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3 ways hybrid work is changing the workplace experience

It’s time to go back to work. Soon, empty desks and meeting rooms will have people in them again. Finally. There’s been a lot said about what the physical workplace will look like post-pandemic. But there’s been less talk about the long-term impact the past year will have on the workplace experience. The reason is simple: it’s too soon to tell for sure. 

What we do know is that employees want a hybrid work model moving forward and they have expectations for how their employers support them. We also know that people are ready to leave their jobs if they don’t feel their demands are met. This presents a number of challenges—for example, 83% of CEOs want employees to return to the workplace full-time—but also plenty of opportunities. In this post, we’ll share three important ways hybrid work changes the workplace experience. And we’ll go over ways your team can build an experience that’ll keep employees engaged, productive, and wanting to go into the workplace.

People want to go to work to build connections

Driving genuine workplace connections can boost employee engagement and productivity. According to Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index, people have depended on their coworkers in new ways over the past year. For example, 17 % of employees cried with another coworker. It’s clear that work connections during the pandemic have been crucial in helping people feel supported and connected despite being remote.

It turns out, connecting with coworkers may also help bring people back to the workplace. 37% of employees want to know who’ll be at work before they decide to go in. This tells us that work connections are important and the workplace should serve as a hub that employees can use to nurture their relationships with coworkers. 

To help bring your people back to the workplace, your team needs to nail the on-site experience. The workplace should help employees create and build connections. Focus on providing employees space and resources to work collaboratively in ways that aren’t possible in a remote work setup. For example, consider adding more casual seating arrangements, such as a cafe-style nook, to spur casual collisions and encourage people to engage.

Employees demand more equity in the workplace 

Access to remote work has helped to level the playing field for people who need flexible work schedules. Now, these employees can accommodate their personal needs through the workweek without penalties. But employers still have more to do to create a more equitable workplace.

Right now, there’s a gap in perception between companies and their people on employee benefits. A recent PwC survey on reimaging work highlights a glaring example. 81% of executives say their company has successfully extended benefits for childcare. But only 45% of employees agree. To know where to start, your team should answer these guiding questions:

  1. What do our employees want and need? The best way to answer this question is by asking your workforce directly. Include a question or two in a regular pulse survey or a quarterly feedback session. Needs change, so be sure to ask on a biannual basis.
  2. How are we supporting those needs? Workplace teams have to rethink their programs from top to bottom. This includes programs aimed at creating greater diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace. 
  3. Where are our gaps? Once you understand what your people need and how you’re supporting them today, you can pinpoint new areas to focus on. If you have multiple gaps, decide which are most critical to invest in first.

Finally, your team may have goals tied to the workplace experience. But how often do you revisit them? Are you collecting employee feedback to learn how you can do better? Make time to revisit these goals and adjust your strategy as needed based on feedback from employees. This will ensure your team stays focused on the work that’ll drive equity in the workplace.

Flexibility is no longer a nice-to-have

A lot of people thought the pandemic would inspire companies to adopt permanent remote work models. But only 8% of employees want a fully remote workweek. Far more people (48%) want the ability to work both in and out of the workplace, suggesting that the workplace will continue to be important to employees. And now, so will flexibility. 

In fact, 40% of employees are willing to take a pay cut to work under a hybrid work model. This number increases among certain employee demographics. For example, 43% of Gen Zers, 46% of Millennials, and 43% of Gen Xers say they’d likely take a pay cut for more work flexibility. Moreover, 47% of employees say they’d likely look for a new job if their employer didn’t offer hybrid work.

What does this tell us? First, companies that don’t adapt now may scramble to adopt hybrid work in the years to come. By then, it may be too late to reverse the damage to employee turnover and morale. Your team and company should use this moment to think long-term and build a work model that attracts talent today and in the future. Employees will appreciate companies that diverge from the status quo—and many will walk away from those that don’t.

The data is clear; companies must meet the needs of employees. If they don’t, they could risk losing talent to employers that do. Workplace teams should consult their workforce to understand what their employees expect. From there, they can take action to address their people’s needs. 

Ready to learn more about how employees want to work in the new normal? Download our ebook, Employees have a vision for the future of work and it’s hybrid.