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Changing Work Styles (Remote, Hybrid, Flexible, and Beyond)

Although there remains a significant amount of uncertainty on the efficacy and ongoing appeal of remote, hybrid, and flexible work styles, employers are still pressed to navigate productivity, logistics, and redefined leadership responsibilities to create a workplace (or workplaces) that complement their organization and industry. 

Recent research conducted by PwC confirms a moderate but ultimately significant disparity – let’s call it a philosophical divide – between employers and employees. Namely, while 55% of employees prefer to work remotely three days a week or more, 68% of employers prefer to have their employees on-site/in office three days a week or more. Let the, compromise and bargaining begin. 

Ultimately, when formulating a hybrid work configuration for your organization, you should thoughtfully reflect on which employees truly need to be in-office for a consistent, designated period of time based on their role within the company. Likewise, you should closely consider which employees would benefit from (or even require) greater latitude. 

Of course, this initial leadership-level evaluation is just one part of the equation; given the data supporting employees’ strong preference for at least partial remote work, it’s essential to communicate directly with each employee to gauge their own preferences and self-evaluation of productivity, well-being, and receptivity to each style of work. Along the way, expect the feedback to be wide-ranging. Even with a majority of employees likely to express their preference to work at least three days a week remotely, another segment of your staff will likely admit to preferring aspects of on-site work that you won’t want to jettison: in-person camaraderie, dynamics, direct communication, and socialization are among the benefits.

No to Pillars, Yes to Principles

The good news is that whether you’re working to sustain the “pros” of on-site work through a hybrid or flexible workplace model, or to approximate them through a fully remote approach, there are methods and metrics that can help you along the way. Input abounds on the subject of achieving a happy balance of autonomy and interconnectivity within a remote, hybrid or flexible workplace. - no idea what this sentence means…dress it downOften , we hear about pillars. Our recommendation is to bypass your Doric columns in favor of something more sustainable: principles and priorities that will translate across workplaces.

According to Martine Haas, Lauder Chair Professor of Management at the Wharton School, employers using a remote, hybrid, or flexible workplace model should emphasize the 5 C’s:

    • Communication – optimizing technical needs, accommodating a range of temperaments/communication styles
  • Coordination – ensuring that all staff (whether fully remote, hybrid or otherwise) are involved and integrated in important decision-making processes
  • Connection – authentically sustaining social connections among staff (ideally with an acceptable corniness quotient)
  • Creativity – leveraging the benefits of private/individual creativity and combining it with “classic” opportunities for in-person or collective brainstorming and ideation (read: the casual “sidebar” conversation that yields a promising idea)
  • Culture – how to define and embody what Haas calls, a company’s “distinctive ‘feel,’” particularly for new employees who are seeking to be a part of a distinct organization driven by a particular set of values

In concrete terms, Haas argues that employers should consider how each of the above principles can be achieved based on the work configuration they currently have in place. Nevertheless, it’s equally important to consider how these principles might be adjusted for planned changes in the near future, or if future conditions necessitate an adjustment to company-wide, fully remote work

Accordingly, the most important step is to review these five principles, “grade” your organization honestly based on present circumstances (accepting the possibility of some dreaded C’s, D’s, and F’s), and take action to change. . For instance, if your self-assessment reveals the need for in-office tech upgrades or something more nuanced, like improved hybrid work accommodations for employees with young children, solicit further feedback from employees, staff, and fellow leadership to assist with this process; time to turn those C-minuses into A+ workplace culture.

Latitude and Incentives

If you’re committed to establishing a hybrid workplace for the foreseeable future, heed the now-extensive data (including a recent report by Envoy), which shows that among the 77% of companies that have transitioned to hybrid workplaces, 56% have instituted a hybrid at-will policy, allowing employees to choose which day(s) they will work in the office. Working in tandem with this approach, 88% of companies are employing incentives to attract employees to return to traditional on-site work. Interestingly enough, food and beverage programs have emerged as the most magnetizing incentive, with social events, company events, and improvements to furniture, office amenities, and office environment, more or less tying for second place. Don’t hesitate to get creative in planning incentives and functions. In the process of gathering employee feedback about preferred work configurations, you can easily include questions about what would incentivize more regular on-site work. Inevitably, you’ll learn more about your employees and what they genuinely value.

It is now indisputable that employees across industries favor increased flexibility with regard to scheduling and increased incentives to participate in regular on-site work. By remaining receptive and adaptive to the expressed needs of your employees, it is possible to shape a workplace configuration and culture that works for your entire organization. In the process, you will instill a sense of pride in how your organization simultaneously achieves productivity, efficacy and employee wellbeing. So, remember. Solicit employee feedback. Review your principles. Self-evaluate. Incentivize (embracing the inner gourmand). Define your culture. Get to work.

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