The pandemic disrupted everyone’s personal and professional worlds — and that change is here to stay, Sonia Aranza, a global diversity, equity and inclusion strategist with over 25 years’ experience, said during her June 13 session at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans. Now it’s a question of how employers will build their form of hybrid work.
Companies switched to remote formats “on the fly,” Aranza said, but more than two years out, companies now have to be intentional and build trust to establish a hybrid work system that will last.
In her talk, she outlined five questions that employers should ask themselves to structure their own hybrid work formats.
- Who gets to choose in-person versus remote work?
- Who gets to choose when and how often to be in the office?
- How does working at the office vs. remote impact promotion?
- How are management tactics like surveillance and pressure used and for whom?
- How is well-being measured?
How these questions are answered may be a powerful glimpse into a company’s current culture, Aranza said. She also provided further insight — do’s and don’ts — as employers continue to adjust to the new world of work.
Do remember hybrid work is the evolution of work.
Many workers already did some form of remote or hybrid work prior to the pandemic, Aranza said; “It just took the pandemic for us to catch on.”
And if companies are holding out on forming hybrid work strategies thinking that it will go away and the world will go back to normal once the pandemic is over, they are in for a surprise, she said. The majority of employees who were introduced to hybrid format during the pandemic “do not want to go back in person,” Aranza said.
But that can be good for business, she added. Hybrid work formats open up talent pools from beyond the area near a company’s office, and have led to some cost reductions for companies that have excised office costs completely. It also allows workers to create a better balance between life and work in many cases, which can be a huge boon to productivity if handled well.
Do select a hybrid workplace model that works for your company’s needs.
No one size will fit all, Aranza said. Each company is different. “I want to emphasize this especially,” she said, because while leaders are looking for models to adopt, companies will need to figure out on their own — using the five questions she outlined before — how hybrid work would look for them.
Some workforces need a percentage of hours on-site. Others need a percentage of people in the office at any one time. A production company, for example, will need people on-site to do the work; a different company may use in-office time for collaboration and need to align hours instead, she explained.
Don’t forget to ensure equal access to resources and visibility.
Beware of different access to resources. Employees in-office often have improved access to tech, information and support, Aranza said, and informal hallway chats allow workers a form of social support that is hard to recreate in a remote setting. But this imbalance that remote workers may experience is fixable with intention, Aranza said. In other words, employers will have to dedicate energy to making recognition part of their processes.
“The challenge for you is to think about how you can be intentional and creative to ensure everyone has visibility,” she added.
Don’t assume everyone has the skills for a hybrid environment.
It’s important for HR pros to remember that operating in a hybrid environment is a skill, Aranza said. HR pros will need a growth mindset and a willingness to “step in and help,” she added.
And don’t be afraid of a little conflict during the adjustment. “An inclusive culture determines organizational excellence,” Aranza said. Conflict can actually signal a healthy culture if that conflict is handled productively; otherwise, it could signal that no one feels safe enough to come forward.