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The best strategies for coping with the tensions of a hybrid work model

Remote employees like the flexibility. Employees that are present at work like having the office to themselves. However, labour and compliance experts warn that there is a chance that these two sorts of workers would start to dislike one another, leading to a conflict in the company culture. It will be challenging to navigate this new employment environment.

How should businesses respond to the requirements of these two different workforce groups? How do you maintain everyone's motivation, interest, and productivity? What are some typical hazards to stay away from?

Nearly 1,300 in-house attorneys, C-suite executives, and HR experts were questioned about their worries with a hybrid work style in a study conducted in May 2022 by the employment law firm Littler. They were instructed to verify each appropriate response.

According to the respondents, maintaining workplace engagement and company culture was their top concern, followed by ensuring that hybrid/remote work was applied fairly in 53 percent of cases and the effectiveness of communications and meetings involving a mix of remote and in-person staff in 52 percent of cases.

Other issues were less possibilities for professional development and mentoring (45%) and availability for in-person interactions with clients, customers, or third parties (40%) as well as scheduling issues with staff present on different days (28 percent).

Only 2% of individuals polled claimed to have no worries about hybrid employment.

The creation of haves and have-nots is something you do not want to do, according to Claire Deason, a shareholder at Littler.

"You want to implement a hybrid model in a way that doesn’t create perceived inequities and resentment. Everyone has been given some flexibility, and some employees have taken it to an extreme. That can create feelings among groups of employees that some are taking advantage of the system, that they are getting more than they should be entitled to," she said.

Here are some best practices to prevent distinct groups of employees from resenting one another, regardless of whether your business plans to compel all employees to return to the office, maintain a mixed model, or go totally remote.

If your organization demands that everyone return in person by a specific date, begin by sending back managers and executives first. Encourage staff to come in a couple days per week, and do not be afraid to offer them free breakfast, catered lunches, or snacks as inducements.

Make the days when employees do come into the office worthwhile if your company intends to continue with hybrid work permanently. On each given in-person day, there need to be enough employees present for the trip to be worthwhile.

Whatever policy your company chooses to implement, senior managers and executives should lead by example.

Gus Sandstrom, labor and employment partner at labor law firm Blank Rome, said: "If you do not see people at the top practicing what they preach, it will build resentment and a sense employees do not need to comply."

Change must come from the top down, Caroline Donelan, a partner at Blank Rome, concurred. "As with any attempts to influence workplace culture, change has to be top-down."

Throughout the epidemic, those who worked in person did their hardest despite challenging conditions. They actually put their lives in danger. The time has come to let them know how much you respect them.

Many companies may have already raised pay and given incentives to on-site workers. Even yet, those employees might be wondering, "What about me?" when they look across at their coworkers who are permitted to work from home.

Make sure that workers utilize their time off. Split shifts, more flexible hours, or the option to work the same number of hours per week across four instead of five days are all methods to provide on-site employees some of the scheduling freedom they observe being enjoyed by remote workers.

During the epidemic, remote employees demonstrated that they could be just as productive, if not more so. Offering productive workers the option to continue working remotely, either in a hybrid model or completely remote, is one way to recognize their success.

Flexibility in scheduling is now considered to be a perk on par with compensation and career prospects for both on-site and remote workers. They might possibly start working certain days at 10:00 a.m. rather than 8:30.

Employees value flexibility greatly, according to Sandstrom. "“Employers willing to accommodate those requests, within reason, eliminate one of those mental hurdles to coming into work."

A content employee who believes their boss understands their concerns about work-life balance is less likely to hunt for other employment.

"Even if you offer a ‘flexible’ workplace, you still need to be clear with your expectations," added Donelan. "If there are certain meetings or events employees are expected to attend in person, they need to know that."

Setting up required in-person meetings may be useful in the short run, but initially, it is important to use more carrots than sticks.

"Making people want to come in is as important, maybe more important, than ordering them to come in," according to Sandstrom.

One way to encourage adherence to your new workplace regulations is to promote well-being. Offer once-weekly workplace meditation sessions in person or organize a group Peloton bike ride for remote workers.

Also present bribes. You would be surprised at how many workers will show up to work early for a catered lunch or endless free snacks.

A vacant office is not something anybody wants to visit frequently. Inform employees of who will be returning in person on specific days for their division or team.

If workplace regulations are written and applied in a fair, impartial manner, an employer is free to impose any restrictions they see fit, according to Donelan.

However, according to Sandstrom, outdated, inconsistently implemented, or hurried policies may lead to employees looking for other employment.

"It’s very easy to say everyone needs to be back in, but you need to be aware of all the consequences of that," he said.

Think over a request for an accommodation from several angles when an employee makes it. Will finding the accommodation reduce output? Will it have an impact on the other employees' morale? Is a legal right at risk, too?

Some requests for remote work might be hiding protected and covered leave issues, according to Deason. Return-to-office requirements may run afoul of the accommodation restrictions outlined by the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and other legislation. The same goes for health problems that may become worse if an employee was exposed to Covid-19 while working or commuting.

Managers should be ready to respond to inquiries such, "Why does Jane get to work from home so much when the rest of us are back in the office?" with as much information as they are permitted to while maintaining employee privacy. "You have to train your managers on how to navigate that," according to Deason.

Deason stated, "We ask our employees to remember there are many reasons why an employee might need to stay away from the office. Frankly, outside of HR, it’s probably none of anyone’s business why an employee might work from home on a particular day."


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