Hybrid Work is Here to Stay: Focus on Future of Work, Culture, and Inclusion

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses run, causing them to have to adapt to new ways of working to ensure employee safety while also maintaining productivity. One of the most significant changes has been the rise of hybrid work, which combines remote work and in-person work. Many businesses have embraced this hybrid model that will likely remain in our post-pandemic world. 2023 is a crucial year for companies to rethink their approach to work and find the balance between hybrid work, employee flexibility and well-being, and strong work culture.

Our Human Resources Executives Group meeting on March 10th was a hands-on learning experience where we heard from field experts on how to make a difference in the future of work. We explored experts’ predictions on hybrid work and the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic on work culture. We also discussed how we might integrate the future of hybrid work with the needs of workplace culture, inclusion, and employee flexibility.

Led by UWEBC’s Director Doug Barton, the meeting started with a featured presentation by Jirs Meuris, Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at the Wisconsin School of Business. When discussing working in a hybrid setting, he notes that there is no “one-size fits all” approach and that what might work for your company may not work for a different company. Jirs said that it is vital to experiment and measure what works for your business.

He also discussed how much control is appropriate for employees to have over their own work time. For example, Jirs explained that even if a company needed a person’s physical presence at work, giving the employee control over their shifts could be possible. This strategy could reduce stress and increase productivity. He suggested that one way to implement this is through “Flexibility audits,” where companies are encouraged to ask questions like, “What are the needs for this job?”, “Is this an independent job, or is this job with a lot of autonomy?”, and “Is this a job that requires physical presence?” Once you ask these questions and look at this job as a whole, you can identify if you can provide employees with some control over their work time and adjust for each requirement. Jirs finished his presentation with this same thought, discussing the significance of changing the company’s systems and training people to maximize benefits and limit the challenges of flexible arrangements.

We then heard from Amy Leschke-Kahle, Vice President of Performance and Talent Acceleration at The Marcus Buckingham Company. When asking different companies about off-site versus on-site work, she presented some findings her company discovered. She noted that some people working from home felt more recognized than those working on-site. Amy also explained that there is no perfect competency model and that not everyone will fit into it, even if you have one and think it fits your organization perfectly. She emphasized that there is one practice that all the best team leaders do, which is particularly important in the context of hybrid work. This practice utilizes the power of frequency. It is important to “check in with employees one-on-one, not one-to-many.” She has found that through strength-based conversations, team members who focus on activities that make them strong are 3.3 times more likely to be fully engaged at work. A check-in should sound like, “What are your priorities?”, “How are you feeling?” and “How can I help?” By doing this, you can connect with team members more intentionally. However, you must ensure that you conduct these meetings with a purpose. As we know, employee retention has been an issue in the post-pandemic environment. By actively engaging employees, it has been found that they are two times more likely to stay at a company than employees who are not fully engaged.

Finally, meeting participants split into small group discussions where they could discuss ideas they had just heard about and incorporate them into their organizations. They shared their key takeaways with the broader audience so everyone could benefit from these peer learning sessions. This discussion shed light on why 2023 is a crucial year for companies to rethink their approach to work. By understanding the most significant workplace trends of 2023 and learning about the power shift in the workplace, hybrid work has emerged as a crucial element for companies to understand in our post-pandemic world. This ensures workplace flexibility and inclusivity while promoting a positive culture to improve productivity and overall employee well-being.

Published April 5, 2023
Dylan Kopf and Jenny Zhang, Marketing Student Assistants