For some companies, hybrid working arrangements create the best of both worlds. Employees get flexibility to work from home some days, and teams get a chance to be in person on others. But shifting to a hybrid arrangement is new for many organizations, and managers may believe in some misconceptions that can hinder an effective roll out.
Here are four myths leaders need to put out of their heads if they plan to create effective hybrid work arrangements for employees.
1. Employees will contribute less
Some managers think they can’t trust employees if they can’t see what they’re doing, says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, manufacturers of AI-powered video conferencing technology. “I’m hiring people to do a job,” he says. “I’m not hiring someone to watch them work. It takes a mentality shift.”
Research from Gartner found that performance improves when employees are given flexibility over where, when, and how much they work. “Among knowledge workers, high levels of enterprise contribution are most common among those who are fully remote,” says Alexia Cambon, research director in the Gartner HR practice.
Measuring productivity requires staying connected, says Weishaupt. “We’ve had a long time to perfect this over the last 16 months,” he says. “If you have a culture of accountability, that leads to productivity whether employees are in the office or not.”
You need to trust your team, adds Rob Kjar, senior managing consultant at Vaya Group, a national talent management consultancy. “If you hired people and trusted them not to steal from the cash register, so to speak, then now is an opportunity to demonstrate your trust in them,” he says. “They will look for it in your communications and they will either feel more empowered to act, or less. Use the chance to show your trust and your top performers will repay you. They never needed someone sitting over their shoulder to do their best work anyway.”
2. Collaboration will suffer
If teams keep regular, open lines of communication, collaboration will not be lost, says Kjar. “Teams who are forming up for the first time will benefit from face-to-face interaction in the early going and can more easily transition to working remotely,” he says. “Where this isn’t an option, teams should be encouraged to take extra time at the start to discuss roles and goals together before getting to the project plan. This will help them learn how to collaborate remotely in more productive ways.”
The Gartner 2021 Hybrid Work Employee Survey found that hybrid employees show higher levels of agility, psychological safety, team equity, and intentionality than onsite employees, which are all significantly essential components of collaboration.
“Seventy-one percent of hybrid knowledge workers agree their team provides opportunities to contribute ideas outside of meetings, compared to only 56% of onsite knowledge workers,” says Cambon.
3. You can’t build a strong company culture
Even though your entire staff won’t be in the office simultaneously, it’s possible to maintain company culture, says Tia Graham, chief happiness officer and founder of Arrive At Happy, leadership consultants. “Leaders need to be clear on what the company’s mission is and identify how the internal culture will support this,” she says.
Technology will play a significant role in engaging employees. Graham suggests leveraging video conferencing platforms to schedule team-building exercises, like happy hours or lunch-and-learns with educational speakers, so everyone can participate whether they’re in the office or not. “The biggest mistake is leaving virtual workers out of activities like this,” says Graham.
Gartner’s research reveals about one-third of newly remote or hybrid employees report their organization’s culture has changed since starting to work remotely—and most of them say it’s a change for the better.
“This is critical since satisfaction with workplace culture plays a role in key talent outcomes,” says Cambon. “For example, employees who report that culture has improved since starting to work remotely are 2.4 times more likely to report high employee engagement and 2.7 times more likely to report high discretionary effort and intent to stay.”
4. We’ll eventually need to return to business as it once was
Pre-pandemic best practices may no longer fit the new normal, and employers should constantly be evaluating and overhauling to ensure their strategies are still relevant, says Susan Crowder, manager, Strategic HR Advisory Services at G&A Partners, a national professional employer organization.
“What may have worked in the past may no longer be as effective,” she says. “Employees may need flexibility to move from the workplace to working remotely from one day to the next which requires the right technology and tools to allow for mobility.”
According to research from Gartner, forcing employees to return entirely on site could result in employers losing a good percentage of their workforce.
“It is especially a risk to diversity, equity, and inclusion because underrepresented groups of talent have seen vast improvements in how they work since being allowed more flexibility,” says Cambon.
Companies need to remove barriers and obstacles that may be hindering optimal performance, says Crowder. “This will require leaders to be adaptable in their way of thinking, as well as help[ing to] promote adaptability across their teams,” she says. “Employees and employers can both greatly benefit from employees being able to work where they most feel comfortable and productive at any moment in time.”