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Future of Work Wednesdays: Hybrid Work is About Offering Choices

future of work wednesday
Britta Schellenberg
Published on

We’re entering an era of workspace choice. A time when different employees with different functions and different daily use cases expect viable options around how and where they do their best work. 

 For some, the office will always be the right option. After two long years of social distancing, many employees look forward to returning to the energy, collaborative spirit, and cultural nexus of the office. 

Employers will benefit from serving employee needs and making the office an attractive hybrid space for serving employee needs (since it’s no longer the default). 

Inc: Ask Your Employees & Offer Choices

A recent article from Inc. makes the case that listening to employees and offering them choices is the best way forward for hybrid work. Inc. says that any hybrid workplace strategy should be based on “in-depth employee sensing and human-centric design” informed by continuous feedback from employees.

It all “begins by having a full understanding of who wants to work in the office with what frequency and with what level of intensity each workday and within each working week,” the article says. 

Hybrid work choices will become crucial for attracting and engaging top talent. “For some employees, flexibility to work remotely or in a hybrid manner will be a key determining factor for selecting a future job,” says Inc. For other employees, “the possibility of dynamic and engaging ‘peak experiences’ via physical workplaces will be the critical perk that leads to greater employee engagement and loyalty.” 

Different employees can make different workspace choices on different days: employers are best served by listening to their needs and offering them good choices, not mandates.

Employers who want employees back in-office can “pull” them in with perks they can’t get at home. “To support people choosing their in-office days, consider hosting learning events, entertainment events, or personal coaching sessions that will fully engage employees in the office,” suggests Inc

Protocol: Technology is a Key Enabler of FoW

In a recent article, Building for the Future Workplace, Protocol stresses the importance of:

  1. Listening to employee preferences and; 
  2. Responding to preferences with enabling technologies (such as Robin). 

On the “sensing” front, Protocol asks: “Are you offering [employees] the ability to provide their feedback, and their input, and be a part of the products or solutions that you're building?” Robin gives you that “sensing and responding” capability.

Protocol positions workplace technology solutions as enablers of productivity and employee experience: “Developing a future-proofed workplace isn’t easy,” explains the article, “look at your technology stacks and understand where you have gaps, look at where you can make some quick wins” for supporting employee choice.

One size will not fit all, so employers should offer a menu of enabling choices: Make the office attractive, make virtual options attractive, and let employees choose what’s best for their needs. 

Employees have never been more willing to leave organizations that don’t give them any other choice.  

Microsoft Work Trend Index & Google RTO: Potential Showdown Ahead

A majority of surveyed CEOs have “expressed concerns” about remote and hybrid work models because they believe they diminish organizational culture, collaboration, and relationship-building. CEOs are not necessarily wrong here, but “forcing” people back into the office is NOT the answer – unless the question is, “how can we get our talent to leave in droves?” 

The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index shows that half of surveyed business leaders said their company plans to have everyone return to the office full-time within the next year. Problem is, most employees (consistently above 70%) want a remote work option for at least some of the week. 

About half of employees are so committed to hybrid work that they’d take a pay cut to maintain it or just quit if their existing employer eliminated the remote work option.

Google, for instance, may soon be facing a showdown with employees. The tech giant has asked employees to return to the office at least three days per week as of April 4th. As Business Insider reported, employees pushed back at the company’s leadership during an all-hands meeting about the RTO policy, which many Google employees joined remotely. 

One employee asked: "Google made record profits through the pandemic (and WFH), [automobile] traffic has already increased (at least in the Bay Area) with gas prices at a record high, and people have different preferences for WFH vs. work from the office. Why is the RTO policy not 'Work from office when you want or when it makes sense to?'" 

What’s at the root of that question is a lack of underlying trust between leadership and employees, something that’s prevalent across the economy. Who will “win” this showdown? Perhaps a better question might be: “how should organizations go about making these important decisions?” 

One thing’s certain: employees want flexibility and choice, and will seek out employers who trust them enough to listen. 

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