In this segment of “Office Optional with Larry English,” Steve Jenkins and Verna Montgomery join Larry in discussing some of the risks companies face when attempting to implement a hybrid work strategy alone.
In response to the overwhelming evidence that employees don’t want to go back to full-time office life, companies everywhere are adopting hybrid workplace models. What many of them are quickly discovering is that going hybrid is not so straightforward.
Centric Consulting knows hybrid. After all, we’ve been a virtual-first company since the very beginning, more than 20 years ago. Our experts guide clients in a variety of industries step-by-step through creating hybrid workplace strategies using a robust suite of best-practice accelerators and learning tools – these combine our real-world experience with the latest research and best practical advice out there.
Here are four of the biggest risks we’ve seen companies take when going hybrid without help:
1. Employees resist the shift to hybrid.
Organizations that go hybrid by default rather than by design too often start the process by announcing their intention to go hybrid. Instead, they should first lay the strategic foundation, making a business case for the shift and developing a strategic method to earn employee buy-in. Otherwise, employees often feel like hybrid is something that’s being done to them instead of with them.
Another common misstep is companies don’t take time to methodically find out what employees truly want. Do they wish to continue working remotely? How much? Do they find value in spending time in the office? Why? We’ve found that leaders often make assumptions that miss the mark.
Without a purpose-driven return to work strategy, employees may view the change as an attendance-taking exercise that does not appropriately acknowledge role-based productivity, flexibility and work-life balance considerations.
2. Employees are confused about what hybrid means for them.
One recent study found that 28 percent of employees feel there’s a lack of clarity around what hybrid means in their organization. When going hybrid solo, companies often use the term loosely and don’t stop to suss out exactly what hybrid means for their unique company and unique employees – simply copying what others in the industry do won’t result in a formula for success.
3. The challenges you had before going hybrid only get worse.
Going hybrid won’t magically erase the challenges organizations face. If a company routinely hits snags around collaboration, conflict resolution or communication, to name a few common examples, going hybrid may only make things worse.
Before diving into a new way of working, it’s smart to diagnose current weak spots and figure out how the hybrid dimension will add or take away from that. Solve the current problems before layering new complexity on top.
4. Retention and engagement rates decrease.
Going hybrid changes everything about the employee experience, from how employees communicate with colleagues, earn recognition from leadership, are evaluated by their managers, and so forth.
Companies that go hybrid alone often fail to train employees and leaders for these changes. What leadership skills are needed when teams aren’t face-to-face? How do you build strong relationships virtually? How do you encourage employees to set smart boundaries between their work and home lives?
If employees are left to figure out all this on their own, they’ll end up feeling isolated, burned out and have a total lack of work-life balance. In addition to seeing decreased engagement levels, companies could also lose talent – which many organizations can’t afford in the current tight labor market.
Bringing In the Hybrid Experts
You can’t simply tell employees they can work remotely some of the time and call it a day. There are various other details to consider, including workplace vision, talent lifecycle, virtual leadership, workplace collaboration and technology, real estate, security and digital process modernization.
It’s a decision with implications for every part of your business. Connect with a partner to make sure you hit every detail in your hybrid workplace strategy, so your company and employees thrive.