There’s no disputing that the world of work has changed. In the face of a lingering global pandemic, employee engagement has declined from its record-setting levels in 2018. At the same time, workers continue to report high levels of stress despite decreasing infection rates and the easing of lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions.
But COVID-19 alone isn’t to blame for the significant changes in workers’ needs and expectations, as well as the work patterns that have emerged in recent years. Studies show that the number of regular telecommuters increased by more than 200% between 2005 and 2019, before the pandemic hit.
And these findings suggest that many workers are unlikely to be willing to return to the traditional on-campus, 40-hour workweek in a post-pandemic world. Nevertheless, not every employee is cut out for a fully remote work schedule.
That’s where hybrid work options come in. With hybrid work, employees combine the luxury of job flexibility with the professional and social benefits of in-person collaboration. But how does a hybrid workplace contribute to the recruiting of the best and most in-demand talent?
It would be terrific if all our employees had to worry about was delivering stellar results for the company. But the reality is that workers are under greater pressure than perhaps ever before.
Millions of today’s workers belong to the “sandwich generation,” meaning they find themselves in the untenable position of caring both for aging relatives and young children. And the fact that these obligations also often coincide with a worker’s prime earning years, results in not only a reduction in overall income over the employee’s lifespan, but also a decreased capacity for the worker to contribute to your company at optimal levels.
This risk is particularly high for women, on whom the burden of caregiving still disproportionately falls. Indeed, caregiving responsibilities are often a principal reason women may elect to leave the paid labor force, reduce their working hours, or choose lower-skilled and less lucrative jobs that offer greater flexibility.
A hybrid workplace, then, can be tremendously attractive for workers who need some agility in how, when, and where work is done. Caregivers, both male and female, are likely to be drawn to the opportunity to work on campus only when their child is in school or their aging relative is in the care of another.
But providing opportunities for workers to better balance their work and family responsibilities isn’t just good for the worker, it’s also terrific for your company. By creating hybrid work opportunities, you’ll be widening your prospective talent pool and promoting employee loyalty and development, particularly among female workers.
Rising Worker Expectations
Caregivers aren’t the only contingent of the workforce who value workplace flexibility. Indeed, studies show that, in our post-pandemic world, workers are increasingly demanding more working options from their employers. One of the factors influencing workplace culture post-pandemic is an increasing perception of businesses’ roles in society. This includes how a business treats its employees.
More specifically, studies indicate that workers don’t just desire flexibility in scheduling, they expect it. Companies that ignore those expectations do so at their peril, because, as these studies have also shown, today’s workers are increasingly less tolerant of employers who don’t provide remote work opportunities.
Such workers are also increasingly likely to refuse a job or leave such a company to either join a competitor or pursue their professional endeavors from home. The loss of such workers can be a tremendous blow to an organization. Those workers who have the ambition, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit to pursue their own opportunities when an employer is unable or unwilling to accommodate their needs are precisely the kind of talent your company should be looking to keep.
A hybrid workplace isn’t necessarily synonymous with the virtual office, though they certainly overlap. There are many approaches to creating a hybrid workplace. You might allow employees to work primarily in the office, with one or two days of remote work per week. Or employees may be largely virtual, coming to campus only for a specific number of hours per week or for scheduled in-person meetings.
The use of blended schedules such as these has been shown to significantly increase employee satisfaction and productivity versus a fully-remote work environment. Studies suggest that many workers struggle with virtual-only work, particularly in high-stakes and high-stress work environments in which effective collaboration is paramount.
Employees who only work remotely may feel disconnected from their coworkers and company, and that can lead to decreased engagement and increased attrition. A hybrid workplace offers your talent the best of both worlds. It can be used to appeal to workers who value autonomy and may require flexibility, but who also need some measure of interaction with colleagues to remain engaged and inspired.
Best of all, you can promote your company’s brand as a top-tier employer by integrating strategies for supporting hybrid work into your employee management strategy. This might include offering training and education on how to create a productive home office space. You could even finance or reimburse employees for the purchase of needed home office equipment and furnishings, such as ergonomic office chairs and standing desks.
The hybrid workplace is neither a trend nor a luxury. Now, it’s a necessity, especially if your company is looking to win, and retain, the best and brightest talent in today’s increasingly tight labor market.
This post was written by a guest blogger, Noah Rue.