While most organisations in Malaysia have resumed operations, returning to the workplace has presented many of them with novel challenges such as having to redesign the layout of their offices to allow for social distancing, or reviewing the use of common areas such as meeting rooms, receptions, kitchens and toilets. Going forward, offices may not be able to accommodate all employees at once while maintaining adequate social distancing, leading to a large number of professionals continuing to work remotely.
These challenges, along with the sustained need and demand for remote working options amidst the ongoing pandemic has led to the emergence of a hybrid working model – where workforces are split between those in the office and those working remotely. This new model will present various challenges for HR departments, says recruiting experts Hays.
Sandra Henke, Group Head of People & Culture at Hays said, “Working in a hybrid model will be new to most businesses, and to ensure their employees remain happy and productive, HR teams need to take a number of considerations into account as they plan for this new era of work.” “First and foremost the health and safety of all workers needs to be at the forefront of all decisions made in relation to the workplace. Second to this are other factors for HR departments to consider, such as increased importance of inclusivity when not all workers are based in the office and promoting collective ownership to make sure there is a communal responsibility toward ensuring the health of all employees.”
Sandra continued to list five considerations for HR teams exploring hybrid working models in Malaysia:
1. Build and maintain the culture of your business
A company’s culture is a crucial part of its business foundation of any business; but operating a hybrid working model makes it harder to not only reinforce culture, but to build on it too.
Sandra offered this advice; “How we engage with one another is central to any consideration of organisational culture. Ensure you have regular weekly team catch-ups, and make sure they’re not all strictly work related either, having fun and sharing success should be a key aspect any organisations culture. Remind your team that every employee has a role to play in sustaining the company’s culture in the next era of work So, continue to use technology to keep in contact and make sure there is a sharing of good news and success stories from across the team and business.”
2. Inclusion will become increasingly important
Employees are returning to the office with different experiences and potentially different viewpoints, which means the very definition of diversity and inclusion will start to change. Inclusion will thus become more important when the majority of the workforce is no longer in the office.
Sandra comments, “Just because you can’t see someone, doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the team. Ensure communication channels are open, so employees are able to voice their concerns. Encourage participation so employees, no matter where they are based, are taking part in company and team activities.”
3. Make employee wellbeing a priority
Returning employees will have had different experiences while in lockdown, each facing different challenges such as childcare commitments or limited space to work. Many employees will also have concerns about returning to the workplace or continuing to work from home, all of which could have a considerable effect on their mental health and wellbeing.
Sandra said, “The current crisis will have no doubt negatively impacted a number of people and it has the potential to manifest itself overtime. So, consider how you are staying in touch with people and ensure you are providing them with the opportunity to be vulnerable. This will become increasingly difficult when you aren’t seeing your employees on a regular basis. It is important organisations exercise their duty of care, particularly for people who are struggling.”
4. Promote collective ownership
Reopening physical workspaces have given employers the responsibility of ensuring their employees are as safe as possible and that all the necessary measures are in place around social distancing, health and hygiene. However, collective responsibility among employees is also essential to ensuring the workplace is a safe place for everyone.
Sandra commented, “A safe workplace requires every single person in your organisation to share collective responsibility. The notion of all being in it together becomes very real when every human has a role to play in creating a safe workplace through their own behaviour. It needs to be emphasised that every individual has their part to play in creating an environment that brings everyone together and brings everyone together safely, remotely or physically.”
5. Increase your focus on learning and development
Organisations will need to ensure their people managers are equipped to deal with the new era of work – this means implementing training programmes that can prepare them with the necessary tools to manage a hybrid workforce. Existing training will also need to be reviewed to ensure it is sufficient in equipping your workforce with the skills they will need for the new era of work.
Sandra offers this advice, “Remote training needs to be treated completely differently to training that is delivered onsite in a single room. You will have to work harder to keep people’s attention, so consider making it easier to digest by breaking the training up into segments. Adapt the training you already have to complement this new era of work and ensure you are focusing on the necessary skills which may be currently lacking, for instance, if you are using more technology than usual make sure your people know how to use it.”
Sandra concluded by saying, “It’s important to remember that it is a learning curve for all of us too, there is not a leader in the world right now who doesn’t look back on the last couple of months and think, ‘I could have done that better’. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we’re all figuring a lot of this stuff out as we go.” “Hybrid working could become permanent in the new world of work, with the model becoming the norm, so the sooner HR departments tackle these issues the better.”