More than 75 percent of respondents to a Google survey on hybrid work said they believe hybrid work will become standard practice within their organizations over the next three years. While that survey is one data point in the ongoing story about the transformation work, it's fair to say that many companies are resetting their policies and expectations to adjust to changing employee expectations.
Some companies are giving their workforce the option to come into the office or continue working remotely full time. For those companies, a hybrid model means giving employees the flexibility to choose if or when they go into the office. For others, hybrid work centers on whether to require employees to work in the office a certain number of days per week — or on specific days of the week.
Whatever the situation, it is clear that hybrid work will mean different things to different organizations. What works and what doesn't remains to be seen. One thing seems increasingly certain though: Employees are demanding employers show flexibility in their policies.
Why Flexibility Matters
When applied to remote and hybrid work, flexibility usually implies a way for employees to choose the schedule and location that best works for them. According to Annabel Maw, director of communications at San Francisco-based Jotform, this demand for flexibility stems directly from employees having experienced what can be accomplished while working remotely.
“It’s essential for companies to respect this change in mentality and to not revert to old ways, such as making everyone go into the office every day,” she said.
At the very minimum, she said, employees will expect companies to strike a balance with a hybrid model. But providing flexibility is more than giving employees what they've become accustomed to. There are also benefits to actively building and refining flexibility in hybrid teams, such as:
Enhanced Work-Life Balance
Rahul Vij, CEO at Mohali, India-based digital marketing agency WebSpero Solutions, said flexibility allows employees to worry less about work bleeding into their personal lives, and vice versa. At WebSpero, employees can log off from work once their tasks are completed, even if it’s still early in the traditional work day.
“It gives them time to spend with their families and friends," Vij said. "They can have time for themselves to pursue their hobbies and passions."
A More Engaged Workforce
According to Amanda Bäckström, content marketing manager at Copenhagen, Denmark-based EveryonePrint, flexibility also leads to happier, more inspired employees who are ready to contribute to the organization.
“Flexibility is important because it lets employees adapt as they go, builds a sense of community since employees have to respect and understand each other’s schedules, and, in our experience, keeps the business loose and innovative," she said.
Related Article: Analyzing the Hybrid Work Strategies of Twitter and Google as They Return to the Office
4 Components to Successful Flexible Work
Companies seeking to provide a flexible work environment need to build capability in four key areas:
For a flexible environment to succeed, remote leaders need to trust that employees will complete tasks on deadline without the need for micromanagement. Knowing that employees can get things completed on time with minimal, if any, intervention can reassure managers that even without a traditional 9-5 work day or Monday-Friday work week, the output will be of equal or superior value.
Related Article: Hybrid Work Is About Flexibility and Trust, Not Location
2. Support for Asynchronous Work
Teams need to take advantage of the tools available today that enable flexible and asynchronous work. Hybrid and remote work depends on supporting technology, and these tools have to be integrated into the workplace to create the flexibility required.
3. Clear Communication
Team members need to be easily accessible for everyone within an organization, regardless of when and where they are working. To combat an always-on mentality, colleagues should be made aware of teammates typical log-in days and times to prevent unnecessary delays or issues. Without clear communication about who is doing what and when, things can easily fall through the cracks, and successful hybrid work becomes more difficult.
Vij's company has set rules and protocols for reaching colleagues and managers. They also do daily or weekly check-ins to make sure employees aren't encountering difficulties that could stem from that flexibility.
4. Technology Infrastructure
Remote teams have relied on technology to function, and that tech stack is also critical for supporting a flexible workplace.
“Since we believe there are incredible opportunities in having a hybrid workplace, we’ve also made sure to facilitate that way of operating by creating a solution for cloud office infrastructure that makes working in a hybrid organization the easiest thing ever,” said Bäckström.
Offering a truly flexible remote or hybrid work environment is a significant differentiator in today's tight labor market and shifting dynamics. Companies cannot fake their way to a hands-off approach. It requires authenticity, trust, foresight and investment in making it work. But when done right, it can pay off through a dedicated, engaged, driven and inspired workforce.