Remote work has become overwhelmingly necessary for a number of industries. Given the limitations of the pandemic, most employers moved their workers online in the early part of 2020. But this year, as some pandemic regulations have been lifted, essential workers and those who require in-person interaction are beginning to make their way back to their place of work. This, however, leaves many companies with a hybrid-style employee base. Given that this is a new territory for many organizations, it may be difficult to navigate initially. Luckily, there are great resources and strategies you can utilize this year to balance an in-person and remote employee workspace. And your efforts will not go to waste because the changes we are seeing this year are sure to affect the Future Workplace.
Developing a robust communication strategy is necessary now more than ever. No matter what industry you are in, you will likely struggle to execute quality projects and tasks without a communication plan.
First, you should adopt a project management tool where the work of both in-person and remote employees can be complied. This will provide a common channel where the status of a particular project can be clearly defined. Many project management softwares will offer multiple views like a calendar or timeline view which can be utilized depending on your needs. If you have a number of projects assigned to individual employees on different dates, a calendar view may be useful. However, if you typically have multiple people working on different components of one project, a timeline view will be helpful to communicate where the project currently stands.
Similarly, you should create a consistent routine of communication between workers and their supervisors or managers. By doing so, you lessen the opportunity for any debilitating miscommunications to arise. Managers should have a consistent agenda of questions and points to touch on with each employee so that they can confirm there is alignment across teams. While you can conduct these meetings in a group format, it is also best to have one-on-one meetings regularly. Given that you are dealing with employees with varying experiences and challenges because of their differences in work environments, it’s important to check in on their personal well-being as well.
Whether employees are in person or remote, many companies use Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Microsoft Teams to communicate with their workers safely.
Train and Hire
With the wide-ranging locations of your hybrid employee base, the last thing you want is for managers and supervisors to be spread thin. Previously, when working exclusively in person or remotely, managers had organizational systems in place to carry out tasks and address issues as they arise. This allotted them more time to attend to their employees’ needs as well. However, when working with two employee types, previously successful systems may not translate seamlessly to a hybrid environment—which, of course, can be detrimental to the company’s productivity.
First, it’s important to start up training sessions as soon as possible, especially with in-person and hands-on industries like construction or manufacturing. An extended learning session on safety or project expectations may be just what your employees need to work effectively on their own. For remote employees, these training sessions still apply. Each should address job-specific or remote environment information as much as possible to ensure that they, too, can be self-sufficient.
Also, don’t be afraid to hire assistance. Bring in managers and supervisors who have experience working with your specific types of employees. This will allow your current staff to prioritize important projects and pressing issues easily. Additionally, the added help will be useful in supporting workers who may need a little extra assistance.
When your employee base is exclusively in person or remote, you have a greater opportunity for camaraderie and companionship to naturally develop between workers. However, with a hybrid of the two, you may have to do a little extra work to create an inclusive employee culture.
Although it seems time-inefficient, dedicate time to come together as a group for matters outside of work. This could be a quick meeting to catch up with your employees and update them on changes both in and outside of the company. Or, you can take the time to do team building exercises or play interactive games. Whichever you choose, this will help your workers feel unified and get to know each other personally. In fact, a recent BCG study showed that with social connectivity tactics such as these, workers are three times more likely to be productive on collaborative projects.
Pro Tip: If you have a large employee base, you may want to utilize Zoom’s breakout rooms within these meetings as well to create a more intimate group setting for employees as well.
Be a Resource
When balancing two different types of employees, one of the best things you can do is offer widespread support both internally and externally. This, too, will help to create a sense of community between employees and allow the company to showcase its support of its people.
During the pandemic especially, many employees, both in-person and remote, are experiencing mental and financial strain and ultimately, it can affect their work. To combat this, many employers have chosen to offer resources to help those impacted by the pandemic. Some of these may include:
Counseling and Coaching: Take advantage of employee assistance programs that are able to offer dedicated support to employees through their challenges.
Housing Assistance: Conduct workshops, seminars, and resource meetings about rental assistance and feasible Federal Housing Administration loan information.
Offer Benefits: Simple benefits such as schedule flexibility, paid sick leave, and employee protection can all be helpful to those affected by the virus.
Offering compassion and assistance to your workers can greatly increase their job satisfaction — allowing them to be more productive when working.
Evaluate Your Company’s Future
Lastly, while you’re adjusting to an in-person and remote employee base, you need to simultaneously consider what the future of work looks like for your organization.
For some, you may find that with these tips, you can effectively create a hybrid workforce. However, for others you may notice that this isn’t the best option for your company and you may need to strategize differently. Rest assured that this is normal and okay. As long as you are getting ahead of the problem, you have time to change it. Evaluate the “hard numbers” of the company and determine where you may be less productive or yielding a smaller profit. Additionally, touch base with your employees and gather their feedback on their remote or in-person experience and how the two work together. Take in this information candidly and allow it to guide what direction you’re choosing to go in the future.
Ultimately, whether you have an in-person, remote, or hybrid workforce, these quick tips will surely help you reach greater company success in 2021.