The hybrid workplace is trending. No doubt about that. However, when COVID-19 hit there was not much time to strategize and people rushed into sudden remote setups for all employees. Time has passed and, now, a lot of organizations have adjusted their hybrid situations.
But what does the best hybrid workplace look like? And what does the research say about the hybrid workplace?
In the podcast WORK 3.0, we talked to the Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Wellbeing at Gallup, Jim Harter, about the hybrid workplace.
Jim Harter has been with Gallup for more than 36 years, and he works mostly from home. In this way, he can get a lot of focus work done, and he has all the right resources and everything set up to have a proper work environment at home. Jim Harter prefers this work model, where he mostly works from home and gets into the office once or twice a week for important meetings.
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But this is not the case for everyone, and research shows that some people were more lonely than others during the first period of the pandemic.
The Latest Research - The Hybrid Workplace
The Lonely People
Early on in the pandemic, research showed that people who worked 100 % remotely reported high levels of loneliness. Luckily, the gap has shrunk since then, so there have clearly been some adjustments along this period of time.
"One hypothesis is when things started to open up again, the lonely people were the first ones to go back to the office. But there has also been an acclimation where people have found ways to connect with people, that they didn't have before," Jim Harter says in the podcast.
Here, the role of the manager is really important, when connecting people, Jim Harter explains, which we will go even more into detail about in a bit.
How Many Wants to Work Remote?
"Before Covid hit 25 %, at least in the US, people worked somewhat remote, and that jumped up at 65 % at peak, even for the people that can't work remote," Jim Harter says, and continues:
"If you ask people what they are doing now, 2 in 10 work exclusively remote, another 2 in 10 hybrid, and 6 in 10 on-site. We measured this in October but will update the numbers this first quarter, and we will accumulate all the global data in a big report in June 2022."
"When you compare the current state to preference, then actually 5 in 10 want to work in a more hybrid situation than they actually do. And only 3 in 10 want to be on-site."
Performance and engagement in the hybrid workplace are other research topics, and you can learn more about these in the podcast.
The research is interesting when you have to build a great hybrid workplace. Especially, when we look at what people prefer to do, and what is the reality at the workplace.
3 Tips to Create the Best Hybrid Workplace
1. Consider the Individual Employee Needs
"If there's a gap between preference and reality, you get higher intentions to leave the organization, higher burnout, lower wellbeing in general, and lower engagement," Jim Harter says.
This is why it is so important to consider the individual employee needs, and not think that one-size-fits-all.
"That's the most interesting: How we can have these conversations where we can do what's right for the individual and the organization at the same time," Jim Harter says.
2. Managers Need to Upskill
"Managers need to have one meaningful conversation with the individual employee at least one time a week about their goals. Whether the goals need to be adjusted or not, and setting new goals. It's about involving the individual employee. Also meaningful conversations about their life situation and everything that's going on are important to have," Jim Harter says.
Giving the right feedback to the employee is also important for the manager, but this can be a harder task than it seems.
"Managers need to have the skills to have these conversations, so, it doesn't seem awkward. (...) I call it soft skills with some really hard consequences. Because if you do the soft skills right you do increase performance, and you increase retention rates. People want their opinion to matter, and they want to be recognized when they do good work. They want to have a chance to do what they do best," Jim Harter says.
3. Look into Individual Strengths
"A shortcut to getting those meaningful conversations is to look into the individual's strengths. (...) There are 34 traits that we can measure and give people feedback on what their strengths are, and start with who they are from an innate perspective. And then build their goals, what they do best around their strengths, and also the people they work with and their strengths."
"This makes the conversations more productive, and you can see that each person is not expected to develop in the same way and perform in exactly the same way because we are all different," Jim Harter says and continues:
"You can think about it as personality, but it's more the part of us, that we are more unlikely to change. Some people are more analytical than others, some are more strategic thinking. We can group the differences into four categories, where one of them is about relationships and how we build relationships differently. Some people really crave making new friends and some maybe want to build deeper relationships with the people they already know. And that's important to know about somebody in a remote environment because it could relate to that loneliness factor we talked about earlier."
"So, it does not only help the manager but knowing these strengths can also help the teams have productive discussions and know how to recognize other people."
Get even more tips about what to do, for example, how to create social time in a hybrid environment, and get the simple question a manager can ask an employee to learn a lot more about a person, and how they do their work best. You will also learn what NOT to do when creating a hybrid workplace in the podcast.
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.