By Kael Tupper, Client Relationship Coordinator, Wellness Works Canada
A hybrid work model is one that allows for employees the option of working in physical office locations, remotely, or a combination of the two. Designing a hybrid work policy can be a tedious process requiring many considerations. Bearing that in mind, we have done the research for you and put together important considerations here as a companion to our hybrid work policy template. Read on to learn directional information that can be used to implement and/or update your hybrid telecommuting work policy.
The main components to consider for your policy include the purpose, scope, procedures,
eligibility, equipment, scheduling considerations, code of ethics/conduct, safety, security, leave of absence, compensation, reimbursements, and authorization. All of these are found in the policy template. Here we focus in on a few of the more complicated sections including types of scheduling along with their pros and cons, the code of conduct, safety, and evaluation.
The true complexity of a hybrid work policy is in the type of telecommuting policy you select. For example, you may have a remote-first model, office occasional, or mixed approach. The important thing to note is that there is no right or wrong way to schedule your hybrid work policy. Every company has a different organizational structure with varying goals and types of labour. The key to making an efficient hybrid work policy is to align your remote scheduling with your company’s workplace culture. In other words, choose a model that supports your vision for the company, but also something that fits with your workforce and their needs. The evidence is simply overwhelming, happy employees almost always equal more productive ones. Listed below are three of the most utilized hybrid work models that are circulating the business world currently. Start by selecting one that works best for your company and make tweaks as necessary.
Note: Wellness Works Canada understands that it can be difficult to reach your employees and determine their needs. For that reason, we offer company audits and surveys to our members to help employers with this piece. If this is something that you are interested in, connect with us for a complimentary consultation.
1. Remote-First Model
Companies that are “Remote-First'' are those that classify themselves as a fully remote company, with the majority of employees telecommuting and select employees working on-site.
This model may be suitable for companies that have a clear division of labor between employees that can accomplish the entirety of their responsibilities remotely, and those that need to be strictly on-site.
A remote-first policy allows companies to reduce their overhead costs and downsize their real estate by splitting their work force between essential workers needed on site and those that can telecommute.
Creates a consistent work environment for the employees.
Easy implementation and management that requires minimal tracking of the employees.
Provides employers the ability to hire talent from anywhere around the world.
Reduced flexibility for employees compared to the other hybrid work models.
Remote employees may feel more isolated compared to their in-office counterparts.
On-site employees and remote workers may not have equal access to benefits (I.e. On-site employees are required to provide additional time and resources for commuting to and from work)
Recommendations for Implementation
Remain true to the name with this model and orient the company as being remote first and foremost. One of the biggest challenges that remote workers experience is feeling left out or excluded from their in-office counterparts. It’s important to adopt a mindset within the company that emphasizes equitable access and ensures that there are no advantages or disadvantages occurring due to remote work. Here are a few examples of how you can ensure equal access:
Reduce or remove in person meetings, instead navigating all communication to occur virtually through avenues such as zoom. This may seem insignificant, but a remote worker will soon feel excluded if he’s the only one teleconferencing into an in-person meeting. Avoid the issue entirely and simply transition to zoom meetings across the board.
Change performance standards and evaluation methods. Employers should seek to measure quality of work and the output, rather than time spent on each task. More on employee evaluations and how to implement it into blended work can be found below.
Prioritize strong work culture through remote team bonding. Carve out time during the week to make virtual team events a regular, and sought-after occurrence. This can be as simple as including open (non-work life) discussions at the beginning or end of weekly meetings!
Examples of this model: Many pharmaceutical companies have a large majority of their staff, such as sales representatives and call centre employees working remotely, while a small portion remain on site to run the equipment and facilities.
Allows employees the flexibility to telecommute certain days of the week and be in office on other days.
Currently this is the most prevalent hybrid work model that is being utilized by workplaces following the COVID-19 pandemic.
An office-occasional policy strives to utilize the office space to blend in-person collaboration and solo work.
Recommendations for implementation:
Utilize firm guidelines for remote hour scheduling when implementing this model. Mandating a requirement for managers to choose specific days and hours where employees must be present in office, as opposed to letting them choose their own days to appear in office helps promote fair treatment for all employees and ensures that the office remains fully operational and high performing throughout the week.
Smaller organizations (<20) are advised to choose days that are mandatory for all employees to be present in the office.
Larger organizations (>20) are advised to have managers decide which days their respective team must be in-office and which days are flexible. To encourage coordination, teams that work together should have at least two days of overlap in office.
Note: Loose policies that allow for employees to choose their own days in office are possible, but often have several drawbacks such as social isolation, reduced collaboration/team-work, loss of diversity, and shifts or inequalities in power dynamics.
