Companies moving to hybrid workplaces will face new challenges
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There are more signs that the economy is moving toward something approaching normal. A number of major corporations have announced concrete plans to start bringing workers back into offices in the near future. Though in many cases, it won’t be quite the same. Big-name companies like Ford, Citigroup, Target and Microsoft are planning for a hybrid model, with a blend of people on-site and remote.
Going remote overnight when the pandemic began certainly wasn’t easy for most companies, but embracing a hybrid workplace might be even trickier, said Brian Kropp, chief of human-resources research at Gartner, a research and advisory company.
“When everyone is working remote, everyone has a much more similar experience. But in a hybrid world, some people are going to be in the office 40 hours a week, some people are going to be there four hours a week. That unevenness and variability is going to be really, really hard to manage,” Kropp said.
Yet 95% of the companies Gartner surveyed are planning for hybrid work, partly because employees want it, partly because it saves on overhead.
Hybrid companies will need a smaller footprint with fewer individual workspaces, according to Cali Williams Yost, a business strategist who specializes in flexible work processes. “There will be more spaces for collaboration,” she said. “I think there will be space for uninterrupted, concentrated work, but you will have to reserve them. You will have to schedule them.”
And those who physically show up should not be given an unfair career advantage, said Harvard business professor Tsedal Neeley: “Leaders have to develop new capabilities and competencies on how to make sure that they’re running an equitable hybrid team, ensuring that they’re equally helping people develop, get promoted in the organization, and that they’re not playing favoritism based on who’s in the room with them.”
That could require additional training to overcome any possible in-person bias and careful monitoring of employee pay and promotions.
Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader for people and organization with business-services firm PwC, said managers can model that it’s OK to not be in the office by working remotely themselves at times.
“If I’m saying you have a choice to come back, but it skews more heavily to leaders being in the office, employees are going to feel that they need to come back,” he said.
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