Hybrid Model Continues to Pave the Future of the Workplace

As we enter the third year since the start of the pandemic, mandatory in-person work seems a little outdated for most companies. A hybrid work environment, deemed necessary during the pandemic’s worst days, has now opened new possibilities for firms in terms of how they hire, manage, and retain staff members. Although many questions remain, ranging from why hybrid work is vital to how managers can best work with these new types of geo-friendly employees, to what exactly this new hybrid workplace looks like. Some even question whether a new hybrid work environment is as important as everyone says. After all, those who want to return to the office are largely able to these days, as a “return to normal” is not only wanted but needed in many businesses.

However, remote work continues to be an undeniable part of today’s workforce. A 2022 survey from payroll and HR technology provider Gusto, found that the number of fully remote workers in the U.S. has increased 240% since 2021. Furthermore, every state has seen at least a 10% year-over-year increase in its share of remote workers, and nearly 60% of companies now have at least one remote worker. So, it’s important to note that while traditional in-person work is by no means obsolete, the option of hybrid work is not going away any time soon. A lack of hybrid work options might even be costing accounting firms talent, to boot. No matter where a company stands on hybrid work issues, it is vital to let policies of hybrid working environments be explicitly known to staff members to avoid confusion on where the company stands or will stand going forward.

Everywhere, all at once. The massive geographic expansion of the job candidate pool is an ongoing silver lining of the sudden hybrid work revolution. For example, a modestly sized regional accounting firm now has the power to recruit professionals from outside their immediate area and will continue to have that power long after the pandemic is over. In other words, finding that perfect candidate has gotten a whole lot easier. Physical office spaces, too, are transforming — both in terms of where they are and what they are meant to ultimately represent. Firms who have adapted the hybrid work have seen that their workforce is more connected when not limited to the confines of the physical office space. So, while a reduction in physical office space may have been initially seen as a negative in the wake of the pandemic, it may actually present a unique opportunity to expand a firm’s footprint and services across the country.

Onboarding here, there, everywhere. This is not to say that the hybrid work environment is not without its challenges. Onboarding candidates in a remote setting is a relatively new way of doing things, especially for a process that is supposed to act as an in-person welcome to the team. But the process certainly is not impossible and has some hidden benefits. For all onboarding, firms have to give up the all-in-person or 3-D paradigm, leverage remote tools and resources for some of it, and offer in-person elements when it makes sense. Firm managers must also be adaptable in their onboarding process,  ensuring that remote candidates have their voices heard as they navigate nontraditional means of joining the team. Candidates should also know how to make a unique impression with their new team since their physical location should not hinder their responsibilities or impact collaboration with their new coworkers.

Stick around. Once a hybrid candidate has cemented themselves in their role, another question arises on how to best keep them at the firm. After all, if they are free to work for a number of hybrid-friendly companies not bound by location, why should your firm be their pick? The answer lies in working with the candidate as an individual, offering a tailored schedule anchored in constant communication that allows them to work to their own personal best. While traditional retention practices also have not completely vanished — they have just been modernized for the hybrid work environment. Regular meetings and communication still very much fuel successful teams; it is just up to managers to determine their location and frequency.

A ‘new normal.’ Much ink has been spilled on the importance of the hybrid work revolution and the “new normal” of work moving forward. Whether one regards it as a flash in the pan or a sea change in how business is done, firms must simply see the opportunities that the hybrid work environment offers them on an individual basis and ponder how exactly to maximize the benefits of this newfound freedom in the workplace.

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