Easing quarantine brings change: not everyone will return to the offices

2021 03 16 · 3 min read

As quarantine is eased, more and more companies are preparing for their workers’ to return to offices. However, the nearly year-long work-from-home mode will definitely leave its mark – a survey conducted by Randstat Workmonitor shows that as many as 35% of workers expect to work in a hybrid mode, i.e. to combine work in office and from home, after the pandemic.

“This is very important news for everyone who hopes that work will return to normal after the pandemic. Employee sentiment shows something different – and this must be taken into account when planning a new work culture. Easing quarantine is a great time to test in practice what the hybrid remote mode is and how best to organise it,” comments Darius Dužinskas, Chief People & Marketing Officer at Baltic Amadeus.

According to the expert, what happened in 2020 had been maturing in the labour market for a long time but lacked will to make decisions: “When the whole world massively started to work remotely, what was needed a long time ago finally happened. We wanted to, we did not dare, somebody tried, already had experience, and now all of us have tried it. Some say it is a labour market revolution. However, the real revolution is the possibility for a worker to choose and balance needs, which is getting a foothold in the labour market. It is provided by the hybrid mode.” Although the protracted pandemic does not yet allow us to move to the hybrid work mode right now, Dužinskas emphasises that this change needs preparation already today.

The focus is on the possibility to choose

The latest trend in the labour market, which became more striking with quarantine easing, is the possibility and right of workers to choose the space, time and method of work according to the model most suitable for everyone. “The rules proposed by the employer cannot meet all needs. Some work better from the office, while others from home. Psychologists observe that we are happier and more productive when we have the freedom to choose. It helps us to communicate and cooperate better,” Dužinskas points out the advantages of flexibility in work.

Remote work has already shown that it is possible to work with the best people no matter where they are at that time. It has been observed that working remotely increases the efficiency of some workers. “Of course, there is the other side – working from the home kitchen or bedroom, sharing common spaces with other family members during working hours causes difficulties and psychological problems over time. People want to have the possibility to come to their office sometimes. Therefore, the only logical step is to enable the employee to choose when and how he wants to work in the office and when in a private space. This choice allows us to ensure a better work-life balance. Not work-life, but life-work balance,” emphasises the HR expert.

International practice: 11:1, 3:2 and H-R

Dužinskas reminds that the hybrid remote (H-R) mode means that the team works from different places, at different times, and in different ways, which is chosen by each employee and adapted to his or her needs and abilities: “Hybrid remote mode is aimed at making organisations more successful and their employees happier. It is also a new operating model for organisations, which has been chosen by such successful companies as Spotify, Airbnb, Netfix or Revolut.”

According to the expert, the coordination of work in the office and remotely must be consistently planned, while developing clear, mutually beneficial rules that give the employee space to choose, but also help in achieving the company’s goals. One of the most important issues to be resolved by companies operating in the H-R mode is how to maintain team spirit and culture. If everyone always works under individual schedules, it becomes difficult to bring together the team, maintain a collegial relationship, and integrate new entries.

There are unlimited options for team agreements but they all are aimed at preventing the team from falling apart and staying united. Dužinskas says that this is facilitated by mutual agreements and rules: “The formats for planning work in the H-R mode can be various – it is important that they are acceptable to everyone and adhered to. For example, our company’s rule is ‘11:1’, which means that you work eleven weeks a quarter from wherever you want but have to spend one week in the office with the team. That week is intended for team work, live meetings, marking project milestones, joint training, and lunch.” A similar tactic is also applied by Google: the rule “3:2”, or a flexible working week with three days a week for working in the office and the rest of the time for working remotely.

New tasks for HR experts

Dužinskas emphasises that the hybrid mode is not only the creation of the possibility to choose the place to work, but also the responsibility for organising the team, company culture, communication, leadership and, of course, HR policy: “The introduction of the hybrid mode leads to a paradigm shift in HR policy as we move from managing employee experience to a new stage, where the main focus moves on to employee life experience.”

It appears that the quality of the work of the HR department also determines how the employees perform their work. Gartner’s Reimagine HR Employee Survey shows that those employers who pay attention to the emotional well-being of their people and their overall life experience record a 20% better emotional and physical condition of the team. At the same time, the number of best-performing employees in these companies is growing by more than 20% compared to those, which fail to do so.

The HR expert emphasises that revolutionary changes in the labour market are proceeding very quickly and that the challenges faced by employees are new, so solutions are often found through trial and error: “The goal for HR professionals is to support people in their personal choices so that it brings about not only a better life, but also better performance.”

The message is simple: In 2021, employers must think about a healthy body, financial stability, and emotional health. “HR people must be at the forefront of change in the labour market: their task now is to help the company’s employees to find the most suitable work mode, to help them in solving emotional problems or maintain a healthy body,” says Dužinskas.