Managing a Hybrid Work Model
As COVID-19 safety restrictions are being eased, more and more companies are welcoming workers back to the office in person. Great news, right? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
While business leadership is likely eager for employees to return, some employees have become accustomed to working remotely. They have enjoyed skipping the commute, dressing more casually (at least from the waist down), and being more available for their families. Many of these employees are expressing a desire to continue working from home—either all the time or a few days a week. So how should you manage the new hybrid work model?
Create a Policy
First and foremost, you must create a remote work policy, if you do not have one already. Review all the job descriptions and determine which positions are feasible for remote work and which ones require a presence at the workplace. Also, decide which ones can be a blend of both.
Meet with your supervisors and other key employees and get their input. Your plan will be more successful if workers feel included and that their perspectives matter.
For employees who are allowed to work from home, decide how many days a week are acceptable and set any specific days that they must be in the office. For instance, are there regular events or meetings they must attend in person? Also, be clear about the need for them to be available from home. If your business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., must they be reachable during those hours? Or if they have moved to a different time zone, can that availability be flexible? Be transparent in your expectations, so there is no confusion.
Once the details have been solidified, put your plan in writing and add it to your employee handbook. Then let your staff know that this new policy has been set and encourage them to ask questions as needed. Be sure that all employees have copies of the updated handbook and it is readily available online.
Monitor the Process
In the weeks and months to come, observe how the new policy is working. Is your team still being productive and meeting its goals? Some employers have reported that the company culture can be negatively impacted by remote work. Are you seeing signs of that? If you spot any issues, meet with your key employees again and talk through the challenges. Revise the policy as needed and let your employees know about any changes. A hybrid work model may need to evolve to meet the priorities of your workplace.
In addition, be on the lookout for staff members who are displeased with the policy. Some may feel that remote work for some employees but not others is unfair. Take time to speak with these individuals and explain the rationale behind the decisions. Other employees may miss the camaraderie that comes with in-person work. If that is the case, consider addressing it with more in-the-office days or perhaps a company retreat.
As your company changes, grows, and moves beyond the pandemic, you may need to hire more people. Determine from the outset which of these positions can work remotely and which ones cannot, and make that clear during the hiring process. Any ambiguity can lead to conflict later.
Also, know that no matter how thoughtful you are in this process, some employees will be unhappy. If they are not permitted to work from home, they may look for another job. Or, if they miss their co-workers who work from home, they may not be as productive as they once were. Listen to the issues and make what accommodations that you can, but at the end of the day, you must stick with the policy that is best for your company and its culture.
If you have questions about workplace policies and their legality, never hesitate to consult legal counsel. An employment attorney can address your specific concerns, walk you through your options, and help you make the right decisions for your company and your employees.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.