How to create a hybrid work policy – a toolkit for organizationsBlog / March 10, 2023 / with Christoph Drebes
Great hybrid work policies are tougher to design than most people think.
By adopting a well-designed hybrid work policy, companies can benefit from cost savings, increased productivity, and improved employee satisfaction and retention.
In order to ensure fairness and transparency in the workplace, these strategic considerations should ultimately be laid down in a company-wide policy.
Why every company should create a hybrid working policy
Most organizations had to quickly implement remote and hybrid working policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, that leaves them with rules that are already outdated and internal infrastructure that isn’t designed for employees’ new expectations.
Meanwhile, those watching big tech companies like Twitter or banks like JP Morgan publicly wrestle with the question of in-person and remote work policies can see that there are a number of pitfalls to be avoided when designing a new policy. It can be tempting to wait on the sidelines until the dust settles and copy the most common outcome.
However, a copy-paste approach to internal policies is always risky. Each organization is unique, with its own structures and requirements. Therefore, to get the most out of a new hybrid working policy, you need to invest time and thought into its design and implementation.
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the ways that you can set your hybrid organization up for success.
Why is designing a hybrid workplace policy so hard?
The aim of a hybrid work policy is to produce authoritative guidelines for employees. They should create long-term clarity and ensures fairness - the clearer the rules, the easier it is to apply them to everyone equally.
However, there still are several reasons why it can be difficult to start working on a new workplace policy.
First, there are several stakeholders that you need to keep happy. Employee satisfaction and retention are both important reasons to roll out a remote work option. However, this can cause feelings of insecurity in managers, particularly those used to older styles of management and oversight.
Meanwhile, C-Suite might be concerned about whether existing office space will continue to be used or whether it will turn into a costly overhead. Office Management staff may have concerns about their job descriptions changing, while IT will likely have questions about security and resources.
One of the most important things to do when designing your new hybrid work policy is to include representatives of each stakeholder group throughout the process. Whether that means you create a committee to design the policy, or whether you create a focus group that you check in with whenever a change will impact them, it’s key that your stakeholders don’t perceive the policy as a purely top-down exercise.
That doesn’t necessarily make decision-making easier, but it will ensure that you take multiple perspectives into account before settling on what’s best for the majority. In addition, the opportunity for employees to help design the new policy will increase the likelihood that it will be positively received.
Selecting a policy type
One issue with hybrid and remote working policies, is that there are now lots of options to choose from.
The spectrum ranges from the more prescriptive type of policy to those that offer 100% flexibility. For example, a limited hybrid work policy might allow employees to work from home two days a week, subject to agreement with their line manager. Alternatively, another more limited option might say that employees must work from the office once a week and that they must book desk space a week in advance.
Both above examples would require new rules, requirements, and potentially even software to implement. For example, there are several tech solutions for organizations that require employees to book desk space and meeting rooms for when they’re in the office.
Meanwhile, fully flexible and remote options also bring challenges. If you never know where an employee will be based, it can be more difficult to organize in-person collaboration days. Further, it can be more challenging to create an engaging company culture without any face-to-face contact. Organizations that choose these options should consider how they will keep their company culture healthy in their new environment.
Tip: Maintaining spontaneity in a mostly remote organization can be difficult. Mystery Coffee can help you to keep people connected.
Another pain point that often slows down hybrid work policies is individuals who don’t see the benefit of remote or hybrid work. When these people are lower in an organization’s hierarchy, you might find ways that they can individually continue working as they prefer. However, when they are senior in a company, they can make it difficult for an organization to move forward at all.
Tackling skeptics is never easy. Sometimes, even the clearest data on the benefits of new ways of working won’t convince them. That being said, there are a few tactics that can be useful:
- Comparing your organization’s policy to your competitors and showing that a more flexible policy will give you the edge on recruitment and retention.
- Demonstrate that this is a highly desired change – this is where employee survey data will be useful.
- Listing any cost benefits or efficiencies that hybrid work will deliver.
- Establish that you have a plan for ensuring employees and managers stay in contact, with fair requirements for both sides.
- Demonstrate that you’re working to preemptively solve problems and that you will remain receptive to feedback after the rollout.
The benefits of the best hybrid work policies
So, why spend extra time developing a unique hybrid work policy for your organization? Why not download a hybrid work policy PDF and fill in the gaps?
Not every organization can roll out a one-size-fits-all policy. Some companies will need certain individuals to be always on-site to do their tasks. Meanwhile, others could function perfectly as remote-only companies.
In addition to differences caused by sector or industry, you might find that your employees want different things to those in other companies. After a couple of years of forced isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, some may prefer the personal contact offered by a regular trip to the office. Others may have moved further from the office and need more flexibility about when and where they work.
Finetuning your hybrid work guidelines to be specific to your workforce will help you to unlock the following benefits:
Employees know their own tendencies best. They know if they can focus better at home than at the office, and they know the resources they need to be productive.
A flexible hybrid work policy puts great reliance on trust. It also shifts the value of an employee from their presence to what they deliver for their organization. This means that often, organizations see a rise in productivity from employees working remotely while employees report a better work-life balance. On average, employees report fewer distractions at home and record fewer illness-related absences.
That’s not to say that productivity can only be achieved at home. For some people, home is not a quiet sanctuary. For those with roommates or with young children at home, an office is a place where they can focus their attention on work. Hybrid work gives employees the choice according to their situation and needs.
