“Unprecedented times.” “We’re all in this together.” “Remote and Asynchronous work and school.” “The new normal.” We have all heard these phrases over the past 18 months as we have adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now we have a new phrase to add, and that’s “Hybrid Workplace.”
The past 18 months forced most of the corporate workforce to shift to a fully remote working model. With an increase in vaccine rates, approved social distancing guidelines and lower COVID-19 numbers across the US, many companies are looking at ways to bring their employees back into their physical office spaces. But many organizations want to continue to provide their employees with the flexibility they need to work where they want while still getting their jobs done. The hybrid model is an arrangement where employees come into the office occasionally, say for a corporate meeting or one to two set days a week, and complete the rest of their workweek from home.
Not only does the hybrid model allow and support the flexibility many employees have grown accustomed to, but many companies are also re-evaluating their office space needs and determining what cost savings can be accomplished by a reduction in space. In fact, as quoted from a recent PR Week article: “Last December, WPP CEO Mark Read said the agency holding company would save £600 million ($815 million) by cutting travel by a third, a 15% to 20% reduction in office space and moving to shared services for finance and IT in a post-COVID world.”
Listen and learn from your audience
I’ve seen this posted many times, and it’s important for companies to really hear and understand this message.
Stop calling it a return to work. We have been working this entire time.
When communicating the hybrid workplace model, be sure to choose your words carefully. Many employees are burned out from this past year, having children at home, family members and the overall stress of living life in a pandemic. Many are working extra hours at home to keep up with demand, and many have continued to excel at their jobs. Don’t discount the work employees have done for the past year and a half by disregarding the undertaking they have performed and don’t call it a “return to work.”
Have a plan
Much like developing a strong PR plan for a program launch, have a strong plan in place for what the hybrid environment will look like for your company. Many companies are touting a hybrid workplace but may not have an actual plan in place. Consider scheduling needs for space constraints to ensure there isn’t an influx of employees in the office mid-week and none on Mondays or Fridays, especially to continue to meet social distancing guidelines. This is also important for companies looking to reduce office space by implementing a desk-sharing policy. Be clear in address work hour expectations. Many people have shifted to flexible working arrangements to accommodate children and elderly family members that have been home during the pandemic. For many this flexibility has led to them being more productive.
Communicate, communicate and over-communicate
As we have learned this past year and a half, there is no such thing as too much communication. The more you communicate your plans to employees, clients and customers, the more they will feel included in the process and will understand the expectations moving forward. Allow for feedback from employees as well, listen to what is working and what isn’t. Employees know what they need to be successful.
Continue to focus on the personal element
COVID-19 changed us as a world. It changed how we work, how we school and how we interact with others. In many cases, it brought us closer together, gave us insight into co-workers’ personal lives and the challenges they face outside of work. With the empathy and support we have all provided each other, companies have continued to thrive. Understand that with the shift to the hybrid model, employees will need the same empathy and understanding.
Many have stated there is no going back to a traditional, office-based work structure and have confidence the hybrid model will be successful. However, by having a sound plan, listening, communicating, and focusing on your employees, employers have a greater chance of success as we shift to this “new normal.”
So you want to become a PR Jedi Master?
Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” poses a p