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Setting Hybrid Work Policies at the Team Level

November 22, 2022 Employee Experience
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

As companies adapt to a variety of new work models, trying to pin down a single definition of hybrid work has been elusive at best. One company's hybrid workplace may mean employees are allowed to work from home on two predetermined days per week, while another's may mean coming into the office when the employee deems suitable.

For some companies, drawing a line in the sand is tricky. What happens, for instance, when different roles call for different hybrid work policies? Can a company establish different sets of rules based on function?

Turns out, many companies are exploring that space, setting team-based hybrid work policies that are fair, engaging and effective. But is it a good approach? And most importantly, how does it work?

Are Team-Based Hybrid Work Policies a Thing?

The ongoing debate on how to set hybrid policies has some strong advocates for setting them at the team level. After all, not every department and team across the organization have the same processes and task requirements. Setting hybrid work policies at the team level allows companies to meet the specific requirements of each function.

One of the problems with this approach, however, is that employers and employees can have different perspectives on a job's requirements. Paul Gregory, senior vice president people and culture at Mitel, said a recent Mitel survey found that 51% of workers expressed concern over their work-life balance, compared to only 23% of employers who shared that concern.

That's an important disconnect between how employees and employers view a healthy work-life relationship.

A recent Gallup survey hinted at the idea that perhaps the issue is that employers don't involve employees when making decisions on what constitutes the best policy for the team. According to the data, while senior leadership or direct managers dictate 50% of workplace policies, 46% of hybrid employees said they felt more engaged at work when it was the team that determined the policy — which only 13% of teams do.

"Employee input is notoriously effective, from collaborative goal setting to innovation — and now in determining hybrid work schedules," the report read. "The practice of asking team members to collaboratively craft their hybrid work policy is one of the most engaging single work practices Gallup has studied among employees who are returning to the office."

Related Article: Why Your Return-to-the-Office Directives Fail — And What to Do About It

4 Steps to Creating an Effective Team-Based Hybrid Work Policy

Crafting team-based hybrid work policies isn't complex, but it does require thoughtful consideration of many aspects of the business, including:

  • Organizational goals
  • Corporate culture
  • Workforce composition
  • Job requirements

Here are four relatively simple steps to getting it right.

1. Define Requirements

The first thing that team leaders need to do is define the specific requirements for the team.

According to Edward Solicito, head of marketing for Port Villa, Vanuatu-based Decode Global, it's important to first set clear expectations and guidelines for employees. Some companies require everyone comes into the office on a particular day, whereas others won't require an in-office presence at all or will leave it up to the managers' discretion.

Regardless of the situation, it's critical to first start with unmovable constraints and work from there.

If there is no hard requirement as to when employees should come into the office, then employees should be encouraged to work together as a team to set a cadence that works best for everyone. When do they all want to meet in person? Are there tasks that they would prefer to do face-to-face with colleagues?

2. Huddle Up

Make sure everyone's voice is heard and understood. A UKG survey shows that 92% of highly engaged employees believe that their employers listen to them, compared to 30% of disengaged employees. 

That doesn't mean every detail of the policy will please everyone; not everyone will agree. But the idea is to come together as a team and allow employees to feel empowered in establishing their work-life balance. After all, the Gallup survey found that 60% of employees prefer to decide when and how often they will be in the office. This is their chance to do so.

Related Article: Why HR Should Lead Your Hybrid Work Initiative

3. Agree to Policies

After listening to everyone's input and integrating the team's preferences with the company's hard requirements, the policy can be set. At this stage, it's important to be clear and explain rationally why certain aspects were implemented and others weren't.

It's important not to fake the process here by giving employees a voice and then not listening to it. If you've made it to this step in the process, the policy should include a significant portion of the team's preferences — or a very good explanation of why not.

Of course, once the policy is defined, it should be communicated to everyone and made available in the cloud where possible. Employees should have easy access to it to reference it as needed.

4. Review, Revisit and Check-in

The reality of the modern digital workplace is still evolving, and it's very likely that the hybrid work policies in place today will evolve as well. Don't just set the policy and forget it. Make sure it is regularly reviewed and updated accordingly.

It could be a change in process that triggers an update, or it can simply be a new project that requires closer collaboration for a few months. Everyone should expect things to change. This could mean adding temporary policies requiring more in-office time for a set period of time, or the reverse: providing more remote work opportunities to test out new ways of doing things.

Also remember to check-in with employees one on one to make sure things are still working as intended. Pavel Ilyusenko, VP of technology at McKinney, Texas-based ScienceSoft, recommends conducting regular one-to-ones to discuss goals, progress, needs, etc. These meetings are the perfect time to look at the workloads and performance of each team member under the new rules.

If a team member is not performing at their peak, there might be a need to adjust their schedule and encourage more/less remote work — or revisit the hybrid work policy.

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