By Patty Crabtree
“I just want everyone back at the office and let’s just get back to normal,” many a business leader has said.
But let’s face facts: the old ways of business will never really happen again. That train has left the station, that ship has sailed.
During the pandemic businesses have been exposed to the possibilities of remote work. Many workers found it to be liberating as they were no longer tied to that commute or the rigid nine-to-five schedule. Now that we have seen what is possible, how can we capitalize on it and develop that world class service?
Here is a surprising statistic: If given the choice between a $30,000 raise or permanently working from home, employees at some of the biggest companies said they would choose the latter. LinkedIn News, citing a survey by professional network Blind, reports 64% of respondents would forgo the extra cash for the remote work benefits. About 67% of Google respondents preferred permanent work-from-home, as well as 64% of Amazon, 62% of Microsoft, 69% of Apple, 76% of Salesforce and 47% of JPMorgan Chase employees.
“I’m not surprised at all,” said Chelsea Jay-Wiltse, a career coach at Intelligent.com. “The pandemic provided an opportunity for many professionals to reset and rediscover their priorities. Most professionals found working from home provided a better work/life balance, more time with family and friends, and decreased stress levels. Utilizing technology to its fullest extent is the way of the future.”
She offers this prediction: “More employers will need to offer flexible scheduling and remote work options to remain competitive when it comes to attracting talented professionals.”
However, the message we keep hearing at Lighthouse Consulting is businesses want to return to normal, all the peas back in the pod. We are not a fan of this word normal. This word gets thrown around every time something pushes us outside our comfort zone as people crave the known and are afraid of the unknown.
Normal is such a disempowering word. It takes away from the opportunity and encourages things to go to back the same. But a return to normal is just an illusion as our world has changed. With all the opportunities that have occurred, why would someone want to go back to the way things were when there is a possibility of something better?
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Déjà vu is the feeling you have experience something before. For me, I faced this dilemma many years ago as my company faced a staffing crisis. As a small company, our solution was to start building a remote workforce. Through trial and error, we developed a high performing and successful workforce that cultivated a high retention rate of both clients and staff. Our culture of innovation thrived, and collaboration was strong. As profitability increased year over year, we had proof this concept worked.
As more people are vaccinated and the infection rate is decreasing, the talk is about moving back into the office toward that normal. Many leaders are inferring they will demand everyone return to the office while employees are wanting options. Some want to be able to work remotely a few days a week. Others want to work remotely full time.
Managing A Hybrid Workforce Takes Focus
So, how do you balance this desire for a hybrid-work-environment so it supports everyone’s desires?
Managing a hybrid or fully remote workforce takes a different focus. One word I like to use here is intentional. A more intentional focus on the nuances of a diverse work environment is important to continue a healthy, successful workforce.
Here are some aspects to consider as you plan for continuing a hybrid or remote workforce:
- Culture. How has your culture evolved during this time and how does it need to further evolve to support a hybrid or remote workforce? Do your current core values fit this new environment? Is a fine tuning needed?
- Communication. Have you established a formal communication plan to ensure all messaging is heard by staff? This would include the types of events that can occur throughout the month, who should be included in the communication and what method the communication is expressed.
- Strategy. How have your leaders ensured a focus on both short-term and long-term strategy? What is the long-term vision and plan for the company while embracing a hybrid or fully remote work environment?
- Management. What training has been provided to managers to ensure they effectively supervise the hybrid or remote workers and maintain a high level of productivity and staff retention?
- Customer Service. How has customer service evolved? Has this been an intentional practice or in the moment solution?
- Collaboration. How have you encouraged collaboration in a hybrid or fully remote environment? What tools have been put in place to ensure collaboration continues to thrive?
- Team Building. What hybrid team building activities have been established? Are they scheduled on a regular basis?
- Training. How has ongoing training evolved to support a hybrid or remote workforce?
- Flexibility. Is that nine-to-five work environment really the only effective way for your staff to be successful? Is there an opportunity to provide flexible schedules that support company needs along with a healthy work-life balance for your employees?
- Meetings. What tools have been put in place to facilitate effective meeting and encourage a healthy dialogue?
- Recognition/Engagement. How has your recognition program evolved to be inclusive of both office and remote workers? What is your engagement plan?
- Interviewing. What practices have been put in place to support effective remote hiring?
- Onboarding. Do you have an effective plan to onboard new hires both in the office and remote workers? Does you plan include team building and culture activities?
“The pandemic lockdown only accelerated the work-from-home trend,” says Dennis Consorte, a small business consultant at digital.com. “In a digital age, commuting is a waste of time for many professions. If you work in retail or construction, then sure, you need to show up to do the work. If facetime is important to company culture, then businesses should consider rotating schedules where staff visits home base once a week. The key is in measuring the value that people provide, rather than the hours they work.”
Consorte says this mindset eliminates concerns over employees who work fewer hours than their peers, because it’s the value they produce that matters, regardless of how long it takes. “Work-from-home rewards workers with hundreds of more hours of personal time each year, making for a better work-life balance, and happier employees produce better results,” he adds.
Developing a successful and lasting hybrid workforce takes building a new muscle. A muscle of enhanced communication, unique team building approaches, leaders driving the conversation and showing the way with a new focus and creating an offering that is attractive to existing and potential employees along with ensuring your customers continue to feel valued.
This is like any new strategic initiative. Being strategic takes planning, focus, communication and accountability to implement and thrive.
If you are open to a conversation about any of these aspects of creating a hybrid work environment culture, please call or email and we will set up a time to talk.
Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2021
Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience. Her phone number is 310-453-6556, ext. 410 and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.
If you are open to a conversation about how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.
For more information, please visit our website, www.lighthouseconsulting.com to sign up for our Open Line webinars and monthly Keeping On Track publication or to order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, email@example.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.