Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution, the office became the standard location for where most people did their jobs. At some point, some employees were able to work at home. Today, post-pandemic, we now have the hybrid workplace, which means splitting your time between remote work and office work. And while hybrid work is becoming common for many industries and company departments, it’s a special challenge for IT departments.
That’s because IT leaders can’t view managing a hybrid workers the same way they managed remote workers pre-COVID. Today, hybrid comes with its own special challenges and potential risks. In the past, IT was managed based on how the company grew, how they advanced technologically, and the business potential on the horizon. But the near-complete shift to remote work driven by COVID-19 was borne from issues around legality, health, and basic company survival.
Yet although the reasons for hybrid work are similar across the business world, every IT department generally has an individual way to approach management of the IT workforce, as well as the processes that drive the work.
Because of this new work dynamic, IT leaders have to prepare for the changes. For one, when formulating your hybrid work policies, first gather ideas and opinions from everyone. That means including IT staff as well as IT leaders. Do they prefer to go back to daily work at the office, full-time remote work, or a hybrid approach? These conversations tell you how people feel, and will also provide insights on a course of action you may not have even considered. Perhaps most importantly, by including them in the process, you increase the chance that, no matter the ultimate decision, they’ll support the new policy.
It’s also imperative to create a vision for how you want the hybrid model to look. This is key, as the vision becomes the point of reference for all decisions regarding IT culture and workplace design. That vision will certainly drive decisions around employee work location rules. On that note, be sure to communicate clear, unambiguous rules for both remote and office work. Of course, some employees won’t be completely happy with the policies, but they won’t be able to claim the rules were unclear.
It’s important to not appear as if you’re favoring one type of work over another. Be sure to have incentives for both office and remote working. For example, office work benefits could include paying for commuting costs. For remote work you could pay for Internet or necessary office equipment
As you implement these changes, be sure to collaborate with all of your IT leaders so they understand the hybrid workplace vision. The shift from being in the office everyday to hybrid work is a monumental change for any organization. You may want to consider training in change management to help your IT staff succeed with the hybrid vision.
Just the same, it’s important to get individual IT contributors on board with the new workplace culture. Most importantly, they must understand the rationale behind the hybrid initiative. Do this through individual talks and group discussions, as well as email and intranet communications.
Whatever you do, the name of the game is patience. Big changes are coming and not everyone adjusts immediately. Accordingly, give people moving back to the office as much time as they need to develop comfortable new routines.
Of course, empathy and patience has to be balanced with enforcement of the new policies. Part of that means consistent communication to both executives and staff about what’s working and what needs to improve. In addition, periodically ask people how the new policies are working for them, and what you can do to improve their individual situation.
When you have a thoughtful, proactive plan in place, you’re more likely to have a successful hybrid work initiative. And since planning is one of IT’s strengths, you’re already a few steps ahead.