Following extended periods of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is moving hybrid. Hybrid work combines work from home and work from the office, as well as potential ‘third places.’
According to McKinsey, 90% of companies are switching to hybrid work for the long-term.1 Hybrid work benefits include reduced real estate and operating costs, an increased ability to attract and retain top talent,2 particularly working parents and older employees, and is proven in recent Stanford research to significantly improve employee retention.3
The move to hybrid makes sense, because employees no longer want to come to the office full-time. Research shows that only 9% of young employees in Vietnam want to work full-time in an office.4 In Singapore, 60% of employees want to mix remote and office work or even just work from home (17%.)5 The same goes for Thailand,6 Indonesia,7 Philippines,8 and Malaysia.9
Challenges to Overcome
Great companies like Spotify, Microsoft, Twitter and many others have successfully deployed hybrid or “Work from Anywhere” models in international markets. We now see local and global companies in Southeast Asia taking on this trend and working towards a style of managing and engaging their teams that is more flexible and provides more freedom. But the move towards hybrid work comes with a unique set of challenges.
What can employers expect from employees, and vice versa? New hybrid ‘policies’ have to be introduced, measured, and optimized. Offices have to be redesigned and operated differently to provide on-demand spaces to focus, meet, and collaborate, rather than individual dedicated working desks. And employee engagement needs to be done in a much more intentional way to improve communication, connection, community, and company culture.
The Need for Clear Hybrid Guidelines
Recent research from Microsoft10 shows that 38% of employees say their greatest hybrid challenge is knowing when or why to come into the office. This means that companies have to define clear Hybrid Policies and make them easily accessible to teams.
Good hybrid policies not only document when and how often employees should come to the office, but also codify how employees are expected to engage with each other, their managers, and the company when working hybrid.
Key questions your hybrid guidelines should help you answer include:
- First and foremost, where will the employee be expected to work? Try to answer:
- To ensure collaboration and communication doesn’t suffer, when are employees expected to work?
- During working hours, how do you ensure employees can communicate and collaborate effectively?
- How is productivity measured? Are there any milestones and/or OKRs in place that help keep everyone on track and measure progress?
- How is the home office organized? Are there any new benefits?
- How are exceptions to the policy handled?
Measure, Learn and Optimize
Even the best hybrid guidelines at this point will be nothing more than the best hypothesis we can make in the moment. Companies will need to measure the effectiveness of their hybrid guidelines, test adjustments and variations, and evolve the guidelines over time.
Investing in acquiring and frequently reviewing this data will be critical, in line with the move towards more data-driven HR functions. HR leaders will (need to) get smarter about using data to uncover insights about which groups of employees are performing the best, whether it’s purely productivity and outputs or ‘soft metrics’ like culture and community contributions.11