While everyone might want to shift to a hybrid format, in some ways, your employees may not be ready for this big of a step. Here, you’ll find some accommodations and recommendations from HR and workforce expert Dr. Shirley Davis, the president and CEO of SDS Global Enterprises.
Hiccups in the process
While there will certainly be an adjustment period for new hybrid teams, management who seek a full return to the office will ultimately be disappointed. Dr. Davis notes that a recent study by KPMG reported that 87% of workplaces surveyed are looking to permanently shift to a hybrid work format where some are in the office full time, some are fully remote, and some are doing a bit of both.
“A return to the pre-COVID-19 status quo is really not an option,” Dr. Davis says. “As a matter of fact, 80% of workers said that they would turn down a job if they weren’t able to have some form of remote work.” However, working from home isn’t a walk in the park for some – offsite employees often have trouble unplugging from work, dealing with technological issues, managing their disabilities, or juggling hectic home lives.
Given these issues, how does a thoughtful, proactive HR department make sure that hybrid work isn’t just a job for single, child- and pet-free, tech-savvy, white-collar workers with strong WiFi connections and fancy ergonomic desk chairs?
Steps to tackle the shift
1. Foreseeing needs
One of the most important things for HR to remember when tackling the hybrid shift is that there are a lot of issues employees are facing, from disabilities to childcare or tech problems, and it’s your job to be prepared for all of them.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in new computers for staff that need them as well as software upgrades,” Dr. Davis begins. “There’s also a consideration of cybersecurity and how we approach that issue with remote or hybrid employees.”
Another potential need is for reimbursement, as Dr. Davis notes that electricity bills may have skyrocketed due to the increased use of lights, computers, and WiFi in employee’s homes.
“Now, employees are consuming an increased amount of utilities like electricity, cable, internet and phone,” Dr. Davis says. “So, we have to think about what our policies should be around those expenses and how we ensure that we’re supporting our employees with the necessary resources to do their jobs. It might be a benefits program for employees to get upgraded or new computers, or perhaps some kind of partnership or discount program from their local Best Buy. We also need to be thinking about what benefits we might provide to employees who are actually coming into the office, versus those who are working from home.”
Finally, Dr. Davis adds, being entirely remote can cause an issue for those with certain kinds of disabilities. This requires a certain amount of foresight by HR if they’re seeking to make an equitable hybrid workplace.
“We also have to look for ways to better accommodate people with hearing and visual impairments,” she says. “Whether it’s providing closed captions or translations in various languages, we want to make sure we’re making those types of special accommodations when it comes to training and any kind of team meeting or collaboration.”
2. Opportunities for education
Another thing that’s a tremendously valuable resource for employees is opportunities not just for advocacy by HR, but for education of their own. Primarily, of course, that’s accomplished by a receptive HR department that’s interested in employee feedback. However, there’s more to an adequate support system than surveys and 1:1s – communication goes both ways.
“We have to listen and make sure that we are hearing the voice of the employee,” Dr. Davis says. By listening, we can better understand their challenges and what they need for success. It’s important for us to communicate, communicate and then communicate some more. When people aren’t face-to-face, it’s easy to feel disconnected. We need consistent communication to make sure everyone is in the loop about what’s happening.”
In addition to being communicative with employees, HR departments also need to be constantly improving based upon that employee feedback and use their interactions as a chance to educate employees on policies, benefits, and upcoming changes. If an employee doesn’t know what they have or what they will have, it’s impossible to know if their perks are sufficient enough.
“We’ve got to continue to be flexible about what changes need to be made to our policies,” Dr. Davis begins. “It may mean updating old policies or implementing new policies that don’t even exist yet. We’ve got to be accommodating because what might be the need today for an employee, may not be the need for tomorrow. Things are continuously evolving and shifting… we ultimately need to treat this like a change management process.”
3. Train our leaders
The final way to make hybrid work equitable is to train leaders on how to do some, whether it’s altering their views on performance measurement or giving them some training in empathetic management.
“We have to think about the best ways to measure performance when we’re not as engaged or involved with each other face-to-face,” Dr. Davis suggests. “It’s different and new for many managers and leaders who have traditionally not worked from home.” Measuring performance by results rather than attendance or responsiveness, Dr. Davis adds, might be a good way to tackle this issue.
“Leaders have to ensure that they are checking on their workers and being as flexible and accommodating as possible,” she adds. “It’s a process, but we’re all in this together. HR is really a key driver to ensuring that the policies are in place, that education is happening, that we’re being flexible, that we’re properly training our leaders and that we are listening to our employees and flexing as we need to.”
Do what you can – it’s enough
Ultimately, this is going to be a bumpy process for both HR and staff. The hybrid world is a brand new phenomenon, and it’s almost impossible to predict the many detours and roadblocks that will pop up along the way. But as long as the mantra of “flexible and communicative” is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’ll be as exciting of a journey as it is scary and uncertain.
“We’re in what we’re calling Remotopia,” Dr. Davis concludes, “and the reality is that there are going to be some delays, some missteps and some lessons learned. This is new and uncharted territory for those of us in HR as well as for leaders. Policies have to be refined, leaders need to be trained, workers need a better way of collaborating with each other, and we need to ensure that we have the necessary resources in order to get the job done. That’s our new reality.”