Although some large companies like Amazon, JP Morgan and Disney have called employees back to the workplace, between 63% and 74% of companies still allow hybrid work, according to a variety of recent studies and reports.
How should small companies address this issue? As the Director of Human Resources here at Axcet HR Solutions, I'll share insights and answer employers' most frequently asked questions based on my experiences, and Axcet HR Solutions' (as a whole), with our employees, clients and our clients' worksite employees, as well as my knowledge of the HR marketplace.
Where does hybrid work stand today? Are most of the companies Axcet works with offering it for employees or is it industry-specific?
Most companies where workers can be as effective at home as they are at the office are continuing to offer hybrid work. We don’t see this in industries like healthcare and hospitality that need employees to be on-site in order to operate, of course, but it is a continuing trend in corporate and office settings.
Have expectations changed now that COVID isn’t a factor? Are more companies doing away with hybrid options?
Except for organizations that can only do business with employees on-site, most companies – probably about 70% -- are continuing to offer their employees a hybrid work option.
What are employees’ expectations regarding hybrid work schedules?
Employees’ expectations have changed since early 2020. One of the first questions people now ask in interviews is whether the potential employer offers hybrid workplace schedules -- it has become an employee expectation.
Employees also expect employers to put the right technology and processes in place to make hybrid schedules work effectively. This can mean expectations for a computer monitor at home and at the office or a laptop with two power cords, as well as Microsoft Teams or similar technology tools that enable its success.
Employers have expectations of employees in the hybrid environment, too. When the employer provides tools like Teams, there’s an expectation that employees will use them to engage with their teams and their supervisors to keep collaboration flowing.
Benefits of Hybrid Work Model
Is offering hybrid work a recruiting and retention advantage for companies?
Offering hybrid work schedules is absolutely a competitive advantage for companies. People who experienced working from home during COVID learned that it usually contributes to work-life balance.
Not having to commute might add an hour to an employee’s discretionary time that day. The ability to start a load of laundry or get dinner started between calls is a game-changer.
A hybrid schedule reduces stress both before and after work. Employees place high value on hybrid work, and companies that offer the option are in a better position to attract and retain employees.
Companies most often offer a 2-3 split – either two days working from home and three at the office or vice versa. This might be a set schedule, or employees might have choices about where they work on which days.
That could be based on workload or a recurring job requirement. For example, someone responsible for handling weekly payroll might need to be in the office every week on the day payroll is run.
In the early days of hybrid work, HR professionals heard complaints that people who spent more time in the office were getting better raises and better projects and better treatment from the company. A lot of companies have put processes in place to reduce or eliminate those concerns.
For example, some require everyone to use a standard background on Teams calls so there’s no distinction between those who are working from home and those who aren’t.
Axcet also sees companies scheduling regular virtual meetings to keep employees connected and scheduling one day a week when everyone is in the office at the same time. Those are the days these companies do staff lunches, celebrate birthdays or purposefully schedule in-person meetings so everyone can interact face-to-face. This can be an effective way to keep building relationships in a hybrid environment.
Several factors are key for employers who want a hybrid model to be successful. They have to have management buy-in and commitment to hybrid work. They have to provide the right tools and processes, and they have to have engaged employees. On this last note, employees who are not engaged or who are not performing well should work at the office, rather than from home.
Does Axcet see any advantages or negatives with a hybrid work model? If so, what are these?
On the positive side, hybrid work contributes to work-life balance. If management is committed to the hybrid approach and employees are engaged to start with, hybrid work creates more engagement and productivity. It’s also a strong employee recruiting and retention tool.
There are some challenges, too. Employees who have 24/7 access to work computers may have a hard time stepping away and maintaining work-life balance. A hybrid work environment also might make it harder for managers who don’t see their teams face-to-face every day to know when an employee is struggling, and it can be more difficult for new employees to assimilate and feel connected to co-workers.
How is Axcet counseling its small business clients regarding the hybrid work model?
For Axcet clients who are asking whether they should continue offering hybrid schedules, we ask about the management team. Is there buy-in to a hybrid approach at the top, and is management aligned on the best structure? Do supervisors have the skills needed to manage people who are working from home? Does the company have technology and processes in place to support hybrid work success?
If the answers to these questions are yes and employees are engaged, we encourage companies to continue offering hybrid options, with the caveat that supervisors schedule regular employee check-ins to ensure the model is working well for both the company and its employees.
The Future of Hybrid Work
Is hybrid work here to stay?
Hybrid work is here to stay. After COVID restrictions were lifted, employees worked hard to prove that hybrid schedules can work, and most are not enthusiastic about returning full-time to the office.
Companies that insist on everyone coming back to the workplace five days a week can expect some employee turnover as a result. Losing people is detrimental, and companies would benefit instead from working with employees to implement a successful hybrid model.
Is there anything we didn’t cover or anything you want to add?
I’d reiterate that employees’ desire for and expectation of having hybrid work options is here for the long term. Both employers and employees can benefit from a hybrid work policy as long as employees are engaged with the company’s mission and management shows its commitment to a hybrid approach by putting systems in place to make it successful.
Done correctly, a hybrid work model can deliver greater employee retention and productivity and give companies a recruiting advantage in this competitive marketplace.
If your company would like assistance deciding how hybrid schedules should or could work at your business – or on other HR issues – Axcet HR Solutions is here to help. We've been Kansas City's premier HR outsourcing & consulting experts since 1988. Schedule a quick conversation with us today!