Flexibility, Inclusivity and Technology Hold the Keys to Supporting a Hybrid Workplace

Editor’s note: This blog is part of Mission North’s new Workplace Wisdom series, which aims to examine all aspects of the Future of Work in conversation with HR executives and industry observers.

Organizations across industries are at an inflection point as some employees return to the office and others choose remote or hybrid work. Only one thing is certain: the workplace norms of years past must evolve to accommodate changes in employee expectations and working styles.

The battle for talent is real. The organizations that get this transition right will have a crucial edge in attracting and retaining employees. But what does a future in this hybrid environment look like? How can employees stay connected while working across multiple shifting environments? 

We turned to three Future of Work experts for their advice and insights on navigating this significant (and likely permanent) shift —Laszlo Bock, Humu CEO and Co-Founder, Cecile Alper-Leroux, UKG GVP of Research and Innovation, and Carter Busse, Workato CIO. Their responses, which have been edited for length, are below:

Be Flexible

“There can be no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work, even within an organization,” says Humu’s Laszlo. “Each business needs to come up with a customized plan that works for their environment, their customers, their employees, their industry. Organizations should consider what hybrid work means at the team and individual level. The successful approach for a sales team will look entirely different than that of an HR or IT team.”

Carter at Workato agrees that flexibility is key. “From a culture perspective, employees overwhelmingly want flexibility. Organizations that can support that flexibility and choice are likely to see more engaged and satisfied employees. CEOs across the board are pushing for a return to office, while CIOs are facing big waves of resignations. IT talent in particular is in high demand and the good IT resources are finding better jobs that fit their quality of life and are optimized for flexibility. Companies need to create environments that suit employees’ needs wherever they may be located, or those people will move on.”

“Organizations should consider what hybrid work means at the team and individual level.”

Laszlo Bock, CEO and Co-Founder, Humu

Prioritize Equity

UKG’s Cecile urges organizations to lead with workplace equity and to consider different types of workers while planning for the next phase of work.

“Return-to-office discussions have largely left out certain groups of employees, like frontline workers, employees of color, and those experiencing long-haul COVID symptoms,” she says. “It’s important to take steps that prioritize individual employee choice and consider the needs of the entire workforce. The events of the past year and a half have impacted different employees in different ways. A one-size-fits-all approach will inevitably fall short.”

Deploy Technology to Ease the Transition 

“Ease the transition to a hybrid team environment by putting tools in place that help organizations ensure safety, security and organizational protocols are followed and enable employees to easily follow guidelines,” says Carter. “For example, we have built an automation with Workato for employees to upload their vaccinations cards, reserve desks and follow colleagues so they are notified when others are going back to the office. This automation is a bot in Slack, so it’s super easy for employees. We also hooked up the automation to Alexa.” 

“Ease the transition to a hybrid team environment by putting tools in place that help organizations ensure safety, security and organizational protocols are followed and enable employees to easily follow guidelines.”

Carter Busse, CIO, Workato

Use Retention as a Metric for Success

“Employee retention will be a key quantitative metric to help measure the success of a hybrid work plan,” says Cecile. “Many employees are expecting their leaders to maintain the level of trust, flexibility and empathy that developed during 2020 and the first half of 2021. Employees expect to be supported through this hybrid transition—and many are prepared to leave organizations that miss the mark. A hybrid work plan must take into account factors like flexibility and empathetic leadership that create a supportive environment.”

“Employees expect to be supported through this hybrid transition—and many are prepared to leave organizations that miss the mark.”

Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of Product and Innovation, UKG

Set Expectations, and Expect Iteration

“No one is going to get this right the first time, and leaders shouldn’t pretend they will,” says Laszlo. “The problem is that when things don’t go as planned and teams need to make changes, they’ll be interpreted as sudden and jolting; people will assume the plan isn’t working and they will get anxious. Instead, leaders—executives, managers—need to present the approach as, ‘Here’s the system we’ll try for three months. We’ll evaluate it and make adjustments from there as needed.’ If people expect change, they will then be less anxious when it happens and they will be more willing to go along with the solutions.”