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Part 1

Hybrid Workplace Challenges and Predictions

Kay Sargent, a director of architecture and design firm HOK’s global WorkPlace practice, addressed this juxtaposition of employee needs with corporate needs in a recent WorkDesign Magazine article.

The C-suite is concerned not only about the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce but also ensuring that the business survives. That last point is often overlooked in strong economies, but the prosperity of companies can’t be forsaken. Our livelihoods depend on it.
– Kay Sargent, Director of Architecture and Design, HOK

The best approach is to make sure you ask employees the right questions, she said.

Rather than asking employees what they want in a hybrid workspace, dig deeper. People can’t respond to a work environment they have yet to experience, so asking what type of schedule they want can be counterproductive. Instead, ask questions where the answers will reveal the type of distributed work model your company should consider.

Find out what your employees think will accommodate their individual work styles while enabling meaningful interactions.

Breaking from tradition isn’t the only reason companies may show reluctance to implement a hybrid work schedule. Key challenges companies face with a hybrid schedule affect communication, company culture, onboarding new hires, and employee burnout, among others. Here’s how we’ve seen companies begin to address those challenges and what we anticipate will be the next evolution of hybrid work.

Company cultures will become more employee-centric

This foray into a new perspective on how and when we work will lead more companies to re-evaluate their culture to put individual accomplishments and needs at the top. In a PWC Pulse survey, 36% of executives say the loss of corporate culture is the biggest challenge to hybrid work.

A recent episode of “McKinsey Talks Talent: Culture in the Hybrid Workplace” podcast examined using hybrid workplace models to reshape thinking behind your company culture, maintaining the advantages of a healthy culture while embracing change.

Culture is when organizations share a common set of behaviors, mindsets, and professional values. Though a strong corporate culture can galvanize your team to navigate change, be careful that it doesn’t create entrenched views of where and when work needs to be completed that can hinder adapting a new model.

Some leaders feel they need employees in the office to maintain their existing culture. While the environment does affect culture, it’s more likely that returning to the office means returning to a different culture than you had before the pandemic.

This is an unbelievable opportunity to remake culture, it’s rare in a leader’s lifetime to have such a clean drop for reshaping how you run the place.
– Bill Schaninger, McKinsey talent expert

Reshaping your company culture in the face of changing models requires maintaining a people-first perspective — prioritizing your employees and then your clients.

Take time to examine your company values. Ask employees how and when they are most productive, what they need to maintain clear communication and collaboration, and what matters most to them about the work they do.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report indicates that only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, compared with 70% in the world’s best organizations.

If their purpose and values align with your company’s, you have a more engaged employee who can help lead to retention, motivation, satisfaction, and productivity globally in your business.

Companies will embrace hybrid hiring practices, training, and onboarding

Jobvite released a report in 2020 that indicated 84% of recruiters switched traditional recruitment methods to fully remote ones. As time goes on, more and more companies will embrace hybrid hiring and onboarding.

Recruiters will continue to turn to online means for advertising positions, like the 46% of recruiters in the Jobvite report who said they are doing the majority of their recruiting via social media. While remote hiring allows companies to scale fast, in-person interviews still offer a good opportunity for employees to meet the team, especially if the role is a hybrid one. Having a defined process for checking in job candidates when they visit the office for the first time, notifying the interviewer, and providing clear directions will go a long way toward making them feel welcome right away. A good visitor management system makes this easier.

Onboarding will also begin mirroring the distributed workplace model. Your onboarding can use pre-recorded videos employees can watch at their own pace before joining a team meeting in the office later that week.

Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70%, according to a report by Glassdoor.

Employee wellness initiatives will increase to combat burnout

Workplace burnout creates potential for a decline in your workforce due to employees getting sick or falling short in their performance, or even lead to increased turnover.

Though tough to define, workplace burnout is about more than stress at work. Often now referred to as “pandemic fatigue” or “hitting the pandemic wall”, workplace burnout is a work-related condition with symptoms ranging from apathy, poor focus, and decreased performance.

According to an Indeed survey, workplace burnout is up 43% from the same survey prior to COVID-19.

Workplace burnout looks different for everyone. Burnout Management Coach Emily Ballesteros shared three different types of workplace burnout:

  • Burnout by volume is when employees constantly feel overloaded with work and don’t feel they can take time away for themselves
  • Burnout by boredom is when employees feel dissatisfied by the work they are doing for an extended period of time
  • Burnout by socialization, where employees feel obligated to fulfill every request and don’t know how to say “no” in a healthy way

It’s imperative that companies respond in more proactive ways than in the past. Moving forward, more companies will add wellness initiatives for employees that address niche health concerns such as stress, screen fatigue, and financial health.

Solutions for workplace burnout start with management. Make sure you lead by example and avoid frequently putting in long hours, sending emails during evenings or weekends, or responding during PTO.

Another way to fight burnout is to give employees more options about where and when they do their work. More organizations are considering an unlimited vacation policy to create built-in flexibility. Giving employees workplace technology that allows them to be productive anywhere is great, but establishing clear boundaries around when they are expected to be available is even more critical.

From Burnout to Bliss: New Rules for Creating Workplace Happiness

How to recognize employee burnout and what you can do about it