Flexibility. In a pre-pandemic office environment, the word “flexible” was rarely part of a 9-to-5 job’s expectations. The pandemic fundamentally changed how many businesses operate, engage and look at how their employees work. Office workers went from working an on-site job with face-to-face interaction to working from home, only seeing their customers or peers via technology, and working alone with significantly more independence.
Two years later, businesses must decide whether to return to the office, continue working remotely or choose a hybrid working environment. Most workers are looking for a hybrid option and will likely leave if their company discontinues the opportunity to work remotely. While this business model will not work in all our projects and departments as we still need to follow our customer’s guidance for when we need to be on site, we fully support a hybrid model and are actively encouraging our customers to leverage the benefits that come with it.
After two enlightening employee engagement surveys, Maximus leaders are learning that workers still want the flexibility of a hybrid or remote work environment. The sentiment isn’t just at Maximus – it’s across many companies and industries. Businesses must address this need to stay competitive in recruiting and retaining employees.
A hybrid work environment is fairly new to most of Maximus as it was largely brought on by the global pandemic. According to Microsoft, since March 2020, the time spent in virtual meetings has increased by over 250 percent. This is almost solely because people are not working in offices – they can’t just pop into their manager’s office to ask a quick question. Sometimes emails don’t explain the complexities of business operations and they can lose the emotional sensitivities that are needed on more personal topics. We also need to remember that too many meetings can result in an unproductive workforce and an employee who is feeling increasingly burnt out.
I believe that this increase is driven primarily by employers’ desire to keep people connected. Still, I think hybrid and remote work has made managers and supervisors more anxious about how their employees spend their time when they aren’t physically at a desk. I like to tell other leaders that when it comes to their exempt employees, they should be managing for outcomes not hours. Set goals for people and ensure that those goals are being achieved. If that is happening, stop worrying about when and where people work. Hybrid work is an opportunity for each of us to kickstart practices that will make Maximus more successful in the long run. Employees and leaders alike can learn and evolve their skills to continue to make this work.
Some key thoughts on how managers can make hybrid/remote work successful in a business:
- Be willing to listen and adapt.
- Stay open-minded to new ways of working and embrace experimentation. Focus on employee outcomes, not the specifics of how they get assignments done.
- Set up a recurring calendar reminder to check in with your people on how things are going every few weeks.
- Encourage teams to see hybrid work as an opportunity to experiment and let them know you’ll be curious for their feedback.
Trust is a critical component of a successful remote work policy. We’ve found our workforce to be productive and accountable without the need to micromanage. Showing your employees that you are open to experimentation and feedback not only boosts morale but can also make the switch to hybrid work more successful.