How Deliberate, Considerate Hybrid Offices Are the Future of Work
For the millions of workers who were sent home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was initially jarring. How much of people’s personal lives were going to be on camera? Would office work feel disrupted with dogs or bikes in the background of a video call? Thankfully, workers adjusted to their new reality, and remote work flourished.
Workers will soon face another potentially jarring paradigm shift: the return to the office. Employers have already started asking (or demanding) that workers go back to the office, either in part or permanently. But “the office” as both a space and a concept has transformed over the past two years. Going back won’t be as simple as flipping a light switch.
To further explore the state of remote work, we spoke to Micah Remley, CEO of Robin. Remley believes that hybrid work is the future — giving employees the option of working entirely at home, solely in the office or a combination of the two. But bringing employees back into the office — even for one day a week — will take deliberate planning and careful consideration.
Reimagine the Office Experience
As leaders strategize the return to the office, they should keep this in mind: the office shouldn’t duplicate the remote work experience. Why should employees be forced to commute to a physical space just to conference call all day? They can do that just as easily at home.
But the office does have advantages over remote work. Remley argues that the office should be redefined for how in-person work is better than remote work.
“Where office work succeeds is in team collaboration,” says Remley. “We're seeing teams be very well connected to each other, but outside of teams is where communication breaks down. The office should be thought of as a place where teams can come together and collaborate more cross functionally. It should be a destination space, not just a place where people go to sit on video calls.”
Recognize How Your Hiring Changed
Remote work broadened the labor pool, and leaders were able to look beyond physical restrictions to recruit the best talent. With remote work transitioning to a hybrid model, companies need to tread carefully about how they treat their newly acquired workers (who may live hours away from the corporate headquarters).
“Everyone has changed their hiring practices, expanding their talent pool to employees who live 50, 70 miles or more away from the office,” says Remley. “Singling out the employees who live closer for in-person work feels arbitrary to them — especially if those workers can do their jobs remotely.”
With an expansion of the labor pool came companies’ ability to hire the best talent. And employees responded, raising productivity levels even while working from home. When transitioning to hybrid work, it’s important not to destroy that sense of employees' feelings about their jobs.
Remley draws the line from in-office mandates to a diminished sense of employee trust. “We've seen very few mandates actually work,” says Remley. “Your employees have shown they can do their jobs remotely and remain productive. Why damage that trust by forcing them to come into the office?” Remley draws the line from in-office mandates to a diminished sense of employee trust. “We've seen very few mandates actually work,” says Remley. “Your employees have shown they can do their jobs remotely and remain productive. Why damage that trust by forcing them to come into the office?”
Rather than mandate employees return to the office, Remley suggests reevaluating the metrics around how you measure good work. “SMART goals will continue to be one of the best ways to measure what good hybrid work looks like,” says Remley. “Managers should focus more on how employees are achieving their goals and less on how much face time they’re getting with their direct reports.”
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Redefine Your Work Culture
One of the drawbacks to entirely remote work is the difficulty building a company culture. The spontaneity of chatting with people in the breakroom or in the halls is lost. Apps have tried to replicate that through virtual socializing but such things require intention.
“It’s very hard to replicate culture when working purely remotely, and what you're left with are individuals who don’t have very strong ties to the organization” says Remley. “So retention will be a key component of organizational culture, which starts by making the office and the organization a place where employees feel like they belong and work with people who share their values.”
Let’s face it: the future of work won’t look the same for all workers. There are whole industries for whom remote work has never been an option.
“For industries that have to do their work in person we're seeing more of a tolerance to having more days in the office, and just because that's the workplace culture,” says Remley.
But for those who can do work remotely, how companies entice those workers to return to the office will be a delicate balance.
“Hybrid work will play a huge role in giving employees autonomy and control, but at the same time, leaders must ensure that employees are achieving their long-term career objectives. This will take careful planning to redefine the office as a destination where collaboration happens and culture thrives.”
Learn how Robin can help manage your hybrid workforce at robinpowered.com.