As many wrestle with return-to-office practices, defining what hybrid work means in your organization is essential. If you stop at how many days on-site, you’re missing an opportunity to attract great employees. When we talk to candidates, they want to know more than where they will work and when—they want to know how you will support them and your long- and short-term plans. Here are some suggestions to communicate the real value behind the words, “We’re hybrid.”
Let’s face it. The pandemic forced a lot of organizations into remote and hybrid work. The unfortunate side effect is that for many employees, hybrid means working some number of hours at home or in the office without the additional support to be productive and feel part of a team. We often hear candidates say, “The office is just an inconvenient place to Zoom because no one is there,” or “When I’m working from home while others are in the office, I feel disconnected or left out.”
According to a 2022 Gallup study, “Hybrid work must be productive and engaging, not just a policy or perk.” An analysis published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) emphasizes that time spent in the office should “prioritize building and rebuilding connections between people to fuel creativity, teamwork, and strong support systems that empower them to tackle challenges.”
Job seekers are aware of the pitfalls of a poorly supported hybrid workspace and are looking for signals that they will be set up for success working remotely and that their time in-office has meaning. They are looking for purpose-driven hybrid.
Names Don’t Matter—Intention Does
From the technology sector and financial institutions to nonprofits and international business, we’ve seen a lot of different names for variations of hybrid work: office-centric, flexible hybrid, flexible-remote, employee-centric, at-will, remote-first, split week, week by week, and more. They all have different meanings depending on the industry and organization; it’s enough to make your head spin.
Rather than focusing on choosing the correct term, use informative language that communicates your values and the purpose driving your choices. Create a framework of questions specific to your organization or team and be as consistent as possible.
- Where do your team members work, and when?
- Who is responsible for creating or adjusting the schedule or location?
- How do you support remote and in-person work?
- “Our organization follows a hybrid work structure where employees can work remotely or from the office, as needed, based on demands of specific tasks or personal work preferences. Working from the office is encouraged for tasks that require a high degree of collaboration.”
- “Our communications team follows a hybrid schedule working in-office one day a week and remotely for the rest. Our in-office time is used primarily for team meetings and formal and informal collaboration. We support our employees to do their best work with a home office stipend, technology to support remote collaboration, and intentional strategies to foster a positive work culture.”
- “This position is primarily remote, with compensated travel to our office four times a year for our annual retreat and company-wide strategic planning sessions. We provide all technology to support your work and have a remote-specific onboarding process, including norms for working and building relationships among our team.”
Questions to Ask Yourself
We have the utmost compassion for organizations making this pivot. According to a McKinsey survey of C-suite executives regarding their return to office strategy, “68% have no detailed plan communicated or in place.” If you are among that number, embrace the chance to set yourself apart.
The authors of a recent HBR post assert, “In reality, successfully moving to a hybrid culture is a mindset that requires changing many small habits every single day.“ Flexible thinking allows for higher standards; inflexible thinking creates constraints.
Consider these questions as you develop and set your policies.
- How will you enforce your policies?
- What autonomy will different teams have?
- Do your employees come into a central office? Satellite offices? Coworking spaces?
- When do employees go into the office? Does leadership decide, or do they?
- What purpose does the office environment serve?
- Are any staff fully remote or in-person? If so, how do you ensure equity?
Reflect on what works (and what doesn’t) and be flexible. High-performing candidates are attracted to organizations that demonstrate flexibility and purpose. The language you use to talk about hybrid work is an opportunity to communicate both.