The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably altered our work and lifestyle dynamics. With many organizations opting for remote work to address the health crisis, some have embraced a hybrid work model that marries remote and in-office practices. A McKinsey survey reveals that post-pandemic, 52% of employees lean towards a hybrid work arrangement, 30% prefer full-time remote work, and 18% wish to return to the office full-time.
Rather than a static endpoint, the future of work is a continually evolving process, demanding constant learning, experimentation, and adaptation. Organizations must be proactive, participating in shaping and adapting to the changing future rather than merely predicting or observing.
But how can leaders adeptly navigate these changes? It involves a careful balance between immediate operational decisions regarding work structures and the broader strategic opportunities of investing in innovative work and talent frameworks. Leaders must establish flexible yet productive work environments that align with the preferences of not just themselves but also their employees and clients.
From our experience assisting various industry clients in setting up a productive hybrid workspace, here are insights and recommendations:
It's crucial to consider the needs of both employees and clients, but leaders must also stay committed to their organizational goals instead of trying to please everyone. Striking this balance requires listening to feedback, making decisive choices, skillfully managing change, and continually assessing and refining your strategies. It demands a re-imagination of how we should approach this.
- Reimagine Work: Understand the essence of tasks crucial for business success. Allocate work modes (remote or in-office) based on task specifics like complexity, collaboration needs, and frequency.
- Reimagine Workforce: Gauge the skills and preferences of your team. Allow them the flexibility to choose work modes that align with their personal and professional situations.
- Reimagine Workplace: Equip both remote and in-office modes with the right technology, infrastructure, and guidelines, ensuring optimal productivity.
- Reimagine Culture: Establish a culture rooted in trust, feedback, diversity, and inclusion.
- Reimagine Leadership: Transition to a leadership style apt for a hybrid environment. Provide guidance and recognize efforts.
- Reimagine Learning: Promote continuous skill development, encouraging a culture of curiosity and improvement.
Leaders have the critical task of ensuring that their decisions are consistently enforced and managed, especially regarding RTO, Hybrid, and WFH policies. Citigroup implemented a hybrid workplace plan that allows approximately 240,000 of its employees to work in a hybrid setting. Under this plan, these employees are expected to be in the office three days a week. As part of the upcoming performance review cycle, managers have been instructed to inform their teams that their in-office attendance will be measured against expectations. Managers will pay close attention to employees with the lowest attendance and hold them accountable.
In the end, leaders must make tough decisions that they believe are in the best interest of their company. These decisions may prioritize productivity and employee morale in different ways. Successfully implementing a hybrid or return-to-office policy requires effective change management. During the pandemic, it was essential to provide the necessary support and prepare teams for what was the new model, and the same must be done now. Listening to employees while implementing such policies is crucial to ensure they receive the best possible support and that the policy outcomes are as expected.