Why the Hybrid Office Still Isn’t Settled Yet

Four-day workweeks? Fully remote? Plenty of options are still on the table for leaders. And now is a good time to look into what works.

The struggle to create a post-COVID workplace that works for everybody is still going strong.

Many associations settled on hybrid work arrangements in 2022, but there’s still a lot of work happening to address changing needs, and changing attitudes about employee wellness. In January, when Associations Now reached out to leaders about how they’re handling hybrid work, the responses focused on the importance of flexibility. 

For instance, Ann Bresingham, chief human resource officer of the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiologists, said the association is working on two fronts: “how to create an engaged workforce in a hybrid environment that maintains the ‘close-knit’ culture we had before the pandemic,” and “creating a more inclusive environment so that all employees feel they can bring their authentic self to work and be as productive as they can be.”

Recently, there’s been more talk about another option: implementing a four-day workweek. Last month, the U.K. nonprofit 4 Day Week Global released findings from a study of more than 60 companies and nonprofits in the U.K. that agreed to pilot a four-day workweek schedule for six months. (That’s a legitimate shorter workweek, not cramming 40 hours or more into four days.) The organization found there was no reduction in productivity or revenue, and that wellness metrics for employees rose. Ninety-one percent of the participating companies said they planned to continue the arrangement. 

Flexibility is motivating.

Adam Grant

That’s not to suggest that it’s right for your association—the shift to a four-day workweek is tangled up in all sorts of questions about your workplace culture, and the American work ethic in general. But the debate over the matter suggests that this is not a time to be rigid about the work arrangements you set with staff. It’s time to experiment. 

Indeed, some fluidity is a good option when it comes to hanging on to your best people. In the Wall Street Journal last month, Wharton management professor Adam Grant pointed out that in a hybrid arrangement, workers “can perform just as well if they are only in the office half the week, and in many cases, better, because flexibility is motivating.”

Just as important, that flexibility is important to potential hires as well. A recent SHRM article pointed out that while economic forces might be slowing the kind of hyperactive job mobility we’ve seen during the Great Resignation, job hunters still have a lot of leverage, and they have high expectations for flexible work arrangements. As LinkedIn VP of Global Talent Acquisition Jennifer Shappley told SHRM: “These days candidates are looking for companies that will value their whole selves and provide support in achieving work/life balance.”

All that said, employees aren’t lab rats—they shouldn’t be subject to whatever new management whim is floating around at the current moment. But it’s worth the effort to have a front-and-center discussion with current and potential employees about the work arrangements that make sense to them. And if a change is in the offing? Holdouts deserve an opportunity to share their concerns. 

Grant calls this process “motivational interviewing,” which is part of what leaders should do anyway—surfacing concerns. As Grant puts it: “Then you actually learn what motivates people … as opposed to trying to shove your idea down their throats.”

How has your workweek arrangement changed since the pandemic, and how are changes communicated? Share your experiences in the comments. 

(Anchiy/iStock/Getty Images)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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