The new normal – a hybrid work model
As employers, we’re all in this together. Navigating new ways of working as we attempt to implement some structure and normalcy while learning to live with COVID-19. Now we’ve come out the other side, with new perspectives on how we work, we might be asking ourselves ‘how do we continue to engage employees that have found comfort in their new ways of working?’
A recent study by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) found a staggering 68 per cent of workers want to continue working from home full-time. Many employees recognise some of the benefits of working from home – increased flexibility, no commute, reduced expenses, and increased productivity. Similarly, VCCI says employers are also seeing the benefits, with 15 per cent of Australian employers noticing a distinct uplift in staff engagement and retention.
But working from home doesn’t suit everyone. So how do we engage our entire workforce?
The hybrid model – a mixture of onsite (office) and work from home – is the people-first approach that promises to be the solution to maintaining a happy and productive workforce.
While this model is providing a good balance for employees (where job types and remit permit), there’s still a degree of trepidation among employers around how this model will work in the foreseeable future.
What your staff might be feeling
At the core of this return-to-work model are people, all with different challenges, different work environments, and different views on how we should work. We recognise you can’t please everyone. But it’s good to understand the emotions at play to help inform conversations and manage the return-to-work process as best as you can.
Your staff may be feeling:
Stressed – although many would say we’ve become more accustomed to change over the past couple of years, adjusting to new ways of working will be a challenge to navigate.
Exhausted – in a recent global study, over 80 per cent of leaders said switching between onsite and at home days can impact working rhythm and was exhausting for employees.
Overwhelmed – there’s so much more to contend with now that people are leaving their home office bubbles. Understand there will be an adjustment period.
Unsafe – travelling to and from work with the virus still present can be unsettling for some.
What you can do
Communication is key. CareSuper’s hybrid working principles help keep us accountable and guide our approach as we face obstacles along the way. While we recognise the uniqueness of your organisations, these principles work for our business and might help inspire or complement your own structure:
Flexible first – we start from a position of flexibility, where it’s assumed that unless your job has certain role requirements, working from home some of the time or other flexible arrangements, is considered possible.
Connection & collaboration – in-person connection fosters a stronger collective culture and enhances cross team collaboration.
Availability – office attendance may be essential (certain meetings or events), so flexible arrangements require a willingness from staff to be accommodating (where possible). It’s expected that staff will be able to maintain their individual flexible arrangement at least 80% of the time.
Trust – a ‘flexible first’ approach requires a partnership of mutual trust and communication. This means open dialogue about progress and changes to individual arrangements.
Balanced agreement – the needs of both parties must be assessed and is subject to the continued productivity and effectiveness of the staff member in their role.
Periodic reviews – ensuring all arrangements remain mutually beneficial.
Safety & wellbeing – all flexible arrangements will support our values, enable an inclusive culture, and provide a safe and healthy workplace, regardless of location.
CareSuper’s Head of People and Culture, Amy Ridley, believes that hybrid working will look different for every organisation. ‘For CareSuper, all staff will be attending an office at least two days per week (for now), with guides, training, coaching support and welcome back activities to ease the transition. It will take time to evolve our ways of working for the new hybrid environment, so we’ll be consulting and seeking feedback from staff over the next few months to review its success.’
Your return-to-work plan will most likely require some tweaks along the way. While it may be a challenge, remember – make it fun! For some inspiration, check out this LinkedIn post from Amy during CareSuper’s first week of hybrid working.