If it is not choice, is it hybrid?

The beauty of the hybrid model lies in the flexibility it offers, that is, the power to choose the specific days on which to work from home or come to the office.

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The hybrid work model is the latest workplace trend. Many organisations, especially in the IT sector, have already made policies around hybrid work arrangements, with companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft already allowing some employees to work from home two to three days in a week. While employees are allowed the flexibility of working from home, the specific days of the week on which they can do so are decided by their team leaders and managers. Doesn’t that throw the very concept of flexibility out the window? Can employees really experience ‘flexibility’ if their managers are the ones telling them when they can work from home and when they should come to office? Who should have the flexibility to pick the WFH days — the employees or their managers?

“If the organisation has promised flexibility of working from home to the employees, the managers and supervisors will have to ensure that they are given the same. There is a need to have authentic conversations at workplaces”

Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG Group

While most companies opting for the hybrid work model have empowered their team managers and leaders to decide, the question is whether this will really work. The hybrid model will succeed only if employees have the power to pick their days of WFH. Given a choice, team leaders and managers would want to call their teams to office every day as it would be more convenient for them. To be able to manage their work more easily, managers will use business continuity, deadlines and deliverables, as perfect excuses to call their teams to office.

On the other hand, it may not be a good idea to leave the decision to pick WFH days entirely to the employees either. After all, they will pick the days of WFH as per their convenience, giving less priority to the needs of the business and the company. So, how will the hybrid model work?

Let us see what HR leaders suggest.

Responsibility and accountability: Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal, shares with HRKatha that they are gearing to adopt a hybrid work model starting October 2021. At Quick Heal, she reveals, the team leaders and managers are given the responsibility to pick the specific days the employees would come to office and the days they would work from home. After all, managers and leaders are more aware of how work needs to be done. However, there will always be a fear in employees that they may never enjoy flexibility if the choice is not given to them. “There is a very thin line between empowering and giving a choice. Our employees have the choice of working from home, but with empowerment comes responsibility, which managers are accountable and answerable for,” points out Raina.

“There is a very thin line between empowering and giving a choice. Our employees have the choice of working from home, but with empowerment comes responsibility, which managers are accountable and answerable for”

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal

Governance: A hybrid work model calls for governance to ensure the wellbeing of employees, and that governance body should be led by the HR. The work of keeping a frequent check on how the hybrid teams are functioning and whether justice is being done to the interest of the employees should be left to the HR.

Dialogue and conversations: Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG Group, feels the need for an organisational culture that promotes cohesive behaviours amongst the teams and the managers, to ensure smooth implementation of the hybrid work model. RPG Group had announced that even after the pandemic, their employees — including people at the manufacturing sites — can work remotely for 50 per cent of their time. The Company had identified the roles for which remote working could be allowed sometimes.

Bhattacharyya does not shy away from the fact that the arrangement is bound to lead to conflicts amongst teams, but it is nothing that a dialogue or genuine conversations and discussions with the employees cannot help sort out. “If the organisation has promised flexibility of working from home to the employees, the managers and supervisors will have to ensure that they are given the same. There is a need to have authentic conversations at workplaces, and we practise that at RPG,” asserts Bhattacharyya. He explains that even if managers do want some people to be come in to the office, they should explain to them ‘why’.

Equal empowerment: Amit Sharma, CHRO, Volvo Group India, is of the opinion that no single party can be allowed to choose the specific WFH days. Both parties should be equally empowered and responsible for ensuring that work gets done.

“A hybrid work model can only be successful if there is trust between the employees and the organisation”

Amit Sharma, CHRO, Volvo Group India

Sharma states that the hybrid work model will rest on four principles or pillars — employee wellbeing, social connect, business needs and legal compliance.

Out of these four, business needs and social interaction will remain a challenge for the leaders to address. “A hybrid work model can only be successful if there is trust between the employees and the organisation. In the absence of trust, nothing will work,” says Sharma.

Clearly, the hybrid approach to work can only succeed if there is collaboration and cohesiveness at work, and if authentic dialogue and conversations are encouraged at the workplaces.

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