The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our approach toward where we work, how we work, and when we work. The hybrid work strategy has been the ‘new norm’ for a while now as many employers and leaders have embraced it wholeheartedly. Whereas for employees, looking for flexible workplace solutions this might not necessarily be enough. What I discovered recently is that from an employee perspective the hybrid work solution does not necessarily mean flexible. The pandemic surely has changed our working style forever, what’s important is that we ask ourselves if the hybrid model is up for a challenge even before it has had the time to settle down.
Companies that encourage a remote work policy and provide flexibility for employees to work from anywhere all the time are way ahead of the game. The pandemic has proved that while existing under such uncertain circumstances, businesses that are currently still reaping financial benefits are those that are resilient and adaptable to a more flexible working structure. Employees are currently more confident than ever, about their capability to be productive within flexible work structures – the freedom to choose where and when they work – and that is overtaking the need for job security.
Our recent experience indicates that hybrid is not the solution
That there are employees who are not in favor of the hybrid strategy because it isn’t nearly enough was a very interesting revelation indeed. Shocking? Not really. The hybrid model still requires one to check in to the workplace a few times a week because of which one still needs to reside in the geographic area of the workplace. Something, we at SolveCube observed while deploying TA experts for our clients, was that many of the candidates [age group mid ’20s- mid 30’s] were keen on quitting their well-paid jobs for full workplace flexibility. It was interesting to see how younger talent, that too in big numbers, placed flexible work structure over job security. Of the 50 Talent Acquisition experts who applied to us had relocated to Tier-II cities in India. 90% said they prefer a completely remote working structure over the hybrid model. When asked about such a preference, the response was the kind that makes you re-think the hybrid workplace strategy. The pandemic caused many people to shift back to their hometowns and (even those who didn’t) had by now built an ecosystem of their own around their “new norm”. This eco-system created around the new normal started working out perfectly. The work-life integration – bringing the two aspects closer together is something they have come to appreciate and do not wish to disturb. This, followed by witnessing a noticeable dip in their cost of living, experiencing less fatigue and burnout, and an overall improved lifestyle seemed to be at the top of the list.
So, what is the new norm if not the hybrid work strategy?
The events over the past two years have finally put a concern experienced by employers and leaders to rest i.e., enabling employees to work remotely would translate into a loss of productivity. If anything, in most cases remote style working has boosted employee productivity, employee satisfaction, employee retention, and to some extent even increased the ability to attract talent. A survey conducted by EY finds that among southeast Asian respondents, nine in ten employees want flexibility in where and when they work, in the absence of which more than half (60%) would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic.
So far organizations have been focusing on the aspect of where people might be working in the future, and, what’s the future of our workplace – in short, tweaking workplace structures rather than unleashing their true potential. It is time to gravitate towards the more important questions of how we can unravel work styles; how to develop truly flexible work structures that attract diverse, high potential talent to build organizations that are resilient and successful.
The new norm from an employee perspective works structures flexibility.
This brings us to the conclusion that the hybrid model might not be the solution after all, and that leaders probably do need to change their mindset. The focus now should not be on how to make the hybrid work model work, but instead, on creating a flexible work structure – how to utilize the talent that’s around us, and create job opportunities for remote workers. It is glaringly clear that employee productivity is dependent on factors other than location. A few key elements that the leadership needs to focus on is, ensuring that the right equipment is provided to remote workers (which includes investing in high-grade tech support), staying connected with their teams regardless of location, clarity of goals, and emphasis on forming clear, sharp channels for communication.
It is time for businesses to re-think the Hybrid workplace strategy because for a young talented workforce that runs into millions, it seems that flexible work structures are the solution and not hybrid in its current form.