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Office spaces all over the country are starting to come alive again, with people returning to work after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
But, as New Zealand returns to normal, companies are starting to think about what happens next – particularly around how employees can make best use of a work from home and office hybrid arrangement.
A report shows 89% of New Zealand workers want to continue working remotely at least one day a week.
As government restrictions and health advisories continue to evolve and relax around the world, it’s unlikely we’ll see a race to ‘go back to normal’ because we’re completely redefining ‘normal’ when it comes to where, when and how we work.
Over the past several months, employees have re-shaped their lifestyles to suit working-from-home arrangements, and at the same time, employers have invested heavily in improving their technology infrastructure and processes to make remote work as efficient and comfortable as possible.
When the game has changed so much, more companies are turning to the idea of permanent hybrid solutions which would see employees return to the office for a few days a week – provided businesses operations allow this work set up.
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As we head into 2023, it will become increasingly important for organisations to put strategies in place to ‘re-recruit’ their employees back into the office on their mission to strike the right balance between a work from home in New Zealand and office hybrid environment.
Does hybrid work really work?
Dividing working hours between the office and home could achieve a more varied approach to professional development, networking, and collaboration opportunities while still improving work-life balance and managing pandemic-related health and safety concerns.
A report by Boston Consulting Group emphasises that hybrid work models will be the future of work post-COVID-19, having the potential to supercharge business productivity and engagement among the workforce.
The report also says well-balanced hybrid work models which deliver a multitude of benefits to businesses and employees will allow organisations to better recruit talent, achieve innovation and create value for stakeholders.
In 2023, the constructive impacts of implementing hybrid remote-onsite workforces could drive investment in new opportunities while positively influencing ‘reimagined’ company cultures.
In an effort to re-recruit your employees back into the office, leaders should clearly communicate the new business goals, types of exciting projects and upskilling opportunities teams might be involved in as they become empowered by a new virtual and in-person working environment.
Related: How to build corporate culture
How do I make my hybrid office work?
When encouraging workers to return to the office, it’s vital to appreciate there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach – everyone will now need different things to facilitate a smooth transition back.
For example, working parents who have found it easier to balance childcare arrangements in recent months might have different requirements and expectations compared to your youngest recruits.
Continuing to support staff through flexible hours, mixing remote workdays with office days or even offering onsite childminding facilities could make a huge difference to re-recruiting employees who have or are planning future families.
What’s more, we’ve also seen a generation of new parents enjoy quality time at home with their newborns, so expectations might have changed around what companies can do to support both maternity and paternity work and leave arrangements.
Flexible work arrangements which reduce the time spent commuting each week could also open opportunities for employees to live further away from the office. Whatever the circumstances, keeping the dialogue open with individual employees will be essential for successfully bringing staff back to the office when needed, whether it be on a full-time or part-time basis.
What are the challenges of a work from home in New Zealand and office hybrid model?
Supporting employees as they return to the workplace will require a high level of sensitivity and responsiveness to individuals’ fears and opinions about a COVID-safe return to the office, and a return to office policy that still fosters work-life balance.
To ensure all employees feel comfortable, companies should consider staggering start and finish times, so people can avoid peak hour travel, and a rotating approach to remote work and office work, so the office is never crowded.
Leading with your company values front of mind could also help motivate employees as they return because they will truly experience what it means to be a part of the organisation.
For example, holding regular conversations with staff and being open to adjusting their working practices as needs change could turn core values such as trustworthiness, fairness and a positive culture that celebrates individuality into something more visible (and worth returning for).
Related: How to manage a remote team
The future of the workplace
The pandemic has changed the working world for good, and while we’ve proven remote work can be effective, there will continue to be many questions around the perfect balance between home and the office to maximise the benefits to both companies and employees.
And this balance is likely to be different for different people. Showing that you acknowledge how times have changed and planning for how returning to the office will work for individuals in a new normal will be essential for successfully re-recruiting staff.
During the pandemic, remote working on a full-time basis was anticipated as the future of work, but as time has moved on and organisations continue to learn, it has become apparent that a better balance must be achieved. Flexibility will continue to be highly valued by employees, but different and sometimes more tailored approaches to the hybrid model could be a solid strategy for protecting workplaces from the drawbacks of remote working while still allowing employees to reap the many benefits of greater working flexibility.
David Jones, Senior Managing Director, Asia Pacific
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