How to Use Your Hybrid Work Policy as an Employee Retention Tool

The Hubble Team
The Hubble Team|

Almost one in five UK workers expect to quit their job in the next 12 months. 

Think about that for a second. A whole 18% of your workforce could be getting ready to up and leave within the next year. That means that if you haven’t put much thought into your retention strategy before, now is the time to start. 

But how can you convince a whole fifth of your workforce to stay with you instead of moving onto pastures newer and greener? 

A Fifth of Workers Plans to Quit in 2022

Well, the simple answer is that you can’t. A certain amount of attrition is normal in any business, and good employers are happy to see their people move on to exciting opportunities when they’ve outgrown their current roles.

However, we’re not just talking about normal levels here: a 2021 survey by PwC found that almost nine in ten executives were experiencing higher turnover than normal. This is a trend that’s been called the ‘Great Resignation’—and it’s clear that companies do need to do something. 

So, how can your hybrid work strategy help with retention?

The fact is, our priorities have changed following the pandemic, and it’s clear that the future is hybrid. Back in 2020, Hubble’s ‘Should We Ditch the Office’ survey of more than 1,000 employees from companies of all shapes and sizes revealed a clear preference for hybrid work going forwards.

Another recent survey found that more than half of respondents would consider leaving their job if their employer didn’t offer some sort of flexibility as to how and where they worked—so it’s easy to see that companies who refuse to embrace this are likely to face significant turnover in the years to come. 

But as we’ve discussed before, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid working. To have the best chance of retaining your employees for longer, you need to make sure your hybrid work policy is structured in a way that works for your organisation.

Where does the office fit into a hybrid world? 

While some companies (including big players like Deloitte, DropBox, and Shopify) have become ‘remote-first’ companies after the pandemic, our research shows that the majority have opted for a ‘hybrid’ work model. 

In a hybrid workplace, employees work some of the time at the company HQ and some of the time elsewhere—which could be at home, in a cafe, or in an on-demand coworking space.  

Second Home, Holland Park

For these companies, the role their office will play in the future is an important consideration.

Creating a space where people *want* to be

For most of us, the office used to simply be something we had to put up with every day, which we didn’t give a lot of thought to. 

Nowadays, it needs to be much more than this. If you want people to return to the office, you’re going to need to make sure it provides value they can’t get from home—and we’re not (just) talking about surface-level perks like free drinks and pizza Fridays here. 

There’s a whole host of tools and platforms out there these days that allow people to work together effectively from a distance. According to a McKinsey survey of 899 C-level executives carried out in July 2020, the pandemic might have pushed forward the adoption of digital communication technologies by as much as seven years.

But one thing that these tools can’t do is replace in-person socialisation and team bonding—as anyone who attended one too many Zoom quizzes in 2020 will tell you. While almost all work tasks can be done remotely, there’s definitely something to be said for using the office as a space to come together for collaboration, and just to get to know each other on a social level.

Reconfiguring the office for intentional collaboration 

One reason many organisations don’t want to go fully remote is that they feel the office is valuable for ‘intentional collaboration’. This means specifically using the office for things like creative brainstorming and strategy sessions, where it’s easier to collaborate effectively without the worry of lagging Zoom calls or getting interrupted by your coworker’s cat. 

This might mean downsizing your office space so that it’s more in line with your current needs, or reconfiguring it in a way that’s more set up for collaboration (think breakout spaces and meeting pods, rather than individual offices or cubicles).

Breakout Space in LABS, Camden

Google, for example, has made lots of changes to its office set-up in the wake of the pandemic. One example is what the company is calling ‘campfire’ meeting rooms, where colleagues sit in a circle around a 360° camera in the middle. Any virtual participants are displayed on screens in life-size and are almost as present as physical attendees. 

Google's New Office Setup

Balancing productivity and burnout in your hybrid policy

Managers can no longer gauge productivity by how many people are sitting at their desks—and we’d argue this was never a very good measure in the first place. Many employers were pleasantly surprised in early 2020 when they found that productivity stayed the same—or even went up—with people working remotely. 

But here’s the catch: in a hybrid team, those working remotely often experience something called ‘presence bias’, or ‘proximity bias’.

Proximity Bias

Because of this, remote workers often feel the need to ‘prove’ their productivity by working at unsustainable levels—which, according to a McKinsey study, has led to high levels of anxiety and burnout. And what do burned-out employees do? They quit. 

And even if they don’t, this overworking is obviously not good for productivity in the long run: our recent productivity survey found that ‘taking enough breaks and working sensible hours’ was one of the biggest challenges to productivity faced by remote workers.

Biggest Challenges with Productivity During Hybrid Working

To avoid losing employees to burnout, you need to make sure your hybrid policy specifically addresses how productivity will be measured going forwards. We recommend focusing on output rather than the hours put in. 

Monzo is a prime example of a company that’s really taking flexibility seriously: it’s decided to leave it completely to employees to decide when and how they do their work. This is a really effective way to show employees that you trust them to get their job done. And, since millennials in particular are reportedly 22x more likely to stay at a company that cultivates trust, this could also be a great retention tool for your younger employees. 

So, how do you write an inclusive hybrid policy that supports retention?

Writing a hybrid policy that works for everyone isn’t easy. Thankfully, you don’t need to resort to guesswork when you’re figuring out what will work best for your team—you can just ask them. 

With our free-to-use Workplace Strategy tool, you can send your employees a quick questionnaire about their preferences for the workplace, and see the results in a personalised, easy-to-understand dashboard. Once you have the data in front of you, it’s much easier to figure out a solution that will work for the company, the teams, and every individual.

Hubble's Workplace Strategy Tool

As a business, it’s totally fine if you have certain non-negotiables that you’re not willing to compromise on. However, it’s worth remembering that a little flexibility goes a long way, particularly when it comes to employee retention. 

So, while your standard policy might be to have everyone in the office three days a week, that might not be possible for everyone. For example, those who are disabled, live far away or have childcare to consider might simply start looking for more flexible options if you have this as a hard-and-fast rule. 

Similarly, not everyone has a decent home-work environment, and while working at kitchen tables might have been the norm in the early days of the pandemic, it’s certainly not a good setup for long-term, productive work. 

Thankfully, we have a solution…

Give your team the ultimate flexibility with the Hubble Pass

The Hubble Pass gives your team on-demand access to hundreds of cool and quirky coworking spaces and private day offices in more than 400 locations worldwide. 

While this is the perfect solution for employees who don’t have the perfect home office, it also provides a valuable change of scene for those that do. 

Plus, even fully remote or remote-first companies can use the Hubble Pass to book meeting rooms by the hour for those times when you need to get together for some deep collaboration. 

Private Meeting Room - Uncommon, Fulham

At Hubble