The hybrid working model that allows employees to work remotely as well as from the office has garnered a number of corporate giants as its novel advocates. Prominent among them are Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Post the advent of the pandemic, companies are voluntarily embracing the fact that the future of work is complex and ever-evolving.
Such an admission apropos the future of work necessarily leads to the conclusion that there is likely to be a dilution of corporate culture because of remote work practices. A Gartner poll stands as evidence of the same. In its poll, the research and advisory company found that a whopping 82% of company leaders were inclined towards permitting work from home partly. the emphasis here is on ‘partly’ because the leadership was concerned about a weakening corporate culture.
The pandemic has distorted our definition and boundaries of what is ‘normal’. In the era of the new normal, companies have lost their ability to dictate the terms of work unilaterally, and have to remodel themselves to work scenarios where employees have a major say. Whichever way you look at it, there is a creative unraveling and a reconstruction of the new workspace.
What’s your go-to hybrid working model?
For now, there are no hard-and-fast rules in the hybrid work playfield, and companies are designing rules as they go along based on their cumulative experiences. Smaller companies are cherry-picking work norms from a host of bigger companies and testing if those models are a good fit for them. Many leaders are also sharing their trials with the hybrid work model which is helping other companies calibrate their norms. At such a juncture, apart from interacting with their employees on the new work model, companies should also collect data and envision future models that will help boost productivity further without burnt-out employees. The new mantra is to assess, analyze and evolve with the times.
The Microsoft model
Microsoft has been walking the middle path as far as the hybrid work mode is involved. In late March this year, it decided to mandate office work for a select few employees as the US economy opened up incrementally and the number of infections reduced. In a LinkedIn post, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shed light on the “hybrid work paradox”. According to Microsoft’s research, employees are looking for more flexible work options in the wake of the pandemic, however, a sizable portion of the workers are insisting on in-person collaboration. As of May this year, 81% of Microsoft’s employees in China attend office three-plus days a week while only 19% of the employees in Australia give in-person attendance.
Microsoft’s model is premised on three pillars: social capital, continuous learning and human capital, and wellness. On the first front, Microsoft is focusing on communication channels as a medium for sustaining its culture in the organization. Meeting recordings are available as and when needed by employees, and the company is focusing on strengthening the web of everyday inter-connections between employees, managers, and the company.
To address the second front, the company is helping employees expand their knowledge to enable others to help build on the basis of their expertise. They are also providing personalized and centralized training to employees.
On the third front, Microsoft is helping employees deal with the spectre of burnout and is using software that hews small breaks between meetings to foster employee well-being. Managers have been asked to prioritize employee wellness and to integrate it with the idea of productivity at large.
The Google model
Google has been setting an example by providing Carer’s leave, work from home allowance, and the extra reset days to its employees to get used to the grueling demands that have been made of employees during the pandemic.
In May this year, it moved to a three-day office and two-days remote working arrangement. Office time has been marked out for collaboration and employees have to come to the office depending on the product areas they are in and their work profile. Because of the nature of their work, a few employees have been asked to report to the office for more than three days a week.
Its hybrid model, as per the Google CEO Sundar Pichai, is being tailored in a manner that will lead to 60% of the Google employees coming together in an office setting for few days a week, while 20% will be working from new office locations and the remaining 20% will be permitted to work remotely on a permanent basis.