After all the turmoil, uncertainty and upheaval of the past year and a half, one thing is clear: the world of work has changed forever. If, like countless other companies, you’re moving towards a hybrid way of working, now’s the time to make the leap from experimentation to sustainable practice.
That means making a robust hybrid work policy a top priority for your business. Designing and implementing that while still getting to grips with this emerging new way of working is a tall order, which is where these tips can come in handy. Here’s how to make your new hybrid work policy actually work.
1. Re-onboard your entire company
Pre-pandemic, onboarding was something you only did when someone first joined a company, but in our post-pandemic world it’s something companies should offer to all employees, no matter how long they’ve been part of the team. The uncertainty, unprecedented turnover, and major shifts to the way we work have deeply unsettled employees, and the shift to hybrid can have even seasoned employees feeling as though they’ve started from scratch.
To counteract this, you should take time to re-onboard the entire company—and yes, that means everyone, from junior staff members to managers! According to Harvard Business Review, there are five steps you should take to re-onboard your team:
- Invest in emotional connection as soon and as often you can
- Let employees know you value their individuality
- Work towards attaining a high level of shared knowledge
- Ensure everyone knows who knows what
- Focus initially on quick wins, encouraging your team to work towards goals they can achieve in just a few months
- Make sure you set clear expectations so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
2. Include employees in developing your hybrid work policy
One thing we’ve learned this past year is that teams want to shape the new way of working, not have it handed to them. When the world suddenly switched to remote work, many people were pretty much left to figure out this new way of working for themselves. As a result of the mass remote experiment they learned more than ever about the way they wanted to work.
Now people are aware of how and when they work best, and they expect to have more say and autonomy around work organization. We know that when it comes to the ways we work, one size definitely doesn’t fit all, and people want to play to their own particular strengths. Encourage employees to help develop the hybrid policy and be forthcoming with suggestions and ideas.
3. Be remote-first in how you communicate, organize and think
While you might think that a hybrid policy needs to go hand-in-hand with a hybrid communication structure, this isn’t actually the case. A hybrid policy needs to have a remote-first communication structure; this allows collaboration to be fluid between physical and virtual settings. Knowledge sharing becomes infinitely easier when you have an asynchronous communication record to fall back on, and you know that you can instantly find out about the actions and agreements of in-person meetings.
Plus, a remote-first communication structure also provides equal opportunity and makes sure that no setting—whether physical or virtual—is privileged. Everyone receives news at the same time and no-one’s kept out of the loop. Being remote-first also helps you build inclusivity, so you can create equity of experience between remote and in-office employees, foster a healthy company culture, and ensure silos don’t form.
4. Keep employees connected
A recent McKinsey survey highlighted the importance of keeping employees connected. According to their research, the reason that some companies experienced higher levels of productivity than usual during the pandemic was because they took steps to strengthen those small connections between coworkers—things like opportunities to talk about work, swap ideas, network, learn and mentor.
While these are all small acts of connection—McKinsey calls them “microtransactions”—they can make a big difference when it comes to employees feeling connected, engaged, and part of something bigger. But in order for these types of interactions to occur, companies will need to create the right space and environment for them to take place.
5. Treat your hybrid work policy as a work in progress
And finally, once you’ve got a hybrid work policy you’re happy with, it’s important not to just sit back on your laurels and think that’s it, job done. Take time to regularly review processes, invite feedback from coworkers, and restructure often. Successful hybrid work policies aren’t created overnight; rather, they are a work in progress and need to be continually pruned and refined.
Allow yourself time to see what works and what doesn’t, and be sure to check in often with your employees to ask about their experiences and listen to their suggestions; McKinsey refers to this as the “test and learn approach”. Remember that what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another, so be sure to approach your hybrid policy from your own individual perspective.