How small businesses can embrace the new hybrid work model

With the need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, a multitude  of employees across the globe began working from home. While at first, this may have seemed like an inconvenience for small business owners, many have found it beneficial to have some—or all—of their teammates based remotely. If you’re thinking about permanently implementing a hybrid work style for your small business, these considerations can help you and your team move forward successfully.

What type of hybrid work arrangement best suits your small business?

Think about which work style is optimal for your industry, customers, employees, location, and company culture. Hybrid work arrangements offer a great deal of flexibility. Does it make the most sense to have some employees work entirely from home and others work strictly at the office. Instead, should all employees have some days designated to work from home and others days to come into the office? Or is it more feasible for everyone to work remotely and to only come in for meetings or collaborative projects? Do your employees’ roles require them to be working on site, interacting face-to-face with customers, or independently engaged at a computer? Take the time to assess your business, employee, and customer needs before making a decision on the best approach.

What methods can you use to improve productivity in a hybrid work environment?

If you’ve felt concerned that you won’t be able to keep an eye on employees and monitor their productivity, take heart. Many employees are more productive at home, where they may not have as many interruptions. Take advantage of innovative tools designed to improve workplace productivity in a digital era. There are tools to help businesses enhance communication, manage projects, monitor performance, gain feedback, and much more. Seek creative solutions to optimize collaboration among your office-based and home-based employee teams.

How can you strengthen company culture while using a hybrid work model?

Since employees can’t engage in impromptu conversations over coffee or share news at the watercooler, they may begin to feel disconnected.There may be a division between your in-office and at-home work groups, and new hires may feel disjointed from existing employees who have had the opportunity to meld with your company’s culture before the move to hybrid. To strengthen bonds among teammates, create opportunities for casual interaction like virtual office parties, employee spotlights, instant messaging boards, etc. Be vigilant about avoiding work style discrimination. Try partnering office-based with home-based employees or having long-timers mentor new hires to fortify company culture.

What can you do to ensure your employees are supported?

Make sure your employees have the resources they need in terms of technology, equipment, and workspace. Be aware that each employee will have a unique work situation regarding childcare needs or other family members working from home. Help your team members feel more confident in their work arrangement by providing them with training as well as a handbook outlining their expectations, hours, duties, procedures, etc. Evaluate the safety and functionality of their workspace, and make sure they are appropriately protected under your business liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

What measures can you take to streamline operations and reduce costs?

Think about your real estate needs. Do you need an office, warehouse, meeting space, or brick-and-mortar storefront? By switching to a hybrid work model, can you reduce your footprint? Will you be able to save on insurance or related costs? Consider how your technology and communication needs will change with a hybrid model as well.

What resources can help you optimize a hybrid work model for your small business?

Look to various businesses and academic organizations that have shared resources on hybrid work arrangements. For example, Forbes offers a helpful series of hybrid hacks that covers workforce training, workplace strategy, employee experience, and terms and expectations. Microsoft has released a Hybrid Work Guide for Business Leaders which is organized by people, places, and processes based on lessons learned from the pandemic. MITSloan offers ways leaders can support remote work, and Iowa State School of Economics builds a case for remote work in various industries. 

Whether you choose to return to a full-time office model, operate entirely remotely, or implement a hybrid work model, developing a flexible strategic plan can help set your small business up for a successful future.

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As laws change regularly, you should refer to your state legislation and/or an advisor for specific legal counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workers’ compensation insurance or check your current rate.

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