Make sure to orient the workspace to prioritize remote work in terms of communications and meetings so as not to exclude those that are working remotely.
Increased flexibility for all employees to choose where they work from.
Flexibility and autonomy for the employees.
Fewer employees on site at any given time reduces overhead costs and carbon footprint!
Can be difficult to coordinate and track where the employees are working on what days.
Extensive planning and communication are needed to keep employees connected and productive.
3. Mixed (Combination of options a & b)
Most organizations, especially those that are larger and located across the country, will fall somewhere in the middle of a remote-first and office-occasional model. In other words, some employees will be strictly remote/in office, while others will be blended workers that transition between the two.
Similar to both options listed above, companies choosing to follow this model are recommended to emphasize remote work first. In other words, companies should act like a fully remote company with employees spread out across different time zones and default to online communication. The reason this remains so important for each and every model is because a strong remote-first orientation will reduce inequalities that develop from hybrid work policies, while granting employees the flexibility to work where they feel most productive. Research shows that remote workers are often unequal to their in-office counterparts in terms of access to resources, promotions, and sociability. Taking a remote first hybrid model puts the whole company on a level playing field, rather than rewarding in-office workers for being present.
Provides employees with the most flexibility when compared to the other models.
Employees are able to have more say in choosing to work where they feel most comfortable and productive.
Consequently, increased flexibility and autonomy for employees helps boost morale, improves retention, reduces bad habits (absenteeism, and presenteeism), and increases overall performance!
Model requires the most effort and resources to implement. Increased employee tracking and coordination is needed to implement an expansive remote model such as this.
Workplace practices may have to be oriented to encompass and apply to each unique hybrid work setup.
Can be difficult to create a strong sense of community and work culture when employees are separated geographically and working under different hybrid work models.
CODE OF ETHICS/CONDUCT:
Including a section outlining a mutual trust agreement between the telecommuter and company is highly recommended. Developing mutual trust is beneficial to both parties as it fosters increased employee engagement and job satisfaction, while reducing negative habits such as absenteeism and presenteeism.
Another increasingly important piece to include within the code of conduct is the importance of maintaining dress codes and social standards. Telecommuters are often working from the comfort of their own home, and it can be easy to forget the importance of maintaining dress codes. Include a section in the code of conduct outlining appropriate attire that needs to be worn during virtual meetings, as well as expectations in terms of standards for alternate workspace cleanliness is valuable to disclose before initiation of the arrangement.
Understanding the negative consequences of remote work and how it can impact telecommuters is an integral piece to an effective remote work policy. Increasing awareness of the drawbacks that telecommuting can have on workers, specifically on the psychological risks associated is incredibly important to make sure that remote workers are are aware of the risks going into the arrangement.
Ensuring that the OH&S policy is updated to encompass psychological safety and risk factors is incredibly important for supporting staff that are telecommuting. Remote work during the pandemic has been strenuous on Canada’s workforce, and social isolation has made it difficult for employees to access help for mental health resources. It is also prudent to make sure your OH&S or health and wellness committee are equipped to support remote workers as well as on-site staff.
Providing a remote work safety checklist for employees to go through when setting up their alternate workspace and checking off every new work term can be beneficial. Safety checklists should include areas such as office ergonomics, psychological risk factors, proper lighting, appropriate noise levels, minimal distractions, access to OH&S regulations and policies as well as mental health resources.
a) Strictly Remote Workers:
Employees should submit weekly or biweekly timesheets and reports on their progress on their tasks or project to their supervisors (if applicable)
Weekly virtual meetings are strongly recommended to stay connected and engaged with remote workers.
Utilization of both weekly and monthly reports and meetings are mandatory during the trial period (first 90 days) to determine the employees’ performance and viability of remote work moving forward.
b) Office Occasional Workers/Mixed:
Similar to option a, both weekly and biweekly progress reports on projects are critical to monitoring and ensuring performance during remote work.
If applicable, substitute weekly virtual meetings with face-to-face meetings that are held during designated office days to increase the connection between employees and supervisors. Alternatively, having every other week or monthly face-to-face meetings can be efficient as well.
An effective hybrid work policy is one that can split employees between working remotely and in office in a manner that fosters both equality and productivity. A hybrid work policy is more complicated than a simple black and white approach and most organizations will fall on a spectrum in terms of the amount and type of remote work that is implemented within their policies. It is recommended that you start with the options listed here, and then tailor them to fit your needs. If you need more support with your hybrid policy connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help.
Want a copy of the hybrid policy? Non-members can click here to check it out. Members can login and view the member only resources and reach it under the Preparation Tools section.
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