Aug 01, 2021

Establishing a New Hybrid Work Year

With or without a pandemic, employees are demanding a work-from-home option

The past 18 months have brought new light to employee work locations and their work schedules. Nearly every office, employee, manager and supervisor has changed and adapted out of necessity. As we now approach what might be considered a steadier state and look to the future, many businesses, offices, employees and leaders are contemplating a hybrid work approach, and many are asking for workplace flexibility as we move toward the future.

According to a Harvard Business School (HBS) Online survey, 81% of respondents indicated they either do not want to return to the office or prefer a hybrid work schedule for the future, and 61% of respondents would like to work 2 to 3 days a week from home. The research also concluded that employees excelled while working from home.

Given circumstances, it’s no surprise employees are curious as to what a future work environment might entail and asking for continued flexibility.

Challenges, considerations

Outcomes, responsibilities, culture, expectations, communications, trust, individuality, process evaluations, inclusion and fairness, are some of the important challenges and considerations to designing and implementing a hybrid office work approach that is positive for your employee and your feed or grain business.

One method to developing your hybrid work guidelines is to create buy-in from your staff by involving them in the process. That is not to say that you are letting them make the decisions. Of course, you will want to make the final choices.

You can develop a greater sense of buy-in and recognition, however, of the challenges for the business by involving your team and letting them help you do the work to flesh out the sticky points and options for deeper consideration.

You may begin by first identifying the important and required outcomes for your office or business. Then, have each employee identify these and the important responsibilities and outcomes of their positions and jobs.

Because different positions have different responsibilities and required outcomes, the degree to which employees can accomplish these with hybrid flexibility to meet the expectations and needs of customers and stakeholders will differ as well. Individuality has to be recognized by not just one employee but all of your employees to remove any feelings of ‘unfair’ or ‘unequal’ treatment across different positions and different employees.

Employees need to recognize and understand this challenge. Allow your staff the opportunity to ‘discover’ these points and ‘connect the dots’ on their own through critical thought. It will take them time to consider their preferences and how the preferences of others can and will impact them and the overall productivity and overall culture of your business.

Company culture is another important question for your staff. It’s worth asking them to explain what they believe the culture is, what is valued about the business or office culture, and provide feedback on how they see that you can maintain the desired culture in a flexible or hybrid environment. ■

Dr. Christine Wilson
is Associate Dean, College of Agriculture, Purdue University.

Dr. John Foltz is Chair, Department of Animal Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH and Dean Emeritus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

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