Your 8-Step Checklist to Prep Your Business for the Hybrid Workplace
The Philippines is returning to office at last. But the specifics -- what that return looks like, when and how it will happen -- still depend on individual companies. We do know that it won’t be the office we left behind, or the lockdown WFH that replaced it. The new model is one that each company must define for itself: the hybrid workplace.
At base, hybrid work means that some employees regularly work from home, and others from the office. They may rotate by days, or have some teams on-site and others remote except for pre-scheduled occasions.
Some companies have long worked this way. But it can be a major change for a small or medium enterprise (SME), still recovering and juggling resources.
Our 8-point checklist can help you manage the transition and stay on track.
Hybrid work: the next step to recovery
The Department of Trade and Industry defines micro, small or medium enterprises (MSMEs) as those with between 10 and 199 employees. In 2020, MSMEs made up 99% of registered Philippine businesses, with small and medium businesses comprising about 11.25% of that but contributing about 33% of jobs.
Some SMEs are neighborhood businesses whose work is offline and in person. Others are startups, retailers or suppliers, digital businesses or professional service consultancies.
Whatever their industry, SMEs must ease into hybrid work along with bigger, benchmark employers. Businesses can decide how and when to shift, but eventually they must. The pandemic is still on, and more importantly, many employees now expect flexibility.
In JobStreet’s Decoding Global Talent, 49% of Filipinos said they want to continue working remotely if given a choice. Further, a full 48% want a combination of remote and on-site work -- the very definition of a hybrid workplace.
Ultimately, the choice to return to office--and to a hybrid setup--will need careful examination of several considerations, from costs to individual employee concerns.
Employee expectations have changed permanently. Remote work is certainly far from perfect. It happened quickly, and even small teams struggled to coordinate. But once the pandemic normalized WFH, employers and employees alike saw that a different, more flexible workday was possible, with benefits including:
Less exposure to infection
Less commute time
More time for family
Greater autonomy on work
As a result, many skilled workers have reset their basic requirements for a workplace. They will always need jobs. But they also want to be valued and appreciated, to be able to contribute, and to find employers who share their priorities and causes.
Build your hybrid workplace on a thoughtful remote work strategy
While WFH was a temporary change of location, the hybrid workplace means a lasting change in mindset. Part two of JobStreet’s Decoding Global Talent contains some overall insight that can help better prepare for hybrid work:
Balance governance and flexibility Be clear about what is expected, but leave people room to move. For team members whose jobs cannot be done remotely, provide extra onsite benefits such as health protections like these government-mandated assistance programs, transport or leave days, so they do not feel disadvantaged. You should also take care to manage perception, so that employees don't perceive favoritism between on- or off-site teams, for example in access to managers or to promotions.
Empower your team with the tools they need. Do you need new computers, phones, internet connections? Does Zoom need to be upgraded to Pro? What's your policy for usage outside office hours, or beyond the data cap? Can you subsidize home office upgrades, and by what guidelines? Again, clarity and planning can manage your cash flow and create a smoother transition.
Pilot and monitor success. The hybrid work transition is an ongoing project, not “one time big time” by date X. Get employee feedback, via surveys or in-depth interviews. Test your changes in a small group before full rollout. Invest in listening, measuring and managing engagement. Ask the right questions -- knowing that while some team members live to complain, it’s often the quiet ones that you most need to hear.
Also read: 5 ways for SMEs to boost employee engagement
In new territory such as the hybrid workplace, employees don’t need their leaders to know everything or be perfect. They need to be confident that there’s a plan, that leaders are learning along with them, and that they are a valued part of decision-making. This last in itself can be a challenge for SMEs used to top-down management, but it’s worth the effort.
Our 8-Point Checklist for the Hybrid Workplace
1. Give employees a choice. Get their input. Some want to return to office, others don’t. Younger colleagues may share living space or internet access. Those in families may have child or parent care responsibilities. The more you build around employee needs, the more likely you are to form a practical, realistic plan.
2. Hardware and software. Laptops, phones, wifi sticks, second monitors, office chairs. For software, there are three key areas: collaboration tools which may need upgrading; tools to track employee presence or productivity, and security of files and sensitive data. Ensure you can check that devices are regularly updated and re-secured.
3. Training Opt for online courses, videos, and pre-recorded webinars rather than large-group training. Set a deadline, then let people learn and train at their own pace.
4. Set clear policies and schedules. Communicate them well. Make sure everyone understands when they’re expected to be online, on-camera, or at the office. When a superior does not reply, how long do you wait? What activities must be done in the office, and how do you book a meeting room? How do you protect data in public places, like coffee shops or school waiting areas? Survey your team, learn what worked during WFH, and adapt from there.
Also read: 5 Best Practices to Working from Home Back to Office
5. Know the laws for your industry. What is the maximum occupancy rate for your premises? How does the new “No Vaccine, No Work” policy apply to you? For employees who refuse to be vaccinated, what are the options? (Hint: You can’t terminate them.)
6. Office layout and real estate. Hybrid work changes your office too. You’ll need fewer and more mobile desks, but more meeting rooms and workspaces of different sizes. If needed, negotiate a good rate with a coworking space near your office. Pantries, toilets, and elevators can be reconfigured too. You may even be able to downsize, relocate to a more affordable area, or set up satellite offices closer to your teams.
7. Culture and HR issues Make extra effort for teams to bond and connect. Do people feel safe to ask questions, and can they access free counselling for mental and physical health? Assess your insurance liability for those working off-site; consider benefits that might be more relevant to hybrid workers, for instance office transport or amended leave policies.
8. Prepare your middle managers. WFH showed us that if you trust your team and enable them to deliver, they will. The hybrid workplace is built on this trust, and makes it permanent, and some managers may need help adjusting to this new setup.
In preparing for a better-equipped workplace--post pandemic and beyond--it is key to take the right steps to build productivity. There will be lessons along the way and new practices to uncover, but all these will be key to your company’s progress. Ultimately, the goal is to foster an empathetic work culture that values your employees so you can retain your top talent!
As the world figures out the hybrid workplace together, JobStreet will be here to share Inspirations and insight for hirers.