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Higher productivity, better employee retention, lower operating costs, and reduced carbon emissions were some of the many benefits engendered by the great telecommuting experiment during the covid pandemic.

Say Hi to Hybrid

Higher productivity, better employee retention, lower operating costs, and reduced carbon emissions were some of the many benefits engendered by the great telecommuting experiment during the covid pandemic.

Additionally, with all workers occupying equal-sized rectangles and accessing the same volume controls in video calls, the pandemic was also seen as a great leveler that gave everyone an equal platform to perform and destigmatize the dreaded practice of working from home.

Will this really be covid’s legacy?

The answer to this question will wholly depend on what happens next.

With offices around the world gradually opening up, a hybrid workplace is surely becoming the new normal.

A hybrid working model, in most setups, gives employees a fair amount of freedom to choose when and for how long they would like to be physically present in the office. With such a privilege at the employees’ disposal, this new system is being touted as the sweet spot between the complete online and the complete offline working models and consequently, the sure-shot path to organizational success.

But there is more to this than what meets the eye.

Impartiality and rectitude are easier to sustain when everyone is working in similar circumstances.

If left to develop organically, the hybrid workplace is more likely to exacerbate existing inequalities between workers than reduce them.

People have different preferences about office work, and those differences are not distributed randomly.

Given a choice, women and parents of young children would usually prefer to work remotely.

Our innate human biases make us subconsciously prefer physical presence, and employers are no exception to this.

So how to do hybrid, right?

Workplaces need to be engineered to ensure fairness. Organizational policies should be spelled out such that they benefit both remote-working employees and in-house team members alike, even if they look slightly different
Situations where physical presence adds genuine value should be well defined and clearly communicated to one and all.
Physical proximity should never be conflated with productivity, much less with credibility or meritoriousness.
Use of technologies that enhance communication and co-ordination should be advocated.
Asynchronous communication should be normalized. Team members should be enabled with all the resources needed to complete a task without the requirement to be connected 24/7.

As a thumb rule, cross-company schemes and strategies should be established by concurrently accounting for all types of workers instead of tending to offline workers first and then to online workers as an afterthought.

Covid has demonstrated the efficacy of telecommuting, and a hybrid work model is here to stay.

With some planning and preparation, this model can be harnessed to achieve remarkable success both to the organization and the workforce it encompasses.

Aparna Prabhu

Aparna Prabhu

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