consistency is usually easier to do in an office setting since everyone is located in the same place. However, when companies are working from home and the office, employees may have different priorities and resulting confusion about what should be done.

Keeping everyone aligned happens from the top down, but involves every leader within the organization, said Jason Morwick, head of remote-first at Mumbai, India-based Cactus Communications. "It is up to business leaders at all levels to ensure that their team members are informed, understand organizational goals and have clear roles and responsibilities," he said. 

Embracing a culture of diversity pays dividends across many areas of business, including hybrid workforce alignment. "A variety of different working styles, strengths and team dynamics can lead to an increase in creativity and innovative thinking — so it's important to find ways for employees to work together around these differences," said Ryan Fyfe, COO at San Francisco-based Workpuls, a workforce analytics platform. 

A hybrid workforce that separates employees working in the office from those that work from home can lead to silos that negatively impact culture. Instead, organizations should strive to include diverse perspectives in decision-making processes, pair individuals with complementary strengths, and provide support and training as necessary to keep everything and everyone on track. 

Related Article: Is Now the Time to Invest in a Head of Remote Work?

Why a Head of Remote Work Can Help

One path to consider to keep things in alignment in a hybrid environment is to hire a head of remote work. Someone in that position ensures remote operations run smoothly, and focuses on communication and strategy across departments, said Marc Stitt, chief marketing officer at Grandview Heights, Ohio-based FMX. Along with the C-Suite members, a Head of Remote Work's job is to streamline remote operations so that companies can be successful. 

Just as other roles have evolved from the overcrowded list of responsibilities in other departments, the head of remote work is a position that many companies are likely to adopt soon. He pointed the chief diversity officer as an example of how companies can evolve their approach.

"Previously, diversity was just a line item on the job description of a chief people officer, but it has since evolved," Stitt said. "As time went on, it became evident that a devoted leader like the chief diversity officer would lead to greater intentionality and acceleration." 

Who Should Run Hybrid?

Leaving the responsibility of a remote work implementation or hybrid coordination to an HR professional may seem like a good idea at first but can be detrimental in the long run. This person will be responsible for overseeing training and policies as well as assessing technology, project management and communication tools.

"HR professionals have many responsibilities, and adding something as significant and large as a remote work implementation can be overwhelming if someone is not dedicated to leading it," Morwick said. 

So when should a company start hiring for the role if they didn't have one before? For companies thinking of implementing such a role, sooner is better than later as it can mean a complete upheaval of company culture when a large number of employees are already working remotely.

"If you think you want or need a head of remote work, don't wait until you're at over 20% remote headcount," Fyfe said. "Earlier is better because they can help revamp your existing culture."

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