With the pandemic restrictions gone and many employees wanting to remain at home, organisations are frantically re-rewriting the rules of the workplace to allow hybrid working – giving employees the flexibility to work at home, in the office, or both.
But who is defining these policies and how they work? If you read the journals supporting Human Resources professionals then it looks very much like them. HR magazines and blogs are filled with tips on how to build the most flexible hybrid employee policies while remaining supportive and productive.
But what is the reality for employees? As Bloomberg recently documented, many employees are coming into the office – because their boss says they must spend 2-3 days a week at the office – only to sit at their desk on Zoom calls because colleagues are not in the office.
Some companies are mandating which days employees must be in the office. Other executives think that employees should self-organise. The Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast advises Wednesday + 1 other day as mandatory.
People Management magazine recently published an article asking if itâs now time for HR to revise flexible work policies. The âcommon problemsâ are empty offices on Monday and Friday, employees staying at home for more days than agreed, a lack of atmosphere in offices, and senior employees setting the wrong example by working from home.
Are we setting the wrong example? Is presenteeism making a comeback?
It is easy to argue that much of the current hybrid debate is too HR-focused and that organisations should be spending more time getting to grips with the broader question âwhat exactly will the future of work look like?âÂ
Yes, careers, employee support, work hours, training, safety etc. will all be part of the answer but what is the reality outside of the HR bubble?
There are several things that âforcedâ WFH during lockdown taught us. That people enjoy flexibility during the workday for example. They donât want to commute. They want to be judged by what they do, rather than how long they are seen at a desk.Â
These are not only problems that HR need to fix by creating new rules around which days employees have flexibility and which days they do not. We need to accept that work itself has fundamentally changed. How it is performed and how employers and employees relate to each other. Expectations have been adjusted.
Whatâs also needed is a focus on the tools that facilitate a distributed workforce. Forget about hybrid and how many days are work from home or office days. Just design your work platform so everyone can work together no matter where they are located.
Our Digital Workplace at SensĂ©e is a technology platform that allows teams to interact, work together, and even socialise… and it doesnât matter if they are at home, at the office, or in a rented meeting room. Everyone can connect and engage.
This is the modern reality of work. A distributed team that isnât sitting alone in an office cubicle on Zoom. It is a team that is together virtually, no matter where each individual is working today.
Itâs time for the people that do the work to start defining how work really functions today, rather than waiting for the right HR policies. The digital workplace does need rules about where people work but it also needs so much more.