What does the post-lockdown hybrid world of working look like?

Lead the way in accommodating your workforce in the new hybrid working world by blending both remote and onsite work

Many businesses have mentioned wanting to bring their workforce back to the office as soon as possible. Goldman Sachs’ boss recently stated that remote working wouldn’t become the new norm for the company and that it simply did not suit the bank’s working culture. With Boris Johnson also saying that workers will return to offices in a few short months, it seems like we are on the verge of leaving the Zoom calls behind to hop back on the commuter train with our packed lunches, right? But is this what employees truly want? 

Research conducted recently amongst 9,000 knowledge or skilled office workers worldwide says… Kinda. Opinions are actually quite divided. According to the results of the study, nearly 40% just want to go back to the old normal, whilst just under 30% never want to go back to the office at all. The rest are in the middle, hoping for a more flexible solution. The truth is that some of us have thrived working from home in the last year, whilst others have hated every minute. And simply going back to the old ways is no longer an option, as it could mean alienating a third of your workforce. But if neither end of the spectrum is ideal, what does the future look like for organisations? How can businesses handle the polar opposites that now need to coexist? We’ve got two words for you: employee experience. You’ll have a bit of homework to do, and the only way to do it is to put on a customer lens and review your entire employee lifecycle to ensure it suits both your remote and onsite workers. 

It may seem like the COVID-19 lockdown is about to be lifted, but the good news is that there is still time to start laying down the foundations for the new hybrid world of working. And the really really good news is that Let’s Talk Talent is here to help. Whether you are a small company or a multinational, size does not matter. It’s up to you to take the lead and embrace the biggest wave to hit businesses in recent time, generating positive change for your people. 

The new parameters 

Before planning your employees’ return, it may be worth establishing the lay of the (new) land. What’s different? In short, the balance of power has shifted. Quarantine has allowed people to rediscover what is important to them professionally and personally, and they are ready to make changes accordingly. The power is in your employee’s hands, and the way you bring your people back could determine whether they see your organisation as a place where they could thrive.

Many companies are already leading the way by adopting new flexible measures order to both retain and attract great talent. HSBC, for example, has announced that its employees could continue to work in a hybrid model, whilst Microsoft has stated that their staff could work from home for approximately 50% of their work week. With those options now available in the market, simply reverting back to the way things used to be may not be enough to hold on to your people. 

But whilst the competitive edge that flexibility could give you over other organisations is not negligeable, it’s also important to consider another factor in the equation: being human. Change, in all shapes and forms, is a process that requires time and adaptation. And when the pandemic hit a year ago, we all had to learn very quickly how to cope with completely new parameters. Now that things are about to change all over again, this could feel just as disorienting as the first wave. Some may feel like their feet haven’t touched the ground in over a year, and threading with care, empathy and understanding should be at the heart of everything you do. 

Planning your return to work 

There are several ways to approach the return to work, but those who choose a ‘command and control’ model may struggle. The argument around employees not being as productive at home simply doesn’t hold anymore, with most of the population functioning efficiently over the last year. In fact, the workday has increased by 48.5 minutes in the last 12 months and meetings have gone up by 13%. The new remote reality has also led to people being empowered to make decisions as managers had to set aside micro-management and grant their teams more autonomy. With many staff members stepping up to the challenge and showing they can be trusted to keep the business running in times of crisis, businesses may need to recognise that the age-old parent-child relationship does need to be replaced in favor of an equal partnership. So if just erasing the last year to just to go back isn’t the best option, what is? 

Audit your staff

At Let’s Talk Talent, we’re fans of data and metrics, so before you go out and install celebratory ‘Welcome back to the office’ banners, find out who you are actually bringing back in. Send out an internal survey in order to determine your talent pool’s preferences and current state of mind. Do some market research, and ask for feedback from your managerial staff. Once you know a bit more about your workforce’s expectations about the terms of their return to work, start preparing a roadmap for implementation. Are you able to offer flexible options? What would a blended world look like for your particular organisation? Can you give staff various options to suit their lifestyles and core values? 

Review your employee experience 

Once you have a better understanding of your talent pool’s expectations, you’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle with a blended work environment combining both onsite and remote working. By now, we know those two work well when handled separately. But have you tried mixing them up? Whichever way you choose to bring your staff back into the business, make sure you spend time reviewing your employee experience from start to finish with the new hybrid world in mind. Review every single touchpoint, from first contact to the day employees leave, and course-correct where appropriate. Be particularly mindful of inadvertently creating a two-tier system where those working from home feel like they are missing out on key communications. Also, be clear on what you are using the office for, and who will be coming in and when. 

Re-onboarding

Don’t forget that it’s not all about virtual equipment, desks rotation and parking allocation. It’s about bringing your people back in a way which helps them cope with yet another organisational change. Many will need time to adjust. Some will even be at different stages of re-entering the business. Approximately 11.2 million people in the UK have been on furlough: re-onboarding them will require a different approach. So, whether are opting for a full onsite return, or are planning to make modifications to your staff’s work environment in the near future, be sure to apply the same principles you would normally use for any re-onboarding. At Let’s Talk Talent, we use the 5Cs. You can find them here, but we pulled out a couple: 

  • Cared for. This means talking to your people’s hearts, listening to their needs and giving them an experience that puts them at the core of everything you do. Career development is an important part of this principle. Make sure you reflect on how to keep it as a key focus, even when working remotely, so that your managerial team is able to truly support their team members through virtual performance management. Find out more here (insert link). 
  • Connections: Many of us have felt isolated during lockdown, and maintaining connections in a virtual world can be tricky. How can you make your people feel like they belong, regardless of the physical location or working patterns you’ll end up going for? 

Whilst the new reality is yet to be defined, one thing is certain: businesses who demonstrate a humanistic approach will fare best. Many have enjoyed the bleeding of their home and work life and whilst it will never be perfect, simply ignoring the past twelve months is not a viable solution. As with any situation requiring adaptation and change, care and empathy will go a long way towards retaining your talent and helping them feel valued, motivated and connected to the organisation.  So start planning the roadmap to your future reality now and don’t hesitate to reach out for support should you need to discuss the best way to reshape your new organisational context with a hybrid customer lens on. 

And if you’d like to know more about how to review your employee experience, register for our employee experience WhatsApp course here:  

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