hybrid working

Hybrid Working – It’s Not Going Away, So Why Not Improve It?

Employers across the world are expressing an increased desire to have their workforce return to the office. A survey involving 1,000 company leaders conducted in the US found that 90% of companies plan to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024, with 30% of these threatening to fire those employees who do not comply. A mere 2% of leaders surveyed said their company never plans to require employees to work in person[1].

This was supported by a recent survey conducted by KPMG, which found a majority of CEOs (64%) expected a full return-to-office within the next three years[2]. 87% were more likely to reward employees who came to the office with more favourable assignments, raises, or promotions.

We are starting to see the effects of this as office occupancy rates have been steadily increasing since the COVID lockdowns, with a stronger-than-expected rebound in the office property market[3].

However, while CEOs and Senior Managers are heavily pushing for this return, it is a different story for many employees. Over 2/3rds of employees want to and expect to continue working from home at least half of the time, over 2/5ths would leave their current job if they didn’t have the option of remote work at least two days a week, and over 3/4s will feel happier, more engaged, and less stressed if they have permanent opportunities to work remotely at least two days a week[4].

The result has been a hybrid working model to accommodate the expectations of both parties, and the reality is this is not likely to change anytime soon, as signs still indicate it is a candidate’s market in white-collar industries[5]. Professionals have the option to look elsewhere and easily find work if their working needs are not met, therefore those employers who are demanding a full-time return to the office may find themselves receiving resignation letters and reduced job applications.

One of the main reasons employers may dislike remote working is the perceived lack of visibility. How do you measure performance, manage, and develop culture when you don’t have the full team in the office every day?

Solving this question will ensure you maintain and even boost company performance while keeping your employees happy and ensuring they do not start looking elsewhere for work.

The answer is all about data and communication. Below are some tools and methods you can use to ensure you appropriately manage your remote employees and put your mind at ease.

Cognitive and Behavioural Testing.

This is highly useful for identifying how each employee manages hybrid working environments. You can identify traits such as their Independence, Learning Styles, Resilience, Decision Making, and desire for social interaction to receive insight as to whether they would be effective working from home most days of the week, or if they’d be better suited to a predominantly office-based role. You can also ascertain how much guidance and support they would need from you. This ensures you know which employees to prioritise for training, and which employees perform better in the office vs at home.

This testing is also helpful for succession planning. By identifying the cognitive and behavioural traits of an effective leader, you have more information to work with when deciding who to promote, even if you only see potential candidates one day a week.

180-degree Performance Reviews.

Performance evaluations can be tricky in hybrid models. How can you accurately evaluate performance when you rarely see employees face-to-face? 180-degree performance surveys request both the employee and manager to assign a performance rating across key competencies. These are compared to identify gaps and to promote constructive discussion on which areas need to be improved and which are key strengths. When the employee does come into the office, you are more aware of what to focus on.

Scheduled Office Days.

Implement one or two days where you expect all staff to be present. This will ensure that you retain company culture and facilitate face-to-face interactions. It also gives you the opportunity to be more flexible on the other days in terms of whether employees want to work remotely or in person.

Be Objective.

It may be hard to trust that your employees are going to be at their desks during their working hours when working remotely. However, it is important to put this subjective mindset at rest and focus on their outcomes instead. Are they delivering on their expectations? Are they available if you give them a call during work hours? Are they working effectively with their team members where required? If yes, then it doesn’t matter where they are – they are still performing to expectation or higher and therefore doing the job you are paying them to do. If not, however, that is when it is reasonable to expect increased time in the office to facilitate more hands-on training.

Don’t Punish Employees Who Work Remote.

This will only build a culture of resentment, distrust, and hostility with your employees. You can expect to see lower engagement, lower performance, and eventually higher turnover rates as a result. Those who turn up every day aren’t always going to be your best employees! Would you prefer to keep a high-performing staff member who beats their targets yet works from home a few days a week, or an average staff member who is not engaged or passionate but is in every day?

Being data-driven, objective, and flexible in how you manage hybrid working arrangements is the best way to ensure the needs of the employer and employee are met. Doing so will also make it more likely you attract and retain top-performing staff, who will go above and beyond for your company because they are being looked after.

If you’d like to discuss this in further detail, please feel free to contact our Head of Organisational Psychology, Michael, at michael@peoplogica.com.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/11/90percent-of-companies-say-theyll-return-to-the-office-by-the-end-of-2024.html

[2] https://kpmg.com/xx/en/home/insights/2023/09/kpmg-global-ceo-outlook-survey.html

[3] https://www.commo.com.au/news/2023/09/27/australian-cbd-office-occupancy-proves-be-strong-cbre/1695777470

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/glebtsipursky/2023/04/24/what-do-employees-want-when-they-return-to-the-office/?sh=76f0de9c63fe

[5] https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/careers/candidates-still-have-the-upper-hand-in-a-tight-jobs-market-20230915-p5e4z4

Written by Michael Mancinone

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