Workplace Pro Tip: Strategize on When Your Hybrid Teams Need to Come In

Many organizations have some lingering discomfort on their return-to-work strategy. The carmaker Ford is taking a balanced approach that puts small teams in charge of a big choice, rather than a hard-and-fast requirement to work in person.

Getting employees to come back into the office is proving to not be the easiest thing in some workplaces (just ask Apple).

But some leaders see face time as the key to driving a strong office culture—and better results. However, one company with a long legacy in workplace culture shifts might have cracked the problem. Here’s how.

What’s the Strategy?

The automaker Ford—a company that, among other innovations within its long history, successfully enacted a five-day workweek in 1926, when such a thing was uncommon—is putting some individual teams in charge of how they work in a hybrid environment.

According to the Time-affiliated site Charter, the company is allowing 25,000 of its salaried workers to come into the office only when it’s deemed necessary for collaboration and local COVID regulations allow for it.

The decision for a team to come into the office isn’t made by Ford, but by the team itself. And with teams generally made up of 20 people or less, it gives small groups of employees a degree of autonomy around how they work.

Why Is It Effective?

Self-selecting office time structures hybrid work so that the given teams can do what makes sense for their needs. If a group of employees decides to put their heads down to work at home, but then to come in when in-person collaboration is necessary, they are able to meet their own individual needs and the needs of the team at the same time.

Additionally, Ford is showing a willingness to tweak the model based on employee feedback, as the company’s chief people and employee experiences officer, Kiersten Robinson, told CNBC.

“We’re measuring sentiment, we’re measuring the employee experience over those 90 days, but of course, we’ll be able to measure the output and whether or not employees feel as though with that agency and with that choice, they’re as productive as they need to be,” Robinson said.

What’s the Potential?

Applied broadly, it could be a framework for rethinking the way the office is managed and organized as well. One thing Ford is doing in its workplace, per Charter, is building “collaboration centers” that are better fits for a new collaboration-focused approach to work.

These centers, built for technology needs and featuring concierges for employee support, aim to maximize the work experience when employees do need to step into the office.

While that may be a stretch goal for many associations, it nonetheless shows how organizations could use this opportunity to reshape the office as a whole.

(Prostock-Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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