The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many companies to adopt remote work policies to protect their employees. Now, as vaccination rates increase and infection rates decrease, some companies are considering bringing their employees back to the office. However, new data suggests that employees are happy with flexible work policies and prefer a hybrid working arrangement with access to a physical workspace as an option.

The Case for Flexible Work Policies

According to a survey by Future Forum, a consortium focused on the future of work, employees with flexible work models were 57% more likely to say their company culture had improved over the past two years compared to fully in-person workers. They cited flexible work policies as the primary reason their culture is improving. Additionally, flexible workers were equally or more likely to feel connected to their immediate teams, direct managers, and employer’s values.

Why Hybrid Work Arrangements Work

The survey also revealed that 67% of respondents preferred a hybrid working arrangement with access to a physical workspace as an option. However, executives are most concerned about employee engagement, company culture, productivity, and innovation when it comes to offering flexible work policies. One of the top concerns is that culture may be negatively impacted. Nonetheless, compared to fully in-office workers, flexible workers are equally or more likely to feel connected to their team and employer’s values.

Creating Connections in a Hybrid World

Companies are now redefining culture and investing in new ways to create connections in a hybrid world. The most successful executives are setting overall guardrails in terms of what they would like to see and then getting out of the way, according to Sheela Subramanian, cofounder and VP of Slack’s Future Forum. However, flexible and hybrid work is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and companies that are experimenting with various models are the ones succeeding.

One way that companies are normalizing in-office work is through notices. At SymphonyAI, the enterprise AI company, they use “in-office” notices instead of just “out-of-office” messages. By doing so, they normalize the idea of employees being in the office and unavailable, just as they would if they were out of the office. This helps to create a sense of normalcy and encourages employees to use the office space more effectively.

More Data and Examples

The Future Forum survey provides valuable insights into the preferences and experiences of workers with flexible work policies. However, other data also supports the case for hybrid work arrangements. For example, a survey by Buffer found that 98% of remote workers would like to continue working remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. Additionally, a study by McKinsey & Company found that 40% of executives plan to adopt a hybrid work model in the future.

Some companies have already successfully implemented hybrid work arrangements. For example, Dropbox is offering its employees the option to work from home permanently. They have also invested in new technologies and tools to help their employees collaborate and stay connected. Similarly, Twitter is allowing its employees to work from home indefinitely, even after the pandemic ends.

Recommendations for Companies

  1. Assess your company’s needs: Before implementing a hybrid work model, it’s important to assess your company’s needs. This includes looking at the nature of your business, the job functions of your employees, and the tools and technologies needed to support hybrid work. Understanding your company’s needs will help you create a model that works for your specific situation.
  2. Set clear guidelines: Once you’ve determined your company’s needs, set clear guidelines for your hybrid work model. This includes outlining the expectations for when employees are expected to be in the office, when they can work remotely, and what tools and technologies they should use to stay connected.
  3. Communicate with employees: Communication is key to the success of a hybrid work model. Make sure to communicate the guidelines and expectations to your employees, and be open to feedback and suggestions. You should also communicate regularly with employees to ensure that they are staying connected and productive.
  4. Invest in technology: Hybrid work models require the right tools and technologies to be successful. Invest in tools that facilitate collaboration, such as video conferencing, project management software, and communication tools like Slack. You should also invest in cybersecurity measures to ensure that remote workers are accessing company data securely.
  5. Experiment with different models: As mentioned earlier, hybrid work is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Experiment with different models to find what works best for your company and your employees. This may involve trying different schedules, work arrangements, or even office layouts.
  6. Prioritize company culture: Maintaining company culture is important in a hybrid work environment. Make sure to prioritize team-building activities and communication to ensure that employees feel connected to the company and each other. You may want to consider in-person team-building activities, even for remote workers.
  7. Provide support and training: Hybrid work may be a new experience for some employees. Make sure to provide support and training to ensure that they understand the expectations and how to use the tools and technologies provided. This will help employees feel more comfortable and productive in a hybrid work environment.

By following these steps, companies can successfully implement hybrid work models that keep employees happy and productive, while also meeting the needs of the business.

In conclusion, as the world continues to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the future of work remains uncertain. However, one thing is clear: hybrid work arrangements are here to stay. Companies that prioritize building connections, maintaining company culture, and experimenting with different models will be well-positioned to keep their employees happy and productive in this new era of work. By being open to new and creative ways of working and investing in the right tools and technologies, companies can successfully navigate this period of transition and build a more resilient, flexible, and productive workforce for the future.

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