As Saint Lucia continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current administration has tried to limit intra-island movement. Schools and workplace continue to function virtually as a return to normalcy seems further away in the future. In this blogpost, the strategies for building a hybrid workforce which incorporates remote and in-person options will be analyzed. Saint Lucia will need to ‘get with the times’ as organisations and governments in more developed countries have started to move ahead with a hybrid work initiative.
Hybrid Work Environment
A hybrid working model includes both in-person and virtual working. It is arguably more complicated than a purely virtual or purely in-person working model and will likely become a much more common working format for many companies. However, there are several questions that need to be answered. Some of these include:
· How many days in the office per week are ideal?
· What work is better done in person than virtually, and vice versa?
· How will meetings work best?
· How can influence and experience be balanced between those who work on site and those who don’t?
· How can you avoid a two-tier system in which people working in the office are valued and rewarded more than are those working more from home?
· Should teams physically gather in a single place while tackling a project, and if so, how often?
· Can leadership communication to off-site workers be as effective as it is to workers in the office?
Suggestions to Improve Hybrid Working?
A truly effective hybrid operating model will likely take years, since most are understanding the optimal work conditions based on each distinct environment. Leaders must be willing to start from scratch, question everything and make intentional evidence-based decisions. It has been shown that building new relationships is better done in person and many persons struggled to maintain a strong connection with colleagues during COVID-19. Therefore, leaders should have logical reasons why some amount of face time is critical. Companies must determine the optimum hybrid social network arrangment; along with other ways to help employees establish high-quality relationships, strengthen connections, and bolster trust.
Team leaders should try to listen and hear the needs of their members. “Top leaders must lead by example in showing that feedback and expressions of vulnerability are welcomed. Listening tours, fireside chats, ask-me-anything sessions, reverse town halls, and the sharing of personal stories can help build a safe environment for employees to share as well.” This would help build a ‘true’ partnership and ensure that talk about partnering with employees wouldn’t remain just “talk”. It is critical for companies to listen to employees as we slowly move from the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic to the uncertainty of the post-pandemic future.
Companies will have to review the structure and effectiveness of meetings such as the following:
· Who needs to attend which meetings, for how long, and in what format?
· How can meetings be redesigned in a way that maximizes efficiency, accelerates effective decision making, and builds connectivity and social cohesion?
Hybrid Working Guide
It is also important for Human Resources to create a Hybrid Working Guide which could include some of the material below.
Define who is eligible for hybrid working
It is important for the policy to set out who is eligible for hybrid working and make it clear which roles are suitable for this way of working:
· The employer may conclude that hybrid working is not suitable for some roles, such as certain sales roles where face-to-face contact and the personal touch are essential. The policy should make this clear and explain the rationale.
· The clearer the employer is on which roles are suitable for hybrid working, the less likely it is that there will be disputes with employees over whether they can move to hybrid working.
Set out expectations on attending work vs working remotely
The policy should set out clearly the number of days per week employees are generally expected to spend attending the workplace compared with working remotely. For example, it could be that the employer is aiming for a 50/50 split between attending work and working remotely.
However, the policy should also build in a degree of flexibility, with the ratio for each employee ultimately depending on:
· Individual circumstances
· The nature of the role
· What is happening within the role and team at any time?
· The employer’s operational needs, including the space it has available at work locations.
Describe the working arrangements for workplace attendance
The policy can set out what arrangements employees can expect when they are attending work, more specifically around:
· Working patterns, with an emphasis on employees’ working hours (for example if the employee is expected to stick rigidly to regular hours or if flexible start/finish times are allowed)
· Workspaces and what is expected for employees.
It is essential that the policy sets out any safe-working measures that are in place, which could include spacing out workstations, compulsory mask-wearing in certain areas, and regular cleaning schedules.
Provide guidance on remote working
The policy can provide guidelines on what is expected of employees while they are working remotely. This section of the policy can cover:
· Working patterns and maintaining a work-life balance
· Sickness absence reporting when working remotely
· Technology and equipment provided to assist with remote working
· Maintenance of a safe and healthy remote working environment, and
· Data protection, including the practice of good computer security.
As the rest of world moves into a hybrid working environment, will Saint Lucia follow suit? The sooner organizations accept the concept of hybrid working, then the least likely that their talent will ‘walk out the door’. Leaders will soon have a choice to make:
· Continue to believe that they will deliver in the future because they have always delivered in the past.
· Or embrace this singular opportunity for change and work with their people — closely and transparently, with curiosity, respect, and a willingness to learn together instead of mandating — to discover a new and better way to work.
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