Hybrid and remote work policies: companies getting it right
The Covid-19 pandemic changed everything, and particularly in the world of work. As the virus swept across the world, social distancing measures and lockdowns meant many organizations were forced to send their employees home from their usual workspaces. They had to adopt remote work policies to keep their businesses operational. As we began to return to ‘normal’, many people were still fearful of returning to public transport and office spaces, or were happier working from home. And as many organizations had successfully shifted their operations to a fully remote or hybrid work model, many employers and employees at that point wanted to keep some or all of their business remote.
The pandemic allowed many organizations to assess or reassess the benefits of remote work, including the need for physical workspaces. But despite many organizations declaring support for remote and hybrid work indefinitely in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, the world has changed again.
In many ways we are back to pre-pandemic conditions – unexpectedly, some might say - and the management of some companies changed their minds about remote and hybrid work. Employees, however, still want the flexibility that remote work can offer. If you can save money, improve your mental health, and have a better work-life balance working remotely at least some of the time, why would you want to return to the office five days a week?
So, where does remote and hybrid work fit into the business landscape these days? Why have some companies turned their back on it and others embraced it? And what are the implications for their employees and the future of work? We’ll take a look at some of the companies who made the decision to incorporate remote and hybrid working policies as well as some who are insisting that all employees return to work on a full-time basis.
Why do some companies have new remote and hybrid work policies?
Many organizations were able to implement remote and hybrid working practices that showed tangible benefits during lockdown. While it was a steep learning curve, once we had all settled into working from home and the technology had caught up, we adapted our working days and ways of working to be more efficient and effective. Remote working was extremely challenging at the beginning of the pandemic for many; however, a lot has changed since then.
During the pandemic many companies said they were embracing fully remote working – and it would continue afterwards. However, this has not always been the case. Some management teams have retracted the option for all employees while others are requiring workers to come into the office on a set number of days a week, preferring to use a hybrid model.
There is often a mismatch between what management and employees believe as far as productivity and company culture are concerned. Employees believe that teamwork does not suffer, they are more productive, and overall, they benefit from remote work. However, Zippia’s survey of executives found that ‘only 5% said that they [employees] don’t need to be in the office at all’ to maintain company culture. We will see later how insisting on having employees back in the office does not always play out so well.
The benefits of remote work for employees
Those for whom remote work was a positive experience during the pandemic often reported increased autonomy and productivity working from home. They were also able to save money, stress, and time by not commuting.
This had a positive impact on mental health for many and contributed to a sense of a better work-life balance and greater contentment. And happier employees are likely to be more engaged, leading to better productivity and outcomes.
Many of the problems associated with remote work during the pandemic have been addressed. For example, the loneliness and isolation that many experienced during lockdowns is less of a problem as we can now work or socialize whenever and wherever we choose. Children no longer need to be home schooled.
People are likely to have created the remote working environment that best suits them and is optimum for productivity. Technology, processes, and practices have evolved and are much better adapted to remote work. Online collaborative tools enable teamwork to be as effective these days as in-person working.
No one working remotely by choice is likely to be forced to work on their bed or sofa or to share a corner of the kitchen table anymore. We have ironed out a lot of the difficulties.
The benefits of remote work for employers
Many organizations have recognized that having employees working remotely has positive effects. There are cost savings from the reduced workspace required and associated overheads. There is a larger talent pool if you are hiring for remote jobs or ones that require less time in the office: people may be prepared to travel further if they only need to be present on certain days.
More contented employees are more productive and likely to stay longer, improving retention rates. It is more cost effective to retain employees than to replace them. According to Zippia, ‘on average, companies see a 12% reduction in turnover when they allow their employees to do at least some remote work’. They also found that US companies operating a hybrid working model save ‘an average of USD 11,000 per worker per year’.
How do established remote working policies work in practice?
There are many large companies who have, since the pandemic, refined their remote working practices to suit both their business model and what their employees want from their working lives.
We’ll take a look at some of them and how they work – and also at some organizations who have gone back to requiring all their employees work in the office again and see how that is panning out.
Dell is an American technology company with over 130,000 worldwide employees. Before the pandemic, they already had 24% of their workforce working remotely. Dell saw a surge in business during the pandemic as they were able to supply equipment to companies who suddenly needed to equip remote workers.
