Hybrid, remote, or in-office: What is the best way forward for employers?

Instead of focusing on the location of work and restricting employees with conventional work hours, leaders must create an environment where people are free to choose how and where to work so long as it does not negatively impact the results.
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The definition of the phrase the future of work has gone through multiple modifications in the past few years. While technology gave shape to a large part of it, COVID-19 accelerated large-scale shifts.

With the arrival of the pandemic, companies had to change the way they operate and they had to, quite literally, do it overnight. It forced all organisations and their leaders to choose between working remotely or from the office, or a mix of both, known to us as the hybrid working model.

While in the nascent stages of the raging pandemic, leaders and experts examined the effectiveness of non-traditional ways of working (remote and hybrid models), the question today is more about the wellbeing of employees, taking into account work-life balance and burnout.

All three models of work carry their benefits and drawbacks. Deciding which one of the three serves as the best choice for employers is a subjective question, the answer to which largely depends on the priorities and preferences of the employer.

Resetting the approach

Over the last one and a half years, people have learned to adapt. They have built their professional lives around their personal ones. Despite the teething troubles of working from home (endless video calls, managing children with work, lack of boundaries), employees and employers soon realised that remote working is possible and may not hamper productivity and commitment in the way one perceived.

Today, employees enjoy the flexibility and freedom offered by remote work. While they were pushed into this way of working by something unfortunate, people around the globe have started enjoying their new “office”. This is one of the core reasons behind the infamous “great resignation”. 

As more and more companies around the world start in-office operations, asking their employees to get back to the office, there has been a surge in resignations. According to a recent Microsoft survey, 41 percent of global workers are considering leaving their current employers.

While several types of research are being conducted to discover the reason behind this global trend, there is one indisputable reason hidden in plain sight: people demand autonomy. With being asked to work from the office, employees fear going back to old ways and losing flexibility. Employers need to address this concern immediately to avoid any unwarranted impact on business. 

In our opinion, it is not about deciding between new or old ways of working but about resetting the approach to the future of work, ensuring that our focus should be on making sure that people are taken care of.

Creating a people-centric leadership culture

When deciding how employees must deliver their work, leaders cannot ignore employee needs. At the same time, they also need to focus on what is best with respect to business outcomes. The key is to strike a balance as the two are interdependent.

Instead of focusing on the location of work and restricting employees with conventional work hours, leaders must create an environment where people are free to choose how and where to work so long as it does not negatively impact the results. The need of the hour is to empower employees. 

However, an open and flexible working model comes with its own unique challenges. For many employees working remotely in organisations that have implemented hybrid models, performance evaluation and consequently, professional growth, is an area of concern. By not working from the office, employees are in the dark about how their managers will assess their work. 

Leaders need to be proactive and take urgent steps to ensure that there is no room for ambiguity within teams. This translates into re-examining employee KPIs and aligning with the present circumstances. It is up to leaders to ensure that an employee’s performance is always measured by the value they add and not by the number of hours they work for or the location they work from. 

The workplace and the workforce have changed forever

Sooner rather than later, we need to admit that organisations keen on thriving in the future must evolve with their people. Instead of trying to find ways to get back to the office, leaders must focus on building a business that prioritises people and culture. The pay-off is engaged employees who feel heard and valued.

Employees have had the time to reflect on what they need from their organisations; it is time for leaders to leverage this shift in mindset, listen to their people, and then act. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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