Building a fair and inclusive hybrid office

June 30, 2021
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Building a fair and inclusive hybrid office
Sarah Schultz
June 30, 2021

The research is clear. Employees increasingly want a flexible work environment. And companies across a variety of industries are successfully implementing a hybrid office model.

From increased productivity to higher employee satisfaction, the benefits of a hybrid office are abundant. However, team leaders must be mindful of the long-term ramifications of an office where some employees are in the office and others are not.

Here are 5 factors to consider when implementing your hybrid model.

Have a clear path for professional growth within the company

Addressing culture holistically is a critical component of implementing a successful hybrid office policy. But understanding what both office-first and remote-first employees need in their professional development and growth during their tenure with the company is important to maintaining employee satisfaction and retention.

Here’s the scenario to consider: Your company’s leadership happens to be in-office most days. Young associates without families or the outgoing middle-manager who can be in the office more regularly will inevitably have more facetime with the C-suite, forging strong relationships and pathways to promotions, pay raises, and recognition. Remote-first employees or folks who are only in the office occasionally lack this same exposure to the executive team, which could result in limited growth opportunities compared to their in-office (or more vocal) peers.

So, how do you create fair and equal opportunity for professional development?

One way that you can provide necessary executive and leadership exposure for employees is to establish a mentoring program within your organization. Some larger companies launch developmental leadership tracks for traditionally underrepresented communities in a given industry or role. In addition to structured initiatives, monthly town hall-style meetings allow team members to ask questions or put a name to a face. Another great idea: At Coinbase, leadership asks remote employees to ask their questions first before opening the floor to the in-person team.

Going beyond internal programming, extensive and clear guidelines will help your team understand the promotion process. Even if you have an existing performance process in place, be extra transparent: outline skill requirements, role milestones, and department or individual KPIs, and establish goal-setting exercises for those looking to level up from their current positions.

Restructure meetings to ensure teamwide participation

In a traditional office setting, it’s easy to see who is engaged during a meeting, who is raising their hand to participate, and who might be unsure about contributing to a conversation. But in a remote or hybrid setting, it can be more difficult to understand if everyone is being heard.

Inviting a promising junior employee to a meeting with the CEO assuming they’ll get visibility isn’t enough. Team leads and project managers should rethink how they’re conducting meetings to involve all employees – regardless of their “office status.”  

To promote equal and open communication opportunities in team meetings, start by being intentional in how you’re structuring your meetings. Be mindful of what your meeting looks like so that people are not sidelined, the entire team receives executive visibility, and information and updates resonate with all employees.

Although these meeting policies predate the pandemic shift in remote work strategies, Amazon employs several best practices that encourage team participation and engagement. For example, team leads must prepare a memo ahead of the meeting, and the first portion of the meeting is spent reading and commenting on the memo. This ensures that folks are not “bluffing” their way through a PowerPoint presentation and, more importantly, that even the most introverted employee has an opportunity to contribute to the conversation and drive meaningful change.

Be attentive to women in the workforce

The past year has sidelined an overwhelming number of women in the workforce. In fact, during the pandemic, women performed three times the amount of unpaid childcare work than their male colleagues. And with limitations in the traditional “9-to-5” work environment, many women are not returning to their full-time roles in the workplace.

There are outside factors at play that an employer simply cannot control. However, there are steps to take to provide a supportive and flexible workplace for primary caretakers, especially women, to return to the office more easily.

In particular, a hybrid office model can provide consistent and structured flexibility for primary caretakers. A 4-day workweek can help parents save on childcare. While these types of policies require a certain level of trust and productivity, today’s workers are, increasingly, looking to their employers for a mature relationship and a level of confidence in their ability to be productive on their terms.  

In addition to flexible work policies, companies should set aside resources and identify personnel to lead Parent or Women Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to crowdsource ideas, share pain points, and offer general support.

Prioritize building trust amid a strong culture

For many teams, the transition from in-person to fully remote work led to dramatic changes in the company’s key culture components. Often, we rely on the office to create a sense of community and trust. Now, without the office physically bringing people together, people and HR leaders must establish creative programming that encourages team members to connect and build relationships both in-person and virtually.

Successful programming goes beyond the occasional Zoom happy hour or in-person dinner. Think critically about how you’re developing relationships within the team, across teams, and with the C-suite and the company. Why is this important? People leaders must find ways to continue building company-wide trust and buy-in. Over-surveillance and micro-management can signal to employees that leadership is not on board with flexible work.

Allow employees to build their workdays around the structured office model that you decide on, and let the team show you that they can be successful. Don’t assume failure, await positive results. It’s easy enough to course-correct if something is not going well, but losing folks because of a poor working environment will be costly and detrimental to team morale.

Find the right hoteling software

Not to be discounted, finding the right software solution for supporting your return to the office is critical in getting the hybrid work model right.

And outside of desk reservation software, OfficeTogether is one of the only platforms that is focused on helping teams plan their time in-office together, creating a structured environment for coworking and collaboration that can otherwise be difficult to get right in a remote workforce. At present, the platform integrates with several major HR and communication tools, including Azure, BambooHR, Google Calendar, Okta, Slack, and more.

Of note, early adopters of the hybrid office model have seen immense success with the OfficeTogether platform.

Ready to learn how OfficeTogether can help your team return to the office? Let’s chat!

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