The pandemic drastically accelerated changes in how employees work. For about a year, most offices were closed altogether, and every employee whose job could be done from home was able to be successful through collaborative technology. While remote work was an option prior to the pandemic, now, it’s been normalized as an option that matches office productivity levels, or surpasses them for some employees.
Throughout 2021, reopening plans were made, revised, and re-written repeatedly in accordance with the impacts of the ever-evolving pandemic. But now, many companies are starting to implement hybrid and flexible work policies where teams are able to come to the office sometimes, and work from home other times. That allows for workplaces to right-size their real estate investments and reorganize their layouts, implementing activity-based desk policies and using integrated workplace analytics software.
Employee Attendance Patterns are Changing
A combination of growing interest in flexible work and environmental factors have contributed to increasingly unpredictable attendance patterns. Employee attendance today looks drastically different than it did in 2019, leaving employers to rethink their space planning strategy in favor of a more agile, flexible approach with multipurpose spaces and ongoing evaluations.
The Harvard Business Review reports that 32% of employees never want to go back to an office, often attributed to having young kids at home and a long commute thanks to living further from workplaces in city centers. But 21% are ready to go back to the office full time — typically younger employees who live in the city and are done with the isolation of working from home. Everyone else falls somewhere in the middle.
The reality is that employee attendance patterns have changed forever, and will likely continue to do so. In order to adapt to these changes confidently, workplace strategy teams need the right tools. To understand how to best approach managing a hybrid office, first we’ll go over the different types of hybrid work policies.
Types of Hybrid Work Policies
Every company has different expectations of employees. How your team approaches their hybrid policy will reflect a variety of factors, including the location distribution of your workforce, the size of your real estate portfolio, the size of your workforce, what kinds of jobs are done by each team, and how they prefer to work.
Some teams have no problem managing with some employees being remote and others working from the office, while others do find that the division can create discord on teams. That’s why it can be helpful to survey managers and employees across different parts of your organization to figure out what works best at a team level, and which policy to try out first.
Hybrid Work: Weekly A weekly hybrid work policy involves asking employees to come in a certain number of days each week. This can be based on a number of in-office days per week or having certain departments or teams come in on certain weekdays.
Hybrid Work: Monthly A monthly hybrid policy involves asking employees to come into the office a certain number of days a month. Some companies mandate that each employee must come in for any number of days of the month. Others ask that employees come in a certain number of days in the first two weeks of the month, and a certain number of days in the latter half.
Hybrid Work: Flexible With a flexible hybrid policy, employees are not mandated to come in at all, but they’re given the chance to come in whenever they want to. This level of flexibility is a significant perk for all employees, and can attract great talent, but requires spatial intelligence solutions that allow teams to evaluate usage in real-time, then analyze patterns with data dashboards and reports.
Employee Expectations and the Reality Don’t Match
There’s convenience and freedom in working from home. It’s cheaper — no need to pay for gas or transit passes — and employees can either sleep later or get a jumpstart on their day earlier, depending on how they’re feeling. However, it’s also very isolating, which is why many employees are starting to come back into the office.
When employees aren’t mandated to come in, they come in less than they might have expected to. Life often gets in the way, and if they’ve shown they can be as productive at home as they can in the office, it can be hard to break routine, commute, and sit in an office all day, only to have to commute home afterwards. Not to mention COVID — many continue to feel wary about sharing a space with so many people while the pandemic continues to evolve.
So how should a workplace experience manager approach this situation?
How an Understanding of Space Use Can Help
Understanding where, how, and when employees use work areas can help your workplace experience and facilities team plan for the future. Secure sensors that feed live dashboards can show the use of desks, office neighborhoods, meeting rooms, board rooms, office floors, and entire office buildings.
This is invaluable data: with a truly accurate understanding of which areas of the office are getting daily use and which are gathering dust, you can build a strong case for right-sizing an office to reflect 2022 realities and beyond.
How Companies are Managing Fluctuations in Employee Attendance with Technology
As mentioned above, you can’t fix a problem if you can’t accurately measure it.
Platforms like VergeSense collect highly accurate occupancy data all around an office, which makes for seamless desk booking, meeting room booking, and occupancy control.
And if your findings show that half the office is lying empty, it could be time to right-size the space or implement a new type of hybrid policy. Whichever route you take, survey employees to find out how they best work and what makes sense for them, because feeling trusted can lead to high employee engagement.
Hybrid work is here to stay. Keep your workplace agile and updated, and keep your employees engaged, getting their best work done wherever and whenever works for them.