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Navigating the Hybrid Work Environment - Strategies for Success

Navigating the Hybrid Work Environment – Strategies for Success

Are we headed toward a new business reality where “hybrid work” is just … work?

According to Scoop’s The Flex Report, which collects data from over 100 million employees working for over 4,000 companies globally, only 42% of workers were in an office full-time in Q2 2023, a 7% drop from the beginning of the year.

Kastle security’s Back-to-Work Barometer estimates that office occupancy is only at 50.4% of the weekly pre-COVID average, peaking from Tuesday to Thursday.

And a recent study by Bankrate found that 51% of U.S. workers would switch jobs — and even industries — for a four-day workweek, remote work, or hybrid work.

These studies and countless others show that many CEOs who wanted their employees back in the office underestimated the pandemic’s effect on how people think about work-life balance, flexibility, and professional fulfillment. Meanwhile, CEOs who embraced hybrid work quickly are attracting a more diverse group of young talent and creating innovative cultures that will be a BIG competitive advantage going forward.

If your return-to-work policies fell flat with employees and prospective talent, you should strongly consider adding hybrid work to your annual planning objectives. Let’s weigh some of the strengths and weaknesses of hybrid work and discuss best practices that will help you build a more modern workforce.

The Advantages of Hybrid Work

Some CEOs are still skeptical about hybrid work because they think employees reap all the benefits while company executives cope with all the challenges. In fact, even a well-designed hybrid work policy requires a give-and-take between advantages and disadvantages for folks at every level of the organization.

Flexibility and Balance: Giving employees the ability to perform tasks on their schedules and in different workspaces can lead to better work-life balance and higher levels of job satisfaction, two major hedges against turnover. That freedom might also inspire creative thinking and breakthroughs from your best and brightest.

Cost Savings: Cutting back on office space or brick-and-mortar retail locations can help companies cope with higher interest rates and inflation. Repurpose those savings by investing in AI, a broader supply chain, test marketing, or …

Access a Broader Talent Pool: Bloomberg reported that in Q1 2023 only 1.6% of workers moved to take a new job, the lowest percentage on record. Establishing hybrid work or remote work positions could attract out-of-market superstars who can boost your company’s capabilities from the comfort of home.

The Challenges of Hybrid Work

Cohesion and Collaboration: The downside to having your people working all over is … they’re all over. The logistics hurdles can make it difficult for employees to gel into efficient teams and for leaders to align those teams on objectives.

Managing Communications: What happens when your finance team in LA needs to talk to marketing first thing in the morning, but they’re on their lunch break in New York? Who’s responsible for a customer service issue that’s smack dab in the middle between your Milwaukee and Chicago satellites? Is an employee who works remotely on Mondays on call all day? Does she need to tell her supervisor if she schedules a dentist appointment on a WFH day?

Tracking Productivity and Performance: Some workers thrive with the freedom to get things done their way. Others slack off. In hybrid work environments, team leaders need to be clear about who does what by when and what metrics are being used to measure progress.

Fairness and Visibility: In a traditional office environment, executives and team leaders can publicly recognize employees who win BIG or go above and beyond for a customer. A congratulatory email might not have the same galvanizing effect. Hybrid work might also make top talent feel like their unique contributions are getting lumped in with everything else that’s bouncing from screen to screen on the company’s network. When raises, bonuses, and promotions are at stake, anyone who feels overlooked may start looking for a new job.

Your Hybrid Work Model

Just as employees can benefit from the flexibility of hybrid work, CEOs have the flexibility to design hybrid work policies that fit the unique needs of their people and the company’s BIG objectives. Think about how you could customize some of these popular models:

  • Office-First Hybrid Work: Employees spend most of their time in the office, with allowances for a set number of hours offsite.
  • Remote-First Hybrid Work: Employees spend most of their time out of the office, with a set number of days or hours they are expected to be in the office.
  • Flexible Hybrid Work: Employees are free to work from home or at the office five days a week.
  • Team-First Hybrid Work: Individual team leaders establish schedules around team objectives, often mixing and matching individual remote work with more collaborative in-office tasks.
  • Fixed Hybrid Work: Establishing shifts for both remote and onsite work. This might be necessary for companies that still have brick-and-mortar stores or sales offices where customers expect face-to-face service, or for companies that offer remote service across multiple time zones.

Like any company policy, the more open you are about your decision-making process, and the more your employees feel heard, the more buy-in you’re likely to get. Set aside some time in team meetings for your leaders to solicit feedback on existing hybrid work policies and ideas for what new policies should look like. Talk to your leadership team about the BIG targets you’re setting for the year ahead and how hybrid work could help or hurt progress toward those goals.

Finally, establish clear guidelines for when and where your hybrid employees will be working and how their work should be executed. That includes determining the KPIs that you and your leadership team will be using to monitor both individual employee productivity and the company’s overall progress toward specific, measurable goals. Your company should also systemize feedback from your hybrid employees by using employee satisfaction surveys, employee net promoter scores, and one-on-one chats with team leaders on in-office days.

Future-Proof Your Culture and Your Company

Companies that already have a strong culture will have the best chance of adapting to a hybrid work environment. Crystal clarity on values, purpose, and how the efforts of each individual benefit the company as a whole will be essential to keeping hybrid teams focused on the same goals. The success or failure of your hybrid work model could largely depend on how well you communicate and reinforce those nonnegotiables with a consistent meeting rhythm and in-person team-building events that everyone will be excited to get off the couch and show up at the office for.

A strong, consistent company culture will also be essential when you need to mobilize your hybrid teams to take extraordinary action. Remember, for most companies, hybrid work wasn’t a choice: it was a necessity forced by a black swan event that reshuffled the workweek forever. As you begin planning for what could be a tumultuous 2024, your people — wherever they are and however they work — have to be prepared to seize opportunities, respond to challenges, and Make BIG Happen.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.

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