“Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time,” said a recent CNBC report. A recent survey of Google employees showed that “62 percent (of employees) want to return to their offices at some point, but not every day,” and in response, the company is working on “hybrid” work options.
While it’s easy to view “hybrid” as a combination of only two things, there are more combinations that can be explored and still come into this definition. The term means “two or more” elements in combination, working together to perform a whole function.
This means that for those employers and employees who are interested in exploring options for work arrangements in a shifting environment, the options do not need to be binary. There is a huge variety of options that can enable workers to be more productive, businesses to be more flexible and all parties to thrive in an unpredictable economy.
The only way to ensure that top talent remains working for your business is to offer people the flexibility that they need to not only manage a work-life balance but also feel protected and stable as the pandemic continues to change the way we must live.
The Pandemic Has Changed Preferences and Habits
Prior to the pandemic, some companies offered flexible work options, such as work-from-home and work-in-the-office on alternating days. Then, in 2020 businesses were told that if employees could work from home, they had to work from home. While people have adapted to working entirely from home, including filming TV talk shows, hosting group meetings, and managing their productivity without direct physical oversight, many people have come to relish working from home, while many others resent it.
The pandemic has forced businesses to rethink the structure of the workplace. Moving whole teams to an online environment have forced businesses to rethink connectivity, security, and project management. It has also illuminated the importance of recognizing the differences between people’s needs in working environments. Some people thrive in a busy office, while others will flail. It is those people who seemed to always be in the background who are now proving themselves in the peace and quiet of their private environment, and those who need social interaction who are struggling.
However, there are more than just two solutions – home or office – that can accommodate people and businesses. Flexible working hours, remote working, office share spaces, and company offices are all options that people can combine to build a productive working solution. For those businesses who refuse to adopt a flexible schedule, top talent is more likely to leave to find supportive workplaces that do offer flexibility.
“Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time.”
Not Flexible Enough
Thus far, solutions on offer are binary; online, or in-person. As seen in school systems, these two options are not enough. People with children in school are struggling to keep up with the ever-changing demands that children attend school, or be online, or do both. For those parents working, this is challenging. How are people who are working full-time from the home expected to monitor their children doing school work online?
It is a complex situation that at this time has no answers. If a hybrid work model is limited to two elements, most people won’t be able to pick one or the other. While people are moving back into offices, there are social distancing measures that require people to work on rotation systems, or mandatory mask-wearing, or other strict policies that people inevitably fail at, making social settings less safe. This means many people will not want to return to the office.
Other people will have discovered that they are far more productive working from home. They enjoy the silence, the comfort, and the lack of interruptions to their work. Returning to a noisy office, a daily commute and the stress of forced social interaction is unappealing. While such people might be required to make daily contact, they are also happier doing that online or even attending the office for only a few short hours per week.
The pandemic has shined a light on the need for a greater diversity of options for workers. Businesses need to adapt not only to the challenges that COVID-19 pose, but also understand the research and data that supports shorter working hours and reduced numbers of working days. The research shows that people who are supported in more flexible working environments and who are given longer holiday periods (5 weeks per year) are more productive, happy, and committed to their company.
Try Something New
Solving the question of binary options takes a group effort. Businesses need to:
- Offer the necessary and sufficient variety of work options to match the variety of work preferences employees request so that the needs of the organization and the needs of workers are balanced.
- Ask employees what options they want and find a way of implementing the solutions.
- Keep testing and planning and working with flexible solutions so that employees and the business are stable and everyone feels comfortable. It is an ongoing plan that requires effort, coordination, and open communication for solutions to be effective.
Offering flexible solutions means that more workers feel secure, are able to excel in the environment that they need to feel productive, and will want to commit to your business long term. The current situation forced by the pandemic is unlikely to change in 2021 or even 2022. For businesses to survive, they must adapt, and part of that adaptation of understanding that there needs to be more than two options on the table for workers in order for top talent to stay.
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