5 Steps to Create and Maintain a Sustainable Hybrid Workplace

26 November 2021 | 4 Minute
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5 Steps to Create and Maintain a Sustainable Hybrid Workplace

How to Maintain a Sustainable Hybrid Workplace

The hybrid model of work, meaning a workforce that works flexibly both in the office and remotely, has been quickly adopted across many teams following the pandemic. The benefits have expanded beyond keeping everyone safe, however, with employees gaining access to better work-life balance, and companies gaining access to a global talent pool.

We know that this way of work is here to stay, and some teams are still considering how to adopt it. Others shifted to hybrid quickly as a COVID response, but often overlook maintaining and tweaking the model to make sure it’s sustainable long-term.

We spoke to people leaders of successful hybrid companies for their advice and came across 5 common themes to create and maintain this new way of working successfully.

 

1. Back to Office Roadmap: Make sure you fully understand the expectations of your people.

This is an essential first step to creating a model that fits the culture of your business and people. Without incorporating their needs into your plans, changing their way of work will be more divisive than beneficial. 

There are several ways to do this and the more simple and honest, the better.

  • Collect Suggestions: A digital, anonymous ‘Suggestion Box’ is an extremely effective way to do this, giving all employees a voice and freeing them to improve their surroundings. We’ve heard from our partners that anonymity is key as it encourages conversation at every level and creates a culture of open, honest feedback. The general idea is that everyone can see the suggestions being replied to, and interact with them.
  • Deliver Pre and Post Employee Engagement Surveys. The most widely used way of understanding employees. You can use these engagement question examples to find out what your employees are thinking before and after they return to the office.

You can check the following questions prior to coming back to the offices;

  • How many days a week do you prefer to work from the office?
  • Which days are more suitable for you to work from the office?
  • Which of our offices would you choose as a co-working space?
  • Do you prefer to hold team meetings in the office?
  • Is it important for you to have different departments at the office on the same day? If yes, the state which department you’d most like to be in the office with.

 

5 Important Points to Consider When Creating Surveys

1 - Make sure your survey does not exceed 10 questions. 5 to 8 questions result in ideal completion rates.

2 - For multiple-choice questions, enable to select more than one option for detailed analysis.

3 - Ensuring your surveys are anonymous will increase the participation rate.

4 - Make sure your surveys are compatible with mobile - this will result in much higher participation rates, and make them feel more intuitive. 

5 - Looking at the survey data at the departmental level will give you a clearer picture of which back-to-office strategies to choose.

 

2. Communicate Your Plans Clearly

It’s important to provide clear context and explanation when it comes to hybrid working models. People should be fully aware of their options, and how flexible they can be, but also the reasons why your new way of working exists in the first place.

To maintain a sustainable hybrid working, communication should be continuous, with employee feedback driving change (big and small). The best way to do this is by using different channels, and testing which is better received by your teams. So not just email! Some of our communities’ favorite alternatives are:

  • Instant Messaging: Tools like WhatsApp and Slack are great ways to humanise workplace communication, especially effective when used in smaller teams.
  • Stories & Mobile Tools: Many teams are leaning towards mobile-first communication, especially as younger generations join the workforce. It’s possible to automate announcements in the form of ‘Stories’ (like Instagram), which have far higher open rates than emails. 
  • Intranet: A place to connect all the information employees could ever need for their daily activities. Centralising information helps to not disrupt workflow and cause unnecessary stress.

Overall, the best channel mixture will be different for each business. For communication to be clear, it should also be simple in the channel used. That’s why we’re a big fan of mobile.

 

3. Personalised Engagement Activities to Maintain Culture

Everyone (or most) has missed each other during the isolation of the pandemic! Socialising is a key component of building company culture and maintaining values within a Hybrid workplace. It all comes back to making it personal: different people are more engaged by different things. For some, a digital quiz might be enough but others prefer a few drinks and face-to-face interaction.

The vast majority of people need a mixture of both. Some effective activities include:

  • Happy Hours! Business and Beers as usual :)
  • Support Groups. Mental Well-Being has come even more to the forefront as hybrid models are adopted, but there’s still a long way to go. Providing safe communities for people to share their thoughts can go a long way. 
  • Inclusive Sports Socials - Table Tennis, Mini-Golf, Bowling

 

Some engagement ideas that are digital-only include:

  • Digital Morning Brew - Connect over a tea or coffee for some casual convo to start the day.
  • Peer to Peer Recognition - Let employees share feedback quickly and meaningfully at any time using digital stickers.
  • Digital Pub Quizzes - Bringing questions together about fun and unknown facts about your company in a short quiz would make your team enjoy some quality time!

The possibilities are endless with this, the key is to have fun and make activities relevant/appropriate for each team.

 

4. Understand Competencies and Behaviours

Understanding your people professionally and otherwise is critical to a great workplace. What are their strengths, and how do they perform in different circumstances?

Answering this question can be a very time-consuming process, and until recently, was only performed yearly/bi-yearly. We know that people change, especially in their skills, more often than this. There’s a lot that can be missed.

More importantly, people care about their career development. The best way to support this is with real data, not just 1 to 1 conversation with managers (which are equally as important) that leave things in the air. Employees are most engaged when their goals are connected to the bigger picture.

This idea of keeping up with your people in real-time is especially important for remote and hybrid models. Some of the best ways to do this:

  • Digital 360 Feedback - Many systems out there shorten the cycle of this process by months! On mobile especially, you’re able to automate reviewer groups and deliver surveys to people’s pockets. 
  • Use the DISC personality test to understand how best to support your people. 
  • Align everyone’s performance to the same goal. OKRs give everyone a view of how their contributions matter in the big picture.

One these are understood, you can personalise your people strategy and offer specific help rather than general training.

 

5. Continuously Monitor Satisfaction Levels

Many teams implemented great hybrid working models but unfortunately aren’t as active as they should be when it comes to understanding how it’s being received as time goes on.

What was fit for purpose a few months into the pandemic is no longer so, as we return to a new normal. There is heightened awareness of how people want to experience work, and more expectations and control wanted by the newer generations. If these things are not realised and reacted to, retention takes a dive.

One simple solution for this is asking questions continuously, and implementing small changes based on results.

Some examples of questions for surveys might include:

  • Which work style is more efficient for you?
  • Are you satisfied with coming to the office on x days?
  • Are you satisfied with the number of days you come to the office?
  • Are you satisfied with the procedures for visitors after coming back to the office?
  • Are you satisfied with the procedures for the new food and service system?
  • Do you have any suggestions to add for social distancing measures taken in our company at the moment?
  • How would you rate your corporate out of 10 for internal communication during the period you work remotely?

Automated pulse surveys are also amazing for tracking workplace atmosphere in real-time, more naturally. These surveys should be short and sweet, and allow employees to answer very intuitively without taking up their time.

 

These 5 steps will get you well on your way to a hybrid model that employees actively engage with. Communication is of great importance and must go both ways to ensure real collaboration. Building a workplace that is fit for the future of work requires leaders to think of the individual like never before. We should not solely think about the bottom line, but about how every employee experiences their time at work. Personalisation and adopting a people-first approach is the key to long-term growth and success in the modern workplace.

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