How Innovative Leaders Overcome Objections to Hybrid Work
People leaders play a vital role in helping organizations transition into the future of work.
The disconnect between workers and employers has rarely been greater, but the return to office battle does have a middle ground that more and more businesses are embracing. Hybrid work is the preferred model of an overwhelming 59% of employees, making it an attractive solution for those seeking a compromise. Here’s how the most innovative leaders are overcoming objections to hybrid work and embracing a business model that empowers employees, boosts productivity, and protects the bottom line.
Is hybrid work good for business?
In short, yes! Hybrid work is good for the most diverse employees, and diversity is a consistent driver of innovation for the organization.
Hybrid work is the favored model of LGBTQ+, Black, and female employees. Embracing it makes your workplace more appealing to the broadest range of candidates. And diverse companies are 70% more competitive in new markets, with 2.3 times higher cashflow per employee.
Why do executives resist hybrid work?
Despite huge strides in recent years by major corporations to engage a more diverse workforce, 85% of senior executives at large and midsize companies are white men — the demographic least likely to face the workplace challenges that affect women and minority employees. It’s therefore no surprise they are the most likely to want to return to the office full-time.
Executives are also the least likely to engage with new workplace collaboration tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom, and that exacerbates the feeling of being out of touch with their employees. Here’s how People leaders can overcome top objections and help create a hybrid work culture that drives diversity and innovation.
Objection 1: Work from home is less productive
Since the outset of the pandemic, employees have consistently reported feeling more productive when working from home — and the evidence supports this assessment. Call center workers log 13% more calls when working remotely. Microsoft engineers submit more code for review. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics documented a steady increase in productive output during 2020.
Yet the sentiment persists that remote workers are more likely to slack off and take advantage of being unsupervised. One reason for this might be that leaders are focusing on the wrong metrics when judging performance. “Busywork” — the performative tasks that employees complete around their jobs — takes up 58% of the average worker’s day. Freed from the requirement to perform their jobs, remote workers simply got on with them — making them more efficient in less time.
To overcome this objection, encourage leadership to rethink the metrics used to assess employee productivity. Focus on outcomes, not inputs, and let your people do what they were hired to do.
Objection 2: Fear of new technology
Senior leaders are getting older. The average age in the C-suite is over 50, so it shouldn’t be surprising to encounter resistance to the digital workplace. Particularly for organizations where the need for digital fluency is low, adjusting to new tools and procedures can be trying at every level.
Embracing these changes isn’t just vital to enabling hybrid work, it is fundamental for the future of work. People leaders should recognize and evaluate these challenges and consider how best to ensure all employees are on board with the new skills they need to learn.
At every level of the enterprise, employees will need support and training to thrive in a remote-first workplace. How are you evaluating the adoption of new tools and establishing best use practices? Have old policies and procedures been updated to reflect new styles of working? Do your managers feel confident steering distributed teams, or do they need support while rethinking how to lead in the future of work?
Objection 3: Underutilized investments
How much has your organization invested in real estate and office equipment? What contractual obligations surround your physical workplace? If the company is locked into a property contract or has invested significantly in their office space, it can be hard to accept a loss. However, forcing employees to return to the office isn’t the right solution.
Instead of making the office somewhere employees have to be, empathetic leaders should shift focus to making it somewhere employees want to be. What would a new, friendlier office look like for your organization? What benefits could you offer to make office-based work preferable to working from home?
The good news for employers is there are many ways to make your office a more welcoming space. This includes everything from ergonomic furniture and flexible workstations to in-office perks like relaxation rooms and catered lunches. Poll your employees to find out what would incentivize them to return to the office and deliver benefits that people will really use.
Objection 4: Collaboration and culture challenges
Collaborative workplaces are more productive and profitable. But maintaining high levels of collaboration across distributed teams can be challenging. Ensuring that collaboration happens can be much easier in an office environment, and that makes return to office appealing to team leaders.
However, one of the biggest pandemic success stories was the rise of virtual collaboration tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom. Companies that adopt these tools enjoy tangible business benefits like shorter sales cycles, faster internal communications, and accelerated product development.
But the benefits of digital collaboration tools are tempered by the data security risks they present. Aware helps businesses embrace the power of collaboration by installing safeguards for workplace tools to protect data from exfiltration, monitor for inappropriate use, and enable regulatory compliance.
With the right controls in place, leaders are empowered to unleash the full potential of digital collaboration within their workplace to speed innovation and bring their employees closer.
Objection 5: Fear of the unknown
What happens if your company invests heavily in working from home, only for it to be an abject failure? The office might not be perfect but it’s a known entity with known results. Why change it?
Of course, there are many reasons for businesses to embrace the unknown. How can you create an innovative workplace if you don’t take risks that embrace innovation? The pandemic has shown many organizations that work from home isn’t just possible, but preferable. The stakes for transitioning away from the office have never been lower.
Help support the digital transformation by focusing on the evidence that demonstrates this risk reduction. There has never been a better time for businesses to seize the opportunity to go digital and embrace hybrid work.
Trust your people
All these objections boil down to one single question: Do your executives trust their employees or not?
High trust workplaces consistently poll highly for employee satisfaction — and productivity and profitability. They are critical environments for attracting the best talent. Yet managers’ trust in workers’ abilities plummeted during the pandemic.
How can People leaders help to resolve this conflict? Studies show a correlation between managerial self-confidence and how much they trust their workers. Leaders who feel confident managing a distributed team are more likely to trust their employees than managers who fear their own shortcomings in a digital workplace.
Helping your executives to let go of outdated controls and reframe how work is evaluated is critical, not only to unlocking hybrid schedules, but to attracting and retaining the best talent in the future of work. By giving your executives the tools they need to succeed, you can increase confidence in hybrid work across the enterprise.
Aware can help you in your mission to overcome top objections and roll out collaboration by installing guardrails that protect the company and its employees. Industry-leading sentiment reporting also gives People leaders the most accurate insights into the emotional health of employees at every level. Request a demo today to learn more about how Aware can help you create a hybrid work culture that drives innovation and diversity.