If we’re being honest, work has been historically designed around an organization's needs. The shell shock of hybrid work was largely borne out of a change in priorities. All of a sudden, work could be designed around individual people. Every person started seeing how work could fit around their needs rather than their needs fitting around work.
That realization is something that can’t be undone. It’s like introducing a toddler to candy and then insisting carrots are just as good. People know that there is a better way of doing things and peddling the 9-5 in-office routine just isn’t going to cut it.
Now that we’re all sure hybrid is here to stay, we need to better understand what really makes a hybrid workplace strategy succeed.
1. Define What Hybrid Means to You
It’s hard to put your weight behind something when you can’t quite define it. Hybrid work means a lot of things to a lot of people. Before you can get into the mechanics of “how-to-hybrid” you need to understand the tools you’re working with.
Laying out how hybrid work is defined in the context of your company helps align the entire organization on what is expected. For example, is your hybrid plan contingent on a certain number of days in the office? Do you expect team members to flag their work-from-home days with their managers? Setting up these parameters paves a much clearer path forward.
2. Power Hybrid with the Right Tools
When you choose hybrid work, you choose to accept that the workplace is bigger than the office. That means, the task at hand is no longer just supporting in-office communication, but bridging the gap between distributed teams. If work happens everywhere, you need to build an eco-system that supports just that.
The vast majority of office workers agree that hybrid work and digital tools have improved relationships with coworkers but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. In fact, 49% of hybrid employees say their workplace tools just don’t cut it.
The workplace technology you have in place is the connective tissue between teams in different locations. It’s critical to find tools and solutions that work for your entire team. If people can’t connect with one another effectively, how are they going to create the bonds that make them feel truly a part of the organization?
This sense of belonging is not only good for workers but for business outcomes too. Belonging can lead to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk. This means forward-thinking leaders need to bridge the gap between the flexibility of a modern workplace, while still investing in connection-focused activities and opportunities for in-person collaboration when possible.
That’s no small job. Which is why it’s important to consider who owns these initiatives.
3. Create A Workplace Experience Team
Increasingly, we see job postings for workplace experience leaders or team members. Hybrid work is no longer an experiment. We know flexible work is the future (and present). It stands to reason, then, that there needs to be resources and people in place to ensure workplace experience is where it needs to be, regardless of location.
That’s where workplace experience teams come in, these dedicated professionals spend their time considering what makes hybrid successful and how to engage the people that power your business with this new working model.
Workplace Experience Teams: a group of professionals with a shared goal of maximizing their company's workplace experience. This can include people from HR, IT, Facilities, Employee Experience, or any other department that may intersect with workplace plans.
The focus of these teams is connection and collaboration. How can the workplace transcend physical spaces while still providing options for people to meet and bond? What steps need to be taken to ensure employees are engaged and, as a result, happy and productive?
4. Measure for Engagement, Not Output
After decades of lasering in on “hard” metrics, like output or hours-in-office, to measure success, workplaces are now focused on things like community, connection and belonging. These “soft” metrics when looked at holistically actually end up positively impacting those “harder” metrics naturally.
The World Economic Forum found that happy employees not only worked faster, making more calls per hour, but also achieved 13% higher sales than their unhappy colleagues. Happy, engaged employees are productive, high-performing employees.
So, how can you start measuring that? Employee engagement might just be the metric you’re looking for. Productivity feels a bit too hard and happiness a bit too soft but engagement encompasses all of the above.
That’s because engaging people is at the crux of employee happiness and productivity, when individuals are engaged with their work, their colleagues and their roles, they are productive and happy leading to better business outcomes. Currently, employee engagement seems to be the missing piece in the hybrid work puzzle.
Consider this: Only 21% of employees report being engaged at work. Overall, 60% of workers are disengaged, and 19% of them say they are just plain miserable.
When you factor in that Gallup estimates low engagement costs the global economy $7.8 trillion, or 11% of GDP, the importance of honing in on engagement makes perfect sense. Workplace experience teams need to understand a few key things in order to pinpoint the right plans for their people. Start by looking into workplace analytics, like office usage and check-ins, to get a better idea of what’s already working.
Prioritize People, Not Places
As you start to generate some new ideas, talk to your people. The best way to build a workplace that caters to your people is by asking them what that looks like. The most useful tool we have for perfecting hybrid is the questions we ask. Data-driven decisions build vibrant hybrid workplaces.
To learn more about how to plan for a successful hybrid strategy, check out our Hybrid Work 101 Guide with free planning templates for your unique plans.