HR Leads Business

Jul 19, 2021 | Amy S. Dufrane, Ed.D., SPHR, CAE, CEO of HRCI

Redesigning HR Policies for a Hybrid Work Model

Out of necessity, work models evolved rapidly over the past year and a half. Now we again have time to plan, instead of just scrambling to stay afloat. It’s becoming clear that most companies favor a hybrid work model. In fact, 77% of respondents to a recent survey of CEOs, COOs and other business leaders predicted they’ll have a hybrid workforce by this time next year. 

Of course, what that looks like will differ for each organization. Are employees expected to work from the office a certain number of days per week? Are some employees fully remote while others are fully in-person? Shifting to a hybrid work model requires us to revisit and revise our companies’ outdated employee handbooks, and to set new expectations for the future of work. 

Here’s how to maintain efficiency, flexibility and safety as you redesign HR policies to support a hybrid work model.

It’s Still About the Job

It’s been a rough stretch for everyone. Supporting employees during this trying time is essential. Just don’t lose sight of what needs to be accomplished. When setting new policies, start with big picture job responsibilities. Look at each role’s skills and requirements, and design guidelines to optimize them. “You can't design policies around people's workstyles,” says Colleen Pfaller, SPHR, founder and CEO at A Slice of HR. “They need to be defined by the actual job duties of the position.” As we shift to a hybrid work model, design and implement policies to optimize the role first. From there, consider individual needs and accommodations.

It may turn out what’s best for an individual is also ideal for the bottom line. Some employees in certain roles may spend their time more efficiently working from home than commuting to the office, says Jenny Vonderwerth, SPHR, PHRca, SVP of Employee Benefits Consulting at McGriff. Don’t require presence in the office without a reason. And should their presence be necessary, make the most of it. If you ask employees to come into the office on certain days, curate some of their time together with planned in-person brainstorming or work activities. 

Build a Flexible Hybrid Work Model

In a tight labor market like ours, it’s more important than ever to listen to what employees want — and to deliver on their expectations. We’ve already seen employees chafing against strict office return policies. A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found 39% would consider quitting if their employers aren’t flexible with remote work. If they’re willing to give up a job over this, good luck getting them to choose positions they find unaccommodating. Quite simply, flexible work is a key differentiator for attracting talent in a crowded market, says Janie Warner, VP and National HR Practice Leader at McGriff. 

Revise your employee handbook to align manager and employees’ expectations for when, where and how work gets done, Pfaller says. But within that framework, give employees flexibility and freedom to decide how they work best. Suggest work hours, for example, but let individual employees find their own rhythm within that time frame. 

New Steps for Health and Safety

A hybrid work model requires additional benefit options for your workforce. In particular, mental health benefits are important for helping employees adjust to change. “It’s been triggered by the pandemic, and the entire paradigm change in the way people live and work,” Vonderwerth says. Offering mental health benefits can help your workforce adapt to new policies and routines, particularly if they’ve already been struggling.

It’s also worth considering how an employee’s return to the office might impact other people in their lives. Child and elder care benefits provide support for employees as they transition to hybrid work, Warner says. Offering these benefits frees employees from dependent care concerns. Without them, returning to the office may genuinely not be an option. (Or, at least, a difficult, stressful decision that causes their performance to suffer.)

New benefits can also ensure your employees are as productive as possible at home. The biggest work-related safety risk in a remote environment comes from not having ergonomic home office setups. A regular stipend can help hybrid workers establish their home offices, and a virtual consultant can help them arrange their space in the healthiest possible way. 

You can take measures to protect the company’s safety as well. Whatever your business, cybersecurity is essential. There’s no point in establishing secure workstations at the office, only to leave employees fending for themselves on the days they work remotely. If you provide employees with technology for the home as well as the office, you have more control over data safety wherever they may be working on a given day. Which is all part of the overall goal of ensuring your employees can be as productive as possible, in or out of the office.

Now's the time to get ready for your workforce's future. Watch Higher Standard: How Organizations Return, Re-Engage, Re-Train and Retain Their Workforce micro-summit on-demand for 3 credit hours towards any HRCI recertification.