5 Urgent Issues HR Needs to Address for Hybrid Working

Photo credit: iStockphoto/vejaa

Across the region, hybrid working (the combination of workplace and remote working) is experiencing a surge.

Vendors have taken notice. Take Microsoft for example. At its FY20 Q4 Earnings call, it reported a 6% revenue increase in Productivity and Business Processes this fiscal year.

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer at Microsoft shared, “The last five months have made it clear that tech intensity is the key to business resilience. Organizations that build their own digital capability will recover faster and emerge from this crisis stronger.”

Workforce patterns are shifting fast because of hybrid working. Microsoft’s second Work Trend Index found that beyond the typical 9am-5pm work day, Microsoft Teams chats outside of the typical workday (from 8-9 a.m. and 6-8 p.m.) have increased more than any other time during the day, between 15% and 23%. Weekend work is spiking as well — Teams chats on a Saturday and Sunday have increased over 200%.

Technology helps, but it is only part of the solution. “The technology side has been relatively straightforward,” said Dr. Joseph Sweeney, IBRS advisor and future of work expert. “When COVID-19 came and everyone had to start working from home, Microsoft Teams was an obvious and natural tool to push out. It was already there, and the environment is familiar to anyone using Microsoft Office 365. It skyrocketed.”

What is more important is for HR leaders to rethink their policies around remote working, how individuals, groups, and managers interact with one another and the change management needed to adjust to the new normal of work with a strong focus on the emotional impact of the change.

“Striking the right culture, technology and measurement is essential in creating a successful remote working experience. A culture characterized by a growth mindset, trust between managers and employees, as well as within peers, can empower teams to continue to work productively and innovatively,” said Cally Chan, general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau.

For example, HR leaders need policies to enable individuals to break away from the standard 9-to-5 hours, setting reasonable expectations around availability and revisiting performance indicators. Companies also need policies that enable the upkeep of robust security strategies and effective collaboration outside of the workplace.
Below are five areas that today’s HR leaders need to consider when recalibrating their policies:

  1. The risk of burnout — Companies need to be mindful of the new perception of availability. According to Dr. Sweeney, one common response amongst people in their jobs is to “work harder and not switch off.” Those who have started working from home are fielding calls from their bosses late into the evening, underlining the need to redraw boundaries for out-of-hours contact.
  2. Career progression concerns — Companies will need to reassess how performance is measured. Collaboration tools can measure activity but not the value that an individual has brought to the company. Organizations are now finding that it is the “introverts” that are delivering while working from home, while the “star player” extroverts are no longer the center of attention.
  3. The need for flexibility and empathyResearch finds that 47% of people working from home reported managing at-home distractions as a challenge. Managers and teammates should do their part to not only help employees create a distraction-free environment but also be more flexible in the delivery of work and empathize with people’s challenges of working from home.
  4. Tech training and preparedness — As technology becomes a growing staple for employees, training will need to go hand-in-hand to unlock the full potential of hardware and software. “There have been people who were resistant to change — it was usually the seniors, because they never needed to learn how to use technology. They always had IT support in the room when they needed it,” said Nitin Paranjape, chief executive officer and founder of MacOffice Services Private Limited based in India.
  5. Incorporating a social element — Companies need to focus on policy and company culture rather than raw technology. Beyond enabling video conferencing, organizations need to encourage innovation, creative flow of ideas, and camaraderie that makes an employee feel that they are a valued part of an organization.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/vejaa