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Which is best: In-Office, Remote or Hybrid?
Taya, who asked that her last name not be used, joined a company with a strict work-from-the-office policy in late April of this year. By the beginning of June, she was gone.
Her story highlights the challenges of companies attempting to buck the trend of remote or hybrid work in recruiting and retaining talented workers. Now, there is evidence to suggest which model might be best.
The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research released a working paper earlier this year that found fully remote employees may be less productive than full-time in-office workers. But that doesn’t mean that remote work doesn’t work. It does, however, mean that employers may need to get creative to re-engage employees.
What the Data Said
The report found that 40 percent of U.S. employees work from home at least one day a week, and slightly more than 10 percent are fully remote. Those who are fully remote are around 10 percent less productive than those who are fully in person, the institute suggested. Score one for the return-to-office camp.
But wait. That’s not the full story.
The paper also looked into the effectiveness of hybrid workers, classified as those who go into the office at least one day a week but WFH on other days. These workers were found to be equally or slightly more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Taya joined her company after a stint as a full-time WFH employee. She found the lack of connection to her colleagues frustrating and said her company lacked a strong employee culture that would help her develop the skills she needed to advance in her career as a marketing executive.
So when the opportunity came to join a fully in-office company, she jumped at the opportunity. Less than two weeks in, however, she started to see the lack of flexibility of a company with such a strong attachment to in-office work to be a conflict with her outside interests. Daytime doctor’s appointments or a child’s illness at school now necessitated some semblance of permission to address.
In short, she said, she started to feel less like the adult professional who could handle her work responsibilities and juggle her outside life that remote work allowed her to be.
So when an offer came for a hybrid company to which she had applied before accepting the position at the in-office business, she turned in her two-week’s notice and was gone, leaving the employer with no choice but to restart the job search for a position they had so recently filled.
But it got worse for that company.
Taya’s counterpart in the marketing department, who had done the work of two people while the company conducted the search that ultimately led to her, now was suddenly back to doing double duty once again. As the company struggled to find a person willing to work the fully in-office job, he became burned out and turned in his resignation in favor of a hybrid role.
The moral of this story is simple. If the data suggests fully in-office personnel are more productive than fully remote employees, that’s great. But when the same report points to the fact that hybrid workers are as or more productive than their fully in-office counterparts, it’s time for businesses that haven’t yet adjusted to the new world created through the COVID-19 pandemic to start doing so.
What To Do
Yes, there are challenges with keeping remote and hybrid workforces engaged. That makes the job of the HR professional even more important.
Companies can help offsite teams stay motivated and productive by finding fun and interesting ways to engage employees. If it’s sales quotas, make a healthy competition out of it and award bonuses, for example.
It’s not enough for managers to have consistent check-ins with employees. These interactions need to be meaningful. The pointless Zoom call is nothing but a distraction. Leaders also should consider Ask-Me-Anything-style question-and-answer sessions with leadership to help foster communication.
In addition, for employees who desire more communication and connection, create a buddy system. This isn’t just for new hires, though it certainly is important for them. Make sure all employees feel as if they are being recognized, rewarded and thanked for their good work.
Finally, hybrid and remote work call for more frequent reviews than midyear or year-end. Use check-ins to talk about career trajectory, goals, needs and performance.
A qualified, expert HR consultant can help you transform your employee culture into a successful hybrid or remote environment. The experts at Envision Benefits Groups are ready to help. Contact us today
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