Can a Hybrid Work Model Even the Playing Field for Women?
There has been much news lately about the crisis facing working women and getting women back into the workplace. After being home for a year, many are ready to go back. However, not everyone is ready to give up being there for their family and having time together to being in the office until late at night.
After so many discussions with my clients, network, friends, and family members I have concluded that the hybrid model is what will get women back to work. The hybrid model offers the most flexibility for women and to recruit new employees in the future. The hybrid model will offer women the solutions that they want- not having to choose between being with family and having a successful career. It will allow for women to draw the boundaries necessary. The hybrid model also will benefit employers.
Incorporating a Hybrid Model
Many leaders expect that beyond 2021, we could be in a hybrid model permanently. According to McKinsey, 80 percent of remote workers said they enjoy working from home, and 69 percent are just as or more productive at home than in the office. A hybrid work model also opens the door to accessing new pools of talent without constraints regarding location. Companies will need to decide what they need to make the hybrid model successful. For example, some may not need as much office space. Others may need to embed remote working more deeply into their culture. It also leads to the question of what is the right balance between remote working and being on-site? And how does this benefit women trying to get back to work?
There is no one set answer to this question. Companies will need to figure out what works best for them as an organization. There is research from PwC that shows over half of respondents wish to continue working from home for 3 days a week. The main hallmark of the hybrid workforce model is flexibility. What many need to understand is that flexibility does not equal free form. Businesses will be required to figure out which employees need to come into the office and how often. When teams are working remotely, managers will be challenged to decide how those employees can interact effectively with their colleagues in the workplace without damaging productivity.
Questions to Ask
It will be important for employers to consider role-specific criteria. However, arrangements will also be driven by personal circumstances and equity. This is why the hybrid model will likely continue to be attractive for women seeking to get back to work full-time. Employers should consider the following:
- Why does a particular employee need to perform his or hers work in the office?
- To what extent does an employee need to collaborate with others? How often?
- To what extent does an employee need to rapidly exchange information?
- To what extent are employees transforming and innovating instead of performing more transactional activities?
Also, as previously mentioned, the personal aspects must be considered as well. Those include:
- How does an employee feel about working in the office versus working from home?
- Is he or she feeling disconnected and/ or overwhelmed?
- Is the employee clear about his or her role and organizational strategy?
The hybrid model offers the most flexibility for women and to recruit new employees in the future.
Hybrid Work & Equity
These personal aspects will also directly affect equity. Individuals from different demographic groups because they have experienced the pandemic in different ways. This includes women, minorities, and minority women. HR will not necessarily consider that someone cannot come into the office because they have children at home or are now taking care of someone, particularly due to COVID. HR also will not necessarily consider those known as the COVID long-haulers, who had COVID and are still experiencing symptoms weeks or months later. For these reasons, HR will need to examine what policies can be put into place to create an even playing field.
Employers will also need to ask:
- Should certain teams be in the office on the same days for in-person meetings and collaboration?
- What types of meetings should be held in-person versus remotely?
- Will there be specific days when all employees can work from home?
- How can COVID long-haulers continue to do their job without further risking their health?
It is also important to consider where employees are in their careers. An employee who is relatively new, newly promoted, having performance issues, or early in their careers, they will benefit from closer support in the office instead of working remotely and feeling isolated and confused.
Professional Development & Employee Engagement
When incorporating the hybrid model, employers need to be sure that it is not at the risk of productivity. Employees can end up feeling disconnected. In a hybrid model, managers will need to work harder to keep employees engaged. They will also need to work harder to ensure that professional development does not take a backseat because it is a method of maintaining employee engagement as well. In any case, the hybrid model, is likely here to stay, however, it will require planning and designing a model that is unique for the business and its employees, so it functions well and can bring women and minorities back to work.