For many companies, the process of implementing hybrid work has been messy. It hasn’t always been clear what is expected of the employee or of the employer.
A well-written hybrid work policy can make the obligations on both sides crystal clear. You can establish what the employee needs to document and how they should communicate while working remotely. You should also establish whether the company will cover any costs relating to home office set-up, internet connections, etc.
Having these questions considered, decided, and written down in one place will make it easier for employees and managers to work within the guidelines.
Trust is a key tenet of company culture, building motivation and unlocking creativity.
A well-designed hybrid work policy based on employee feedback can be a great step toward building a trusting company culture.
However, it’s not necessarily an easy transition, and your organization’s hybrid work policy should be built with that in mind. Make sure you set expectations for how often managers and their teams communicate. Reflect on whether you have the collaboration tools and software to enable teams to work together effectively. And make sure to invest time and thought into how your company culture can thrive without everyone being in the same location every day.
One option is to allow employees to use work time to schedule social calls, another is to make their office-based days more appealing by creating in-office events – even just minor ones like a monthly coffee morning can have an impact.
Tip: If employees want to use their office time to network and collaborate, a solution like Mystery Lunch can help them to find lunch dates with people outside their own team.
Practical tips – how to create hybrid work guidelines
It’s clear where you want to get to: a streamlined, transparent, hybrid work policy that has been specifically refined for your workforce. But how do you get there?
Here are some tips for where to start:
1. Work with a team
Top-down approaches, handled exclusively by senior managers, won’t offer a truly diverse perspective on policy changes. While you will certainly need managers from several departments to be involved (HR, Administration or Office Management, Legal, IT), you should also include employee representatives from a range of departments.
While you don’t want this team to be too large, you do want to include a range of perspectives to help you identify potential problems before you launch your policy.
2. Spend time collecting the data
While your employee survey will only form part of the data that you use to build your policy, it is key to get an understanding of how your colleagues perceive your existing guidelines and what they would like in the future.
While you can’t please everyone all the time, the statistics from your employee survey will help you to understand where most people land on certain issues. For example, if 70% of people are happy to come to the office once a week and 20% want to come once every other week, you can move forward with confidence on a policy that requests in-person attendance once a fortnight.
You can also collect qualitative data on why people want to work completely remotely or completely in the office. Is it a question of accessibility? Of resources? Childcare duties? Do you need to build some exceptions into your policy, or are there other benefits you can offer to make your new policy fairer for all?
3. Communicate expectations clearly
Make sure that you have all the details ironed out before you launch. That includes the obligations of both employees and managers.
If there are new administrative tasks, make sure that the departments responsible are briefed and have time to trial and refine the procedures. If there is new software that you’ll need for communication or administration, make sure that there’s enough time to try different vendors and set them up.
When you later communicate the policy to the whole organization, ensure that the people responsible or teams for each new element are listed somewhere, so people know where to go with their questions.
4. Invest in measuring success
SMART goals are well established across most organizations, but many companies don’t consider using them to measure things they take for granted, like workplace policies.
When you’re implementing a new work policy, it’s necessary to understand if the change is working. This is particularly important if facing a lot of pushback from senior stakeholders. That’s why you should select KPIs that you’ll use to measure the success of your hybrid working policy before you begin the roll-out. Per the SMART paradigm, they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Ideally, you can use an employee survey to get a baseline on each KPI before the policy launches and then follow up at least annually thereafter.
5. Don’t treat your final hybrid work policy as set in stone
Hybrid workplace policies should work for you. And as your organization changes over time – whether that’s growth in personnel or just a rise in Millennial and Gen Z employees – you will probably need to revisit and refine it.
By setting up annual reviews for the policy, one can discover where any new pain points are coming from. You can respond to feedback from your annual employee survey, streamline your processes, or even overhaul the policy if necessary.
There might also be external pressures, like rising rent on office space, that might make you consider reducing the amount of time employees have to spend in the office.
But fundamentally, it’s helpful to spread the word that your policy will be regularly reviewed and that the team in charge of it is receptive to feedback. This will help all employees to feel like their opinions are valued, and their needs are being considered.
That’s the basics, but where to start?
If you’re about to set out on a new hybrid work policy project, then you might be wondering where to start.
There are plenty of hybrid workplace policy templates out there, although most are extremely generic. If you need something more complex and tailored, our Hybrid Work Policy Toolkit is here to help.
In the toolkit, you’ll find:
- Exercises to help your policy development team identify the purpose and relevant KPIs of your new policy
- Example questions to add to your employee survey
- A checklist for creating an easy-to-understand policy document
- An email template for internal communication
- Ideas for external communication
Download the hybrid work toolkit today to help you structure your policy development.
Finding what works for your organization
Hybrid work policy design might not be a simple task, but it can be an enlightening experience.
By taking a structured approach and taking time to review the data and viewpoints of different groups, your policy will be a better fit for your organization. It will also be ready to develop alongside your company, respond flexibly to new challenges, and set the company up for future success.
About the author:
Christoph is an entrepreneur from Munich and co-founded Mystery Minds in 2016. Mystery Minds' mission is to make the world of work more human by creating meaningful, personal connections between colleagues. The remote-only team already works with over 250 international companies, helping them to strengthen internal networks and overcome silo mentalities.
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