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  • Writer's pictureWillie Maritz


Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Hybrid working models: The 3 main employee concerns companies must address

The Covid-19 pandemic upended the way organisations were managed, with all but essential employees being forced to work remotely beginning the Hybrid Working movement.

Now, as countries gradually start to reopen and some level of in-person work resumes, a new challenge arises: What HYBRID WORKING models should be used to balance company and employee expectations? Research shows that their attitude to the changes depends on companies’ ability to manage these expectations.

The gaps in these expectations are becoming increasingly obvious, as highlighted in McKinsey research, which shows that 68% of organisations do not yet have a clearly articulated vision or plan in place to address these gaps. Unless attended to, it can have long-term detrimental effects on the company’s success.

In this vulnerable period, it is important for companies to get to grips with what their employees are experiencing, by putting processes and programs in place that remove uncertainty over the future, both for the company and its employees. Without this, there can be no measurable goals and outcomes.


“I’m stressed because there’s no clarity around working from home or the office”

Research by McKinsey shows that almost a third of employees would rather move jobs than be compelled to return to the office. In this scenario, it is vital for the organisation to think through how, when, and for what reason they are asking their workforce to return.

Four imperatives thus arise for the organisation: communicate the chosen operating model clearly, provide a solid support for the rationale for the model, ensure that employees are in alignment with the vision, and then provide ongoing support and reassurance for employees.

Organisational leaders, particularly managers, are responsible for identifying who needs to come to the office and for what reason. Onboarding should take place in person, to ensure that employees have a full understanding of what is required and why, but also so that they can have the opportunity to assimilate into the organisational culture.

Team-based projects that will require extensive collaboration should be preceded by qualitative team research, and the rationale communicated with the aim of creating understanding and buy-in from team members.

It will fall upon operational managers to bring the team on board and to ensure their willing acceptance of the plan, while carefully considering each member’s individual needs and preferences, and finding compromises, where possible.

Constant follow-up is required with each employee to ensure their alignment with the changes, and if necessary, to refine those changes.


“I don’t know how to balance working from home with my family life”

Millions of employees who suddenly found themselves working from home as the pandemic struck fully embraced the opportunities it offered, such as not having to commute to the office or to dress up for work.

McKinsey research revealed a number of productivity benefits that arose, with 45 percent of employees reporting that they worked more productively a few months into the pandemic. But this eventually came at a cost, as work-life boundaries became blurred and impacted negatively on family life. The human need for wider interaction, both socially and at work, was also severely curtailed, resulting in many employees suffering symptoms of anxiety, grief and burnout.

The research shows that companies are acknowledging the need for in-person connectivity to repair our frayed social fabric and, as people start to return to work in a variety of hybrid models, people-centred policies and HR practices are emerging.

These don’t come without concerns for companies, however, as the effect on productivity will only be determined as those policies play out.

McKinsey advises that a solution is to focus on measuring outcomes rather than simply inputs, such as hours logged by employees, at both the individual and team levels. Productivity can be assessed by tailored performance metrics that vary by role and function, which will provide the needed measurable outcomes.


“I’m not sure how I’m going to cope in a hybrid model. It can be very disruptive.

There is a wide acceptance among organisations that the hybrid working model is the way of the future. However, the reality is that where employees may now be working in person or remote on any given day, significant workflow disruptions can arise. McKinsey warns that unless companies properly address this, it will negatively impact productivity, employee engagement, well-being and ultimately, can fuel increased turnover.

The ability to adapt – what McKinsey refers to as adopting a “test-and-learn” approach, will be key to overcoming this challenge. The key lies in executing and moving forward while being responsive to the need to change direction, when necessary. Research shows that companies that are able to work more fluidly in this way are among the 16 percent of leading companies when it comes to productivity.


Helping employees adjust to hybrid work models through a change campaign

Employee behaviour and attitudes must always be assessed against the prevailing macro environment, and this is especially true in these unpredictable times. The past two years have been extremely unsettling for employees, and having to come back to the office on a piecemeal basis is likely to create further levels of confusion and anxiety.

It is clear from the challenges discussed above that the organisational manager must address employees’ concerns if they are to achieve the company’s goal of a successful hybrid work environment.

To change behaviour, one must first assess the behaviour, and then measure it using a specific methodology to analyse what the behaviours really are, and how far the subjects are from the new attitude.

Although this can be done internally, we need to remember that in the current environment, the ‘new normal’ will only become ‘normal’ once employee attitudes and behaviours can adjust to what ‘normal’ means. Especially during this time of change, it is strongly suggested that you use a professional company to assist you in this regard.

Steps to change employee attitudes and behaviours so they can adjust to hybrid work models

  1. Assess the behaviours of your staff. Are they displaying a reluctance to going back to the office? Has their productivity dropped? Has their enthusiasm for their job seemed to wane?

  2. Strategise what behaviours are required by your staff .

  3. Drip-feed content that will engage, entice and get your staff to think about the change and the promise that new behaviours hold for them.

  4. Reassess staff to see how they have shifted.

  5. Reassess and realign the campaign if necessary.

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