Prior to the pandemic, many accounting firm leaders discouraged employees from working from home, believing face time and in-office collaboration promoted higher productivity, better client service and stronger firm culture.
While there are some negative aspects of the remote work experience, such as isolation, longer hours and burnout, most found that the benefits outweigh the costs. Hybrid work — a mixture of remote and in-office —has emerged as a way to get the best of both worlds.
Benefits of Hybrid Working Arrangements
In fact, a study from MIT Technology Review and Dell Technologies found that companies that offer hybrid work enjoy:
- Increased employee satisfaction and well-being (56%)
- Increased productivity (52%)
- Improved efficiency (49%)
- Decreased operating costs (45%)
- Improved innovation (44%)
- More effective collaboration (36%)
- Reduced staff turnover (32%)
- Access to a wider talent pool (32%)
3 Ways to Make Hybrid Work Effective
At the start of the pandemic, many firms had their employees take computers and other equipment home with them. With hybrid work, will employees have two setups: one at home and one in the office? Or will they bring a laptop back and forth? If they have two complete setups, does the firm pay for one or both?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, so the right solution will depend on your needs and budget. However, keep in mind that more devices, locations and connections mean more risk exposure. Work with your IT team to ensure your systems are secure, simple to access and effective.
When firms went fully remote in 2020, they had to reimagine their processes for getting work done and communicating with clients and coworkers. Moving to hybrid work requires the same considerations.
As people return to the office, some people may feel the pull to go “back to how we used to do things.” The problem is, if your previous processes were heavily manual and reliant on paper, things can fall through the cracks in a hybrid work environment.
Tracking down documents becomes much more challenging if you have paper and digital files spread across multiple systems, and remote team members may not get crucial details relayed during an impromptu in-office meeting. Make sure your firm’s processes work, and people follow those processes regardless of where they are.
One common complaint we’ve heard from firm leaders in the last two years is that firm culture has suffered with team members working remotely. That may lead some firm leaders to believe they need everyone back in the office to preserve company culture, but you can’t assume you’ll return to the same culture you had before the pandemic.
Too much has happened to the firm, its people and the world at large. A better approach is recognizing this time as a unique opportunity to reshape firm culture.
It’s not always easy to build culture in a hybrid team. You have to overcome problems like poor communication, an “us versus them” mentality and in-office bias.
Start by outlining your vision and goals for the kind of firm culture you want to have. Establishing goals will help you develop a roadmap for getting there. For example, do you want people to feel more connected personally?
Then start planning team-building events when people are in the office and encouraging “water-cooler chat” when remote. Do you want to improve communication? Then set processes around when and how people communicate, set clear expectations, and start modeling transparent, frequent communication in your own role.
Leading in a new hybrid workplace requires rethinking how work gets done. It’s not always easy, and there will be bumps in the road. Still, as you start seeing successes, your team will enjoy greater productivity, stronger engagement and a better overall experience.
The original article appeared on the Boomer Consulting Inc. website.