2020 was a year of sweeping changes for the workplace, and some of those changes are likely to become permanent. Remote work received a sudden and unexpected test, and as many companies discovered, it can be quite effective. That may mean some big changes for managers and leaders as they strive to ensure their teams remain as productive as possible in the new setup.
Many big-name companies around the world have informed their employees that they can continue to work from home in some capacity even after the end of the pandemic. This includes the hybrid work model, which provides employees with the flexibility to take care of their families and homes while allowing them the option to come into the workplace as needed or as they wish.
With a hybrid workplace, employers will need to make adjustments to ensure that productivity remains high for their teams. Remote work has long been viewed with skepticism, but this past year has proven that remote workers can be just as productive, if not more so, than workers physically present in the office. So, what changes can be made to ensure productivity remains high when implementing a hybrid model?
Provide an Equal Playing Field
One problem with hybrid work models in the era of the coronavirus pandemic is that certain employees may find themselves at a disadvantage over others. As restrictions relax, many workers will find they are able to return to the physical workplace, but for others with more pressing health concerns, that scenario might not be possible.
Employees who are forced to remain in a remote work situation could potentially find themselves at a disadvantage, especially if their home workspace is not set up properly. Employers could work to remedy that by offering employees stipends to help create a functional home office, reimburse memberships to coworking spaces, or assist employees in other ways related to work.
When some team members are working in person and some are working remotely, it can be a challenge to achieve a sense of collaboration. One solution could be to hold all meetings virtually. Employees in the office can call in from their work computers or a conference room, while remote workers can call in from home, leveling the playing field for all.
It may also help to consider alternative meeting times, rather than sticking to a schedule that was established before the shift to remote work. Find a time that works for every employee. Making these kinds of simple changes can make it easier for employees to manage their other responsibilities and still be productive at work.
Focus on Different Indicators
Optimizing productivity is important for any team, but it is particularly important in a hybrid work scenario. One difficulty, however, is assessing the productivity of remote workers fairly.
While many studies indicate that remote workers can be just as productive as those in the office, others note that remote workers can experience burnout and fatigue much faster than workers in the office. Relying on hours worked to assess employees who work remotely is simply not an effective—or fair—measurement. It can be a much more accurate measure of employee productivity and performance to assess work output. If managers can communicate their expectations and set smaller goals for their employees, workers will understand exactly what is expected of them, making them feel comfortable and confident in their responsibilities on the team.
Offer Training to Management
Historically, face-to-face meetings with subordinates have been an essential tool for managers to get to know their workers and communicate any questions and concerns. With the shift to virtual meetings, however, some managers may find themselves struggling to communicate effectively through digital platforms. Leaders should make sure that management receives appropriate training in digital tools and how to manage teams that are either fully remote or a mixture of in-person and remote.
In addition to the practical skills to help manage these teams, managers must receive training in team building, creating a sense of community among their teams, and emotional intelligence. These so-called “soft skills” are essential to the future of work. This is not just because of the pandemic, but because as menial and repetitive tasks are increasingly delegated to machines, human workers will be required to step into roles that prioritize skills such as leadership, communication, empathy, and others that machines simply cannot replicate.