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Building a hybrid workplace environment

Building a positive workplace environment is difficult under normal circumstances. You need to accommodate schedules, work styles, and even food sensitivities. We know the last one sounds odd, but it’s true. Moving forward, as many workforces begin transitioning back into the office, you’re going to need to start thinking about an additional factor: how to build and mold the workplace experience with a hybrid workforce.

Feature image for building a new workplace environment with a hybrid workforce

When we say hybrid workforce, we mean employees who split time between working from home and working in the office. This also includes employees who decide to work full time from home, or full time in the office. Right now, you should expect around 90% of your workforce to be switching their work location between home and the office, according to a Gensler study.  

This means that in order to build a positive workplace environment, you’re going to need to establish certain expectations when it comes to things like communication and inclusivity.

Communication

From your company’s leadership team, to individual team leads, and everyone in between, a positive hybrid workplace experience starts with effective communication. With different people in the office daily, and live conversations happening, as well as Zoom meetings, there needs to be a conscious effort to communicate and maybe even overcommunicate.

Leadership

Over the past year, executive teams and team leaders have learned lots of new communication skills. Workforces went from consistent, live face time, to virtual meetings literally overnight. As a result of this sudden shift, many employees feel there is still certainly some room for improvement in the way their organizations are communicating. For us, this is a tale of two statistics. 

First, 78% of employees said their organization responded to the pandemic appropriately, according to a McKinsey survey. This survey encompassed health and safety measures, security, and stability. So for the most part, employers did what they needed to do to ensure their employees felt safe and able to continue their work during the pandemic.

One the other hand, only 42% of employees say their company has done a good job of communicating overall. This tells us that employers and leadership teams made sure their employees had the resources to continue working at an effective level, but didn’t follow through or follow up. We get it, no working professional has lived through a global pandemic. But if employees felt this way when most or everyone was working from home, then communication efforts definitely need to improve when workforces are both at home and in the office.

Without clear, effective communication coming from the top about any new expectations that will come with transitioning back into the office as a hybrid workforce , employees will feel lost and frustrated. This won’t make or break your company’s work environment, but your employees will notice if it’s not handled correctly.

Team communication

Next comes effective communication between team leaders and direct reports, as well as between team members. Yes, the foundation of your organization’s communication strategy comes from the top, but it needs to be cultivated at the team level.

Team leaders are in the know. They’re the direct link between lower and mid-level employees and the leadership of your company. Because of this, the success of your organization’s communication strategy going forward relies heavily on them.

Additionally, team leaders have a direct impact on individual schedules, expectation, goals, and are ultimately in charge of building a productive environment for the employees who report to them.. If there are five people on a team, and three of them are planning to work from home for the  majority of the week, there needs to be consistent communication with those employees at home, about any in person meetings or conversations that take place. This doesn’t mean every single conversation, but anything that may be of consequence. There needs to be a point of overcommunicating to ensure information doesn’t get lost in translation.

Workspaces

We touched on this before, but whether by design or naturally, the purpose and use of your office will most likely change.. We believe that employees will use their office time for collaboration and meetings, while saving their more personal tasks for home. But, as we mentioned above, you can expect most of your workforce to work in the office at least four days per week

This means you need to think about  workspaces. Employees who come in regularly will most likely have a consistent place where they work – whether you have permanent seating or not. Employees who only come in part time will also need somewhere to work. They don’t necessarily need a dedicated desk, but they should have a space to get work done, even if they’re in meetings most of the time.

A positive workplace environment means everyone has the ability and opportunity to work when they come in. That may sound obvious, but these aren’t normal times. Just knowing they have a desk where they can work if they do come in, means employees will feel more comfortable coming into the office.

Create excitement 

Now you have to create excitement around coming into the office. If your employees are anything like us at TransitScreen, they’re already excited to return. Seeing coworkers in person for the first time in more than a year is a benefit in and of itself. But that thrill of being back will only last so long.

You need to make the conscious effort to keep your employees engaged and happy to continue coming into the office. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Thinking about what you did before the pandemic is a great place to start. For example, we used to cater Monday lunches for our employees. Bringing back events and other perks that you had pre-COVID will bring back a sense of normalcy and help you match the pre-COVID office experience.

Don’t forget about those happy hours. Remember we did them in the office and then over Zoom? Host them in the office. Everyone being comfortable going to bars and restaurants will take some time. But when they’re in the office with everyone already, staying for happy hour will most likely feel fine. Planning an event like this ahead of time will allow employees to plan accordingly and ensure they have the opportunity to be in the office.

Creating a positive environment will require you to bring back elements of the past. It will make your employees feel comfortable, leading to an enjoyable employee experience in the office.

Equitable benefits

You also need to think about benefits and perks. We’re not talking about health benefits, we’re talking about any added benefits you offer like commuter benefits, in-office lunches, or any other perks. If you’re offering benefits or perks for employees who regularly come into the office, you need to think about employees who don’t. When you’re going through this process, you need to avoid the mentality of, “they can receive in-office benefits and perks if they come in.” We’ve all learned that we can work just as effectively at home as we can in the office. Rewarding all work equally, regardless of where it’s taking place, is going to be important. 

So let’s say you go back to providing lunch one day per week. Maybe you give employees working from home a giftcard to a food delivery app. Or if you ramp up your commute management program, you can think about offering remote employees a hobby stipend.

Finally, this last year has taught us that our homes have become an extension of our office space. One thing we’re sure of, is that many people will continue taking advantage of their home offices and you need to treat employees at home similarly to those in the office. They’re still employees, they still do work to benefit your company, and they deserve benefits to make their home space and time enjoyable.