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Building Trust and Cohesion When Establishing a Hybrid Work Schedule

  • Hybrid work schedules have gained popularity as employees seek to continue working from home at least part of the week
  • Managers are faced with a question of whether to allow employees autonomy in when they come into the office or to set stricter rules
  • Trust and output-based assessments can help employers to set effective hybrid work models that satisfy employees

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The workplace changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to remain in some form for the foreseeable future. The question facing employers is how they can ease out of a fully remote setup while still demonstrating trust for employees and maintaining productivity as team members potentially work different schedules.

Employees tended to enjoy the option of working from home during the pandemic, and often wish to continue doing so at least part of the week. One Gallup poll found that the top reasons workers wanted to continue remote work in some capacity were avoiding a commute, improving personal well-being, or gaining flexibility to better balance family obligations and other responsibilities.

Employers, conversely, tend to prefer that employees return to the office since their work can be more easily monitored and in-person collaborations can be managed more effectively. At the same time, employers have generally acknowledged that worker productivity has been steady or even improved during the pandemic. There is also a risk that denying a remote work option might drive employees to seek work at a company that does allow this arrangement.

The most popular compromise has been a hybrid work model, in which employees spend some of each week working remotely and the remainder working at the office. This arrangement allows employees to retain some flexibility while still meeting regularly with co-workers for in-person collaborations.

Yet hybrid work also creates certain complications over how to best craft a schedule. Gallup found that roughly four out of 10 employees want to have complete autonomy over when they work from home and when they come into the office.

Among those who thought their employer, manager, or team should set the rules on hybrid scheduling, there were varying ideas on how the scheduling should be implemented. These included requiring workers to come into the office a certain number of days per week; having a manager coordinate schedules so team members are all in the office together at least one day of the week; or requiring the entire workforce to be in the office on certain days but allowing employees to choose between remote or in-office work for the remainder of the week.

Managers may also need to reassess how they interact with employees during hybrid work arrangements. Harvard Business School Professor Tsedal Neeley, speaking for an article in the school’s Working Knowledge publication, said trust is a key consideration when setting up a schedule. She said remote workers have gained more autonomy over their own schedules, often resulting in a departure from the traditional 9-5 schedule but a boost in productivity.

Neeley suggests that managers can afford to be more lenient with where and when employees work as long as they are happy with the output. She said these include satisfactory results, teams working well together, and adequate “employee learning and satisfaction.”

Employers have sometimes implemented surveillance measures to monitor remote workers, including software that can track keystrokes, record idle time, or periodically take screenshots of an employee’s desktop. Neeley advised against such measures, saying employees regard it as intrusive and a lack of employer trust. She said greater resentment can also occur when stricter in-office requirements are imposed.

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