Staff in the workplace. Staff working from home. Staggered schedules. Many workplaces are transitioning to a new reality in the wake of the pandemic. They’re working to create a safer environment or to accommodate parents and caregivers who are struggling with childcare. Some are discovering that a remote workforce can boost satisfaction and increase the pool of potential employees, since location is less of a consideration. If this is new territory, managers, employees, and Human Resources departments will have to make transitions as well. These best practices can make for a smoother ride while managing workforce transitions.
Plan to Succeed
Before beginning any shift in the workforce or operations, decision-makers and the HR department need to map out how the workflow will work. They also need to anticipate potential issues and questions and have a plan for issues large and small. How will the performance of remote workers be judged? If an employee wants to work from home and doesn’t have adequate internet, will the organization pay for it?
Can schedules be adjusted to increase safety? Can some workers come in late or after-hours to reduce the daytime headcount? Will expectations change when people are working from home? Will the organization expect workers to respond to emails or messages outside normal working hours? Will half the staff be at the workplace on Monday and Tuesday and the other half on Thursday and Friday?
It’s much easier to set up policies, procedures, and expectations beforehand and communicate them to staff than to try to do it on the fly.
In the workplace, communications can be simple: post a notice in the lunchroom, make an announcement over the PA, knock on an office door, or walk into someone’s cubicle.
With more employees working from home, organizations need to understand how to best use instant messaging and email, and set up expectations for each. For example, instant messaging might be reserved for short messages and questions, with the expectation that responses will be same day or first thing the following morning. Emails might be reserved for longer messages, and staff should respond within 24-48 hours.
Pay attention to security, too. How will you ensure that messages aren’t seen by anyone else in the household? Will industry regulations require that employees shut off their computers or protect them with passwords or biometrics if they leave their desks?
Again, these questions should be answered—and expectations set—up front while managing workforce transitions.
Plan for Safety
Having clients work from home doesn’t necessarily mean organizations can give up responsibility. Some jurisdictions, for example, say employers are responsible for workers’ equipment, environment, and safety even if they work remotely. In other areas, organizations can give employees an allowance and let them use their own equipment.
If an employee’s home environment isn’t secure, and that employee handles sensitive information, how will you provide a private work environment for that employee? Will they be required to come into the workplace? Will you rent temporary office space for that worker?
Keep Employees Engaged
Without the built-in social opportunities of an office setting, employee engagement becomes especially important for a hybrid workforce. Many tools can help remote or hybrid teams work together, such as Zoom, Slack, MS Teams, Google Meet, and others. What’s most important is having a strategy behind those tools.
Some organizations have added a meeting, possibly optional, during what used to be commuting time. That might be a business meeting or social time for people to enjoy coffee and a morning chat. Teams might have brief morning meetings, such as a 15-minute morning standup. Have employees take turns bringing a joke or sharing pet photos before each meeting.
Extend and expand the onboarding process by pairing each new employee with a veteran as a buddy or training system. Those relationships are the fastest way to help new employees understand and embrace the organization’s culture. They can work particularly well with a hybrid staff if each on-site employee is paired with a remote worker.
Managers will also have to rethink the way they communicate with their team, whether that means a weekly one-on-one with each employee or more project planning up front to manage expectations and deadlines.
Finally, make sure performance and productivity are judged fairly and equally, whether an employee is on-site or remote. All team members need to have equal opportunities and equal access to decision-makers. Whenever possible, judge on results, not activity. And always ensure that everyone sees the results, and especially successes, of projects.
Above all, don’t let either coming into the workplace or working remotely be seen as a reward or a punishment. Both have benefits and drawbacks. All employees in a hybrid system should receive the same consideration for bonuses, recognition for going above and beyond, or any other efforts that help advance the organization’s mission.
The Lindenberger Group can help organizations build and manage an efficient, high-performance hybrid system, from recruiting to onboarding day-to-day operations. For more information on managing workforce transitions or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.