Who stays remote and who goes back to a shared workplace? In the second installment of our three-part series on establishing a hybrid office, we ask leaders to start by assessing the needs and capabilities of each department.
So you’ve considered the major obstacles to forging your own hybrid workplace model. Now, the time has come to determine the structure of your workforce—who stays remote and who goes back to the office.
In some industries, decisions on which roles can stay remote are obvious, but how can an association divide their staff when the decisions aren’t so clear-cut? Start by assessing the needs and capabilities of each department in your organization. Small-staff associations, where one person might function as an entire department, may have the flexibility to allow personal preference to guide these decisions.
For larger associations, though, let’s start at the top.
Associations might benefit from having leaders return to the office, as their presence can bring a sense of structure to the workplace, setting a productive tone and demonstrating that they are working alongside staff in their transition back to a shared space. This gesture can boost engagement, as employees respond well to leaders who present themselves as part of the team.
And as expected, engaged leadership can also engage employees: In a 2016 survey from the American Psychological Association, 91 percent of employees reported feeling motivated to do their best when they have leadership support. This is important for all workers, but in-office employees will need a different kind of support and interaction as they adjust again to a new working environment.
The verdict: Bring the CEO and other executive team members back to the office.
Given their expertise, tech workers can usually transition seamlessly to remote work without losing productivity. And cloud computing, remote desktop virtualization, and mobile device management have made remote IT support a possibility. In fact, major companies like Walmart and tech giants like Google have announced that IT employees won’t have to return to the office anytime soon—or at all.
Though IT workers can function well remotely, make sure HR professionals and managers are keeping a keen eye on employee well-being—a recent Fishbowl study reported burnout in 74 percent of remote tech workers during the pandemic.
The verdict: An entirely remote IT team is possible and can be effective.
Since the HR team often deals with sensitive employee issues, they need to be accessible to all staff. While they can communicate through digital means, an in-office presence could help employees feel more connected to HR.
David Epstein, director of domestic human resources for Doctors Without Borders in the USA, makes the case that in order to deal with employee mental health issues that require urgent referral, HR professionals need to be in the office regularly to build trust among workers. This could also benefit remote employees, as they have somewhere to reach HR professionals in person when they need to. That said, HR workers have reported that they can work effectively from home.
The verdict: Consider a mixed approach where the head of HR returns and other department members stay home.
Member and Donor Relations
Whether you’re dealing with members or donors, you need to provide them with a quality experience, virtually or in person. Member relations and customer service can typically be handled virtually by remote workers, chatbots, or automated helpdesks.
But if donors and other active members are in and out of your office (once they can safely be there), it’ll be worth having staff in the office for meetings. Face-to-face communication is also powerful when it comes to persuasiveness, which could benefit negotiations and discussions with external groups.
The verdict: Member relations teams can go remote, but having staff in the office to meet with donors or other stakeholders could lead to optimal outcomes.
Your finance team is likely dealing with a lot of complex information and is frequently moving important documents, which might not seem conducive to work-from-home operations.
And yet, in a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers, financial services executives reported that employees were as or more productive working remotely than they were in the office before the pandemic. But when things didn’t go well, the reasons workers cited were difficulties collaborating and not getting information needed. Furthermore, handling sensitive documents remotely brings up security concerns.
The verdict: As long as finance teams can establish solid systems of virtual communication and file sharing, they can remain remote.
Marketing and Communications
Marketing requires creative thinking, which goes hand in hand with collaboration. While group brainstorming sessions can be a challenge for remote teams, thanks to collaboration and planning tools, marketers can remain connected from a distance.
In a survey by NewsCred, marketing leaders who used planning and project-management tools reported fewer challenges as a result of the pandemic and remote work than those who didn’t. And with so many modes of digital communication—email, social media, blogs, text messages, forums—PR and communications teams can develop relationships with members remotely and build an online community.
That said, since PR teams are the ones to handle communications in a crisis, remote employees must be able to reach each other immediately and collaborate remotely on short notice.
The verdict: Like finance teams, marketing and communications teams can thrive in a remote setting if they have the right tools to stay connected.
In part 1 of the series, we examined the key questions to consider when establishing a hybrid office. In part 3, we’ll share how to develop policies that account for the varying needs of different types of workers.