In this segment of “Office Optional with Larry English,” Larry shares four signs indicating your hybrid strategy isn’t working.
You may think your hybrid strategy is going well, but do your employees agree? Jabra, a Danish audio equipment company, recently surveyed 5,000 knowledge workers around the world and found that just over half of employees believe their companies are prepared for hybrid work – compared to 74 percent of leaders.
A lot is at stake for getting hybrid right. For one, talent retention: Over half of employees are saying they don’t want to work for a company that requires full-time onsite work. A well-executed hybrid strategy can also improve employee engagement, productivity and satisfaction, thereby strengthening company culture.
A poorly executed hybrid workplace, on the other hand, could lead to talent loss and cause employees who stick around to feel unmotivated, isolated and burned out.
My company has worked with clients on designing and executing hybrid workplace strategies. Following are four of the biggest warning signs that your hybrid strategy needs help:
Employees feel like they’re always “on.”
If employees are feeling isolated or burned out because of poor work-life balance, you need to help them set healthy boundaries by clearly communicating the company’s expectations for hybrid work. As a leader, you must then model the behavior and empower employees to follow suit.
Limiting hours on chat platforms (and using the “do not disturb” option for off hours), sending emails only during business hours, taking breaks and vacation days – and being upfront about all of this – are just a few examples of how you can demonstrate to employees that they have some autonomy in designing their day. Just because their home and office are one and the same doesn’t mean they never get to leave work behind.
Noticeable dips in performance could be another indicator of dwindling employee wellbeing. If people regularly use avoidance techniques, such as showing up late to meetings or opting out of using their cameras during videoconferences, they could be feeling depressed. Your hybrid strategy may need to find better ways of connecting them to their teammates.
You’re losing the talent war.
You’ll know your hybrid strategy is lacking if your attrition rate is suddenly up. When an employee doesn’t have strong ties to the company or their teammates and is logging most of their hours from home, the friction to switch jobs is dangerously low – especially when you add in a hot job market.
For hybrid to work, you must foster strong relationships among your teams and help employees feel connected to the company’s mission. Because this is more difficult when people aren’t physically together, your hybrid strategy must include intentional relationship-building.
During a big transition such as the move to permanent hybrid work, it’s also a good idea to dig into why employees stay. Do they love your mission and find their work meaningful? Is it the people? The opportunities for career growth? Whatever the reasons, reinforce them to make sure your best people have a good reason for sticking around.
Employees seem confused about what hybrid means for them.
The Jabra study referenced above also found that 28 percent of employees feel there’s a lack of clarity around when to work onsite and what work should be done there.
This perhaps isn’t surprising, as “hybrid” is a nebulous term that companies are using in several different ways. It could mean anything from going into the office a few designated days a week to having complete autonomy to choose when and where you work.
In other words, you must clearly define what hybrid means for your organization. What are the expectations for being in the office? How will collaboration work? What’s the protocol for a meeting with some people on site while others log in remotely? If you’re requiring people to be in the office some of the time, why?
People are searching for an anchor in their work life, and it’s important they know how free they are to manage and define their own workday.
Your leaders measure employees by hours worked rather than productivity, outcome and results.
Seventy percent of employee engagement is driven by their manager, yet in the hybrid world, leaders can’t rely on the same playbook that worked when everyone was in the office all the time. They must know how to build intentional touchpoints with their people and maintain strong relationships virtually.
Leaders also must course-correct their perception of what makes for a hard worker. High visibility – the worker who comes early, stays late, answers emails at all hours of the day – is no longer relevant (and never should have been in the first place).
Instead, managers should focus on the results employees produce. They should retool productivity measures, tying them to the work that gets done, not the hours logged. Leaders must know how to set and cascade goals and hold progress meetings, so people know where they stand before performance review time comes around. Above all, leaders must demonstrate trust in their people, so employees aren’t anxious about being “seen” as a hard worker.