If you’re not developing hybrid work policies and communicating them to your employees clearly, you’re doing a disservice to your company and harming employee retention and engagement. Yet according to a survey by EY, 79% of all companies are developing hybrid work models, but only 40% clearly communicated their plans to their employees. Failing to develop an effective hybrid work policy and create clarity about them is one of the biggest challenges that my clients struggle with in the hybrid work transition.
One of the main advantages of hybrid work policies is increased employee engagement and productivity. When employees have the flexibility to work from home, they are often able to create a more comfortable and efficient work environment. This can lead to increased motivation and job satisfaction, which in turn leads to better performance and productivity.
For example, consider one of my clients, a mid-size IT firm, that had a traditional office-based work culture. During the pandemic, the company was forced to shift to remote work, and as a result, employee collaboration decreased. By implementing a hybrid work policy as the pandemic wound down, the IT firm gave employees the option to work from home when they are most productive, while still coming into the office for team meetings and collaborative tasks. This created a more engaged and productive workforce, leading to improved performance and results for the company.
Another benefit of hybrid work policies is increased employee retention. When employees feel more connected to their colleagues and company culture, they are more likely to stay with the company long-term. By giving employees the option to work from home, companies can create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, which can lead to better decision-making and problem-solving.
A case in point is a regional insurance company that struggled with employee retention. Its leadership demanded that everyone go back to the office three days a week in the Fall of 2021. As I predicted to the leadership, some talented staff left for insurance companies like Nationwide that offered more flexible options. After seeing that, the company changed its policies to be much more flexible, adopting a team-led model where each team determined its approach to hybrid work. By implementing this much more flexible hybrid work policy, the insurance company tailored hybrid work to the needs of each individual employee, creating buy-in and engagement. Moreover, such an approach gave employees the option to work from home when they need to care for their children or elderly parents, or when they have a medical condition. This created a more inclusive and diverse workforce, leading to better decision-making and problem-solving, and ultimately, increased employee retention.
Cognitive biases are also an important factor to consider when developing hybrid work policies. Confirmation bias, for example, can lead managers to assume that remote workers are less productive or engaged than in-office workers. However, research has shown that remote workers are often more productive and engaged than in-office workers. By recognizing and addressing cognitive biases, companies can create more effective hybrid work policies.
For example, at a financial management company for which I consulted, managers had a confirmation bias that remote workers were less productive and engaged. By providing evidence to help them recognize and address this cognitive bias, I helped the managers create a more effective hybrid work policy, one that allows employees to optimize their productivity.
One of the key benefits of hybrid work policies is that they allow companies to tap into a wider pool of talent. With remote work, companies can hire employees from anywhere in the world, regardless of their location. This leads to a more diverse and inclusive workforce, which brings a wide range of perspectives and ideas to the table. By giving employees the option to work from home, companies also reduce the need for expensive office space, which leads to significant cost savings.
For example, I facilitated a leadership retreat for the C-suite of a large SaaS company based in San Francisco about hybrid work. Its biggest challenge was recruiting and retaining top tech talent, in the face of competition from FAANG. The C-suite realized that by implementing a flexible hybrid work policy with some fully remote options, they would open up a much wider pool of talent, and allow it to attract and retain top talent from all over the world, regardless of location. Another benefit is that the company wouldn’t have to provide expensive San Francisco office space for these new employees.
As a further benefit, hybrid work policies facilitate ESG outcomes. By giving employees the option to work from home much or all the time, companies reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability. Doing so improves their reputation and attracts customers who are looking for environmentally-friendly products and services.
One of my clients was a late-stage startup focused on developing sustainable technologies. By implementing a hybrid work policy, my client gave employees the option to work from home much or all of the time, which reduced the company’s Scope 3 carbon footprint and promoted sustainability. The company then used this information in its marketing and shareholder materials, which improved the company’s reputation, attracted customers who are looking for environmentally-friendly products and services, and helped it get financing from ESG investors.
In conclusion, hybrid work policies are a long-term strategy that can help companies adapt to the changing needs of the modern workforce. By creating a more flexible and inclusive work environment, companies can attract and retain top talent, boost productivity, improve retention, and align with ESG. Companies need to develop a hybrid work policy that is distinct from in-office policies and tailored to the specific needs of their workforce, and communicate it clearly to their staff, for the sake of improving their competitiveness in the global market.
Image Credit: Hybrid work policies/Creative Insights – Getty Images
Originally Published in Forbes on January 21, 2023.