The resolution of the ongoing pandemic seems increasingly difficult to anticipate. Hopes of an end are glimpsed and dashed in turn, with restrictions and precautions constantly changing.
But there is one prediction we can safely make: The future of work is hybrid.
Not only are global conditions ripe for the rise of a hybrid workforce, but employees are also vocally expressing their preference for hybrid arrangements. After a year and a half of unprecedented uncertainty, many employees miss the social interaction and collaborative creativity of an office workplace — but they have also come to cherish the flexibility that working from home affords. A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of my company, YuLife, found that 75 percent of workers want a hybrid home/office work model, while only 9 percent want to return to the daily 9-5 office life.
The extent to which employers will embrace hybrid work remains unknown. However, I believe we can expect hybrid work to remain a fixture of the professional landscape for some time, partly because it’s in employers’ best interests to accommodate employees’ preferences. In light of this reality, businesses will have to ensure their well-being policies keep up with the changing nature of work.
From Work-From-Home to a Hybrid Model
When COVID-19 made landfall, it added fuel to what was already a growing wellness boom. Well-being gained exponentially greater importance as employers felt the pressure of supporting their staff members mentally, physically, and financially through the worst of times. At the same time, however, the widespread shift to remote work meant that workplace-centric, team-wide well-being practices were no longer viable options.
Though many of the lessons we’ve learned throughout the pandemic will help us navigate the hybrid future of work, employers must be prepared to course-correct once again. Well-being policies devised for an entirely remote workforce are being phased out, sometimes even before they have been fully phased in. What companies need now are policies tailored specifically to hybrid work.
Moreover, the pandemic shone a spotlight on employers’ role in supporting employee mental health, cementing the importance of taking proactive steps to safeguard workers’ psychological well-being. Recent research shows that only 40 percent of employees feel positive about their overall well-being, which adds urgency to the matter, putting additional pressure on employers to get this right.
Key Characteristics of a Well-Being Plan for the Hybrid Workplace
First and foremost, employers must ensure their hybrid work wellness policies are equally effective for both employees in the office and employees working remotely. If any employee feels they’re being treated unfairly simply due to their mode of work — if, for example, employees in the office have easier access to well-being services — morale will fade and internal tensions will escalate.
To achieve well-being equality, employers should consider shifting away from experiences and more toward fundamental support services that employees can harness on their own time. A team outing or morale-boosting activity that only half the office can attend may spawn resentment among the absent half. Instead, employers should offer individualized well-being services like mental health support or self-care activity vouchers which everyone can access on their own time, regardless of where they choose to work on any given day. There’s no need to remove the experiences entirely, but they should be viewed as add-ons rather than the core tenets of a holistic well-being approach.
What’s in It for the Employer?
Not only is a successful hybrid well-being strategy likely to boost employee satisfaction, but it also stands to have positive consequences on a business level. Much has been made of the post-pandemic war for talent. As the market stabilizes, more people are choosing to leave their roles and implement professional plans they might have had on hold until now. Businesses that prioritize well-being have the edge when recruiting and retaining these employees who are looking for more from their employers.
It should be noted that the preference for hybrid working is highest among younger workers, which makes sense. This group was perhaps the most acutely affected by the turbulence of the pandemic. Accordingly, they tend to place the greatest emphasis on well-being in the workplace. Prioritizing wellness gives your organization a better shot at appealing to these workers.
Hybrid work is here to stay, and businesses must respond by getting smart about implementing well-being policies that are suited for this new era. Incentivizing employees to take full advantage of well-being offerings is now a core business need. The sooner employers realize this, the better off they will be.
Sammy Rubin is CEO and founder of YuLife.