It makes sense that a company dedicated to providing home working solutions, amongst other things, would also encourage remote work for their own employees. After all, they have the technology!
As Dell say, ‘the workplace is a combination, hybrid environment: underpinned by fast, stable broadband, and collaborative tools that allow hybrid working to happen effectively’. Their long-term goal is to have 60% of employees working remotely on any given day. They cite attracting and retaining talent as one of the main drivers, along with cultivating a company culture that prioritises and promotes flexibility and good mental health.
With over 220,000 employees, Microsoft is one of the most well-known companies in the world. They stopped allowing their employees to work fully remotely after the pandemic and are now operating a hybrid model. Microsoft employees now have the right to work remotely 50% of the time. If they wish to work remotely more than that they need approval from management.
Remote work is not just about the physical location in which people work. Microsoft’s ‘hybrid workplace flexibility’ recognises that working hours do not have to be the same for everyone. Working hours can be negotiated during the hiring process too.
Keller Williams Realty
You might be surprised to find a realty company that operates a policy of 100% remote work. Most realtors have high street offices, but Keller Williams Realty has 190,000 associates worldwide, making them the largest estate agent in the world. All of their franchisees work remotely. By ditching the use of physical premises in each of the locations they operate, Keller Williams has none of the associated costs.
Uber is the ridesharing company that diversified into food delivery, among other things. While most of its jobs are not possible remotely, they have a hybrid work policy for their office-based employees. They have ‘embraced a hybrid work model, where most employees spend at least half of their work time in the office, with Tuesday and Thursday as ‘anchor days’ across the company. Our approach is based on balancing flexibility, productivity, and collaboration’.
Some employees can be fully remote if their role and location permit it, and anyone can spend up to four weeks a year working from anywhere they like.
Companies insisting on a return to the office
Twitter is the archetypal example of how insisting that all employees return to the office full time regardless of what they do can go wrong. When Elon Musk took over Twitter he was forthright in voicing his expectations for employees. There would be no more remote work and employees would be expected to come back to the office. It went against the grain of everything the pandemic taught us about working conditions and mental health and led to many resignations.
Disney ended fully remote work by insisting that employees work two days a week in the office. This has now been changed to four days a week in the office. Not long after this announcement, 2,300 employees were reported to have signed a petition asking management to reconsider. Other companies like Amazon, Apple, and Goldman Sachs have had similar experiences.
Management of remote and hybrid work
As Dell notes, collaborative tools are the making of effective and efficient remote work. If it makes for a better employee experience, a larger talent pool, and higher retention rates, it makes sense to offer remote and hybrid work as an option.
Collaborative and project management tools
Collaborative tools can help remote workers work together on projects, shared documents, and tasks in a similar way to how they would if they were working together in the same workspace.
It helps to have a centralized communication space with features like real-time messaging, discussion boards, and comments to enable team members to communicate and collaborate more easily.
It helps with teamwork, enabling remote teams to stay connected and engaged. They also enable asynchronous work which can be very effective.
Task and project tracking tools will help teams create and assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress, helping both team members and management to monitor the status of projects.
Videoconferencing tools allow teams to schedule, host, manage, and attend virtual events, and time and task management tools give employees more autonomy while enabling management to set deadlines and more efficiently manage tasks and projects.
Reports and analytics can offer insights into team performance, project progress, and other metrics, giving people the opportunity to make data-driven decisions.
Online whiteboards are a valuable collaborative tool for teams and can be used for both synchronous and asynchronous work. They can enhance teamwork and creativity and can be used directly with clients to increase efficiency.
Teams can use online whiteboards in meetings, workshops, and as a centralized hub for projects. They are great for brainstorming sessions to get ideas going. Team members can contribute ideas, draw diagrams, or add sticky notes, videos, and files to spark creativity and innovative thinking, just as they would in the same workspace.
They are often used in the design thinking process, allowing teams to collaborate on prototyping, ideation, and feedback. There are many readymade templates that save time and work. They can be used at various stages of internal and external projects to make teamwork more effective and efficient.
Increasing productivity with your remote and hybrid teams
If you have employees working on a remote or hybrid basis, you need the right collaborative tools to ensure they can do their jobs effectively. Here at Klaxoon we have tools like our online whiteboard and useful Templates to help employees and employers both ensure they are as efficient and productive as possible. Why not check out our resources to see how we can help your business work better?