How to Ensure Successful Hybrid Work through Clear Norms

As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to remote work, many organizations found themselves implementing hybrid work models that allow employees to work both from home and in the office. For many, this change came with benefits such as increased flexibility and reduced commuting time, but it also presented challenges such as communication gaps and a lack of visibility. A new report by Gartner highlights the importance of implementing explicit norms that guarantee hybrid work success. In this article, we delve into the report’s findings and explore strategies for creating effective norms.

The Link Between Norms and Employee Retention

According to Gartner’s report, the lack of explicit norms in hybrid work models can increase the likelihood of employees leaving their jobs by 12%. This is because employees may struggle with knowing how to operate in a new work environment and may feel isolated, disconnected, or unsupported. Explicit norms provide a framework that helps build trust, encourages consistency, and promotes collaboration.

The Three Explicit Norms for Successful Hybrid Work

The report identifies three explicit norms that are essential for successful hybrid work models: increasing visibility, enabling flexibility, and fostering connections.

Visibility: This involves strategies that ensure employees feel seen and heard while working remotely. For instance, holding regular check-ins, providing video conferencing options, or setting up virtual co-working spaces can increase visibility and boost employee engagement.

Flexibility: This norm enables employees to have control over their schedules, workloads, and locations. Building trust and emphasizing output over input can help create a more flexible work space that allows employees to manage their work-life balance effectively.

Connections: This norm seeks to create a sense of community and collaboration by encouraging cross-functional teams, building social connections, and creating opportunities for shared experiences to strengthen the connections between coworkers.

Current Practices in Organizations

Despite the importance of explicit norms, Gartner indicates that less than half of organizations are implementing them. However, the report found that successful organizations have practices in place where they are executing these norms.

The role of HR leaders

HR leaders play a crucial role in developing and formalizing hybrid work models. They have the tools to reduce friction, increase engagement, and communicate new norms explicitly to everyone else in the organization. HR leaders can also work with managers to develop tailored plans and provide ongoing coaching that can help employees thrive in hybrid work arrangements.

Practices to Foster Visibility

Gartner’s report highlights the importance of fostering visibility in hybrid work models. To achieve this, businesses can conduct regular check-ins, train managers to give constructive feedback, and encourage informal communication using platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Meeting-Free and Remote Work Days

To help employees manage their workload, organizations can introduce remote workdays where employees work from home, as well as meeting-free days to reduce virtual overload and prevent meeting fatigue. This provides employees with autonomy over their work, allowing them to focus on deep work without interruptions.

Practices to Foster Communication

Frequent and effective communication is critical for hybrid work models. Gartner’s report cautions that only 40% of organizations are carrying out practices that foster communication in the workplace. To mitigate this problem, businesses should promote transparency, encourage participation, and connect teams using unified communication tools, among other things.

Avoiding Policies That Mandate On-Site Work

One essential strategy for accommodating hybrid work models is to avoid policies mandating on-site work. These policies can create unfair treatment, leading to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. Instead, companies should develop policies that give employees autonomy over how they work and how they balance work and personal life.

The Role of In-Person Meetings and On-Site Work

Gartner’s report shows that employee outcomes are better with periodic in-person meetings and on-site work with managers, as opposed to hybrid models favoring either on-site work or complete office returns. Depending on their needs, organizations can plan regular on-site retreats, bring employees together for team building or learning moments, and provide office spaces with a mix of private and open areas to encourage informal communication.

In summary, implementing explicit norms is crucial for the success of hybrid work. Organizations that fail to create an effective and supportive culture risk losing their employees to competitors. By placing importance on visibility, enabling flexibility, and fostering connections, HR leaders can make hybrid work models successful in their organizations. Companies must promote communication, avoid policies that mandate on-site work, and provide in-person opportunities for teams to interact. By implementing such strategies, organizations can achieve sustainable hybrid work models that meet the needs of all employees.

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