The Never Normal — Managing In-Person, Hybrid, Remote and Diverse Work Teams — Sarah Scala Consulting
For the past 18 months the world has gone through massive loss and major transition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has included a significant loss of life, change in the way people work, change in where and how people work, and in some cases the complete re-tooling or elimination of some industries. On the flip-side, the Covid-19 pandemic also revealed a silver lining of meeting, and at times exceeding, defined business goals and needs for certain companies.
Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives, with increasing levels of infection from the new Delta variant. While I am not a fortune teller and I cannot tell you what’s going to happen in the next year or two, I do know that many employees have found value and thrived during the opportunity to work from home. Some of these employees no longer want to go back to a full-time 9 to 5 commuting schedule requiring them to physically go to their traditional workplace.
With an estimate of approximately 40% of employees looking to jump ship and leave organizations that have re-entry plans to be back at work, paired with many Fortune 50 companies sharing that they will be 100% back to work this Fall, this push and pull will have some interesting results! I advise clients on their workforce planning, succession, and guidelines for re-entry to work. I start with asking if what is required for the business to be successful covered currently. With 100% remote workforce? With hybrid workforce?
Frontline service-based employees that are serving meals, delivering packages, working in healthcare, may have less of a chance to work from home than those of us who are knowledge-based workers. With that in mind, I suggest first understanding what is absolutely required, and ask both your employees and leaders what they are most comfortable with. If it means you get to retain high potential or a high-performing employees, I suggest having some flexibility and empathy.
If your business needs are being met, and employees are happy working from home or in a hybrid structure, what needs would be met by going back to 100% in person?
Whatever model or solution you test or pilot next, it will never be a black-and-white solution for everybody. Some people still have children at home due to limited childcare or choosing to home school. Others are taking care of senior parents. Parents may now have college aged or young adult children living at home, and some people may have relocated to another state, town, or country during the pandemic, and do not want to move back. All of these considerations are important to think about. Where it makes sense to provide flexibility for employees to work from home 100% or have a hybrid environment, I suggest testing it and seeing what people want. A pilot arrangement can be a great way test of these different work models.
One company that has done an excellent job with this, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, is HubSpot — the software and CRM company. They give employees the choice to be @office, @flex, or @home. Their work setup benefits are different depending on which of the three options each employee choices. One example, is the @flex employees go to an office two or fewer days per week, they opt out of a dedicated office space, and HubSpot supports a work from home (WFH) set-up. For @home employees, HubSpot makes sure the WFH set-up is set up for success. Learn more about HubSpot’s Future of Hybrid Work strategy.
Regardless of which workplace model you have accepted or are piloting, leaders need to support their teams by setting clear goals and expectations, in addition to providing feedback. Managing performance is also important, including scheduling regular meetings one on one with direct reports, and with the entire team to ensure clear communication.
In closing, as we navigate the reintroduction of weekly or daily shifts that are happening in our communities, states, or countries, it’s going to be important to have trust, flexibility, empathy, and understanding to retain, engage, and support your excellent workforce, while meeting growing client demands.
How are you navigating the next stage with your workforce? Share in comments.
About the Author:
Sarah Scala is a senior talent management leader and executive coach with 20+ years of experience providing organization development, change management, and leadership development solutions for diverse global and local industries. She is a collaborative consultant, coach, and educator supporting performance transformation of executives, leaders, and teams. Sarah is a methodical, results-driven leader recognized for helping clients reach their highest potential, increase revenue, reduce turnover, elevate business profitability, build competencies, and improve performance.
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