We see it. Organizations wrestling with the workplace model decision. Should everyone return to the office? Continue remote? Adopt a hybrid model? With 55% of Gartner survey participants indicating their employer’s approach will determine their tenure at their company, ramifications of the workplace model decision are real.
What to factor into your workplace model decision
Because this decision affects your organization’s recruitment and retention efforts, culture, productivity, and performance, it cannot be based on gut instinct, assumptions, or personal preferences. It must be informed. Moreover, organizations are discovering a disconnect between leadership and staff opinion about where to work. So, you also can’t make it alone—you need input from managers and employees.
Start by examining the challenges, successes, and lessons learned over the past two years. Identify the pros and cons of each work model you’ve experienced or considered. Then, consider and weigh the seven factors below before deciding.
1. Values and culture
We’re not the same people today we were in March 2020; neither are our organizations. We may have jettisoned parts of the business or accelerated others in response to the world around us. Our new working world requires revisiting and redefining organizational values.
Doing so helps leaders take stock, uncover what’s important to staff as an organization, and see what the organization has become. Gather cross functional groups with representatives from staff at all levels to discuss and define workplace values. For example, are you more agile? Is that something you value? Are you more creative? Is creativity a new value?
Organizational values are an essential element of workplace culture. Level set leaders,’ managers,’ and staff’s perceptions about values, such as:
Understand how changes to your workplace model strengthened or weakened chosen values. For example, embracing greater flexibility might mean evaluating where employees can work, e.g., out of region, state, or country. In the end, you must decide how far is too far for your organization but evaluate the alignment between your values and your workplace model. Similarly, how can your workplace model decision strengthen and improve your culture?
Organizational self-reflection, candid conversations, and a willingness to change are imperative if you intend to make a workplace model decision that’s aligned with mutually agreed-upon values. Remember, although senior leaders ultimately make decisions, gaining buy-in through staff involvement avoids disconnect.
2. Employee performance
Studies point to increased productivity for employees working from home, but what does your data say? Do you have data? How are you measuring employee performance: time in the chair or outcomes? Has outcome or goal achievement increased or decreased for employees working under different work models?
Examine the tasks employees must accomplish. What percentage of these tasks are synchronous vs asynchronous? Which tasks must be done at a particular location? Which can be done anywhere? For in-person tasks, which can (or should be) outsourced?
Ask managers to review employees’ job descriptions and tasks to determine whether they can better engage employees by elevating the work employees do.
3. Team performance
Assess team performance—a third-party workplace assessment can provide unbiased, trustworthy results. Pay particular attention to performance outcomes, communication, and collaboration. For example, evaluate the ease with which team members and managers touch base, and how comfortable and satisfied people are using different modes of communication at work.
4. Organization performance
How is the current workplace model affecting cross-team collaboration or progress toward strategic goals? Assess its impact on external stakeholders: members, volunteer leaders, customers, suppliers, and industry partners. Periodically request and track feedback from these stakeholders to gauge the current work model’s performance.
5. Employee recruitment, engagement, and retention
Workplace model decisions affect your ability to recruit and retain employees. Can you compete for and keep the best talent? How’s your competition doing? Are they better placed to recruit (or poach) and retain staff?
Analyze metrics like employee turnover, employee engagement, number of people applying for open positions, time to fill positions, and percentage of new hires making it past 90 days. Are these numbers trending up or down?
6. Management capabilities and performance
People leave bosses, not jobs. 84% of workers said poorly trained managers create unnecessary stress. 57% quit a job because of a bad manager. Of those who didn’t quit, one-third seriously considered leaving.
Managing a hybrid or remote workplace requires a new skill set. If you intend to stay hybrid or remote, plan and budget for additional training for managers and soft skills training for everyone.
7. Tools/technology for communication and collaboration
Don’t assume employees have access to all the tools and technology they need. But before adding to the arsenal, inquire about their workplace set-up (at home and at the office) and their comfort level with tools and technology. Provide training and set expectations around the use of communication and collaboration tools.
The workplace as a work in progress
The workplace model decision is an iterative process. Data can serve as a conversation catalyst to understand progress. Employee engagement success metrics and pulse polls throughout the year can assess employees’ sense of belonging and connection to the organization. Equally important to data is creating avenues for dialogue. Continually work to understand how the decision affects different segments of your workforce. Engage with all stakeholders, inside and outside of the organization to understand impacts and performance.
Identify warning flags—signs of things going wrong—so you can intervene, assess the situation, and act. Recognize victory flags too—signs of things working well—to celebrate along the way and so you can figure out why and replicate that success.
Before making any decisions, talk to us about our remote workplace assessment so you can better understand your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and your employees’ and managers’ experiences, perceptions, needs, and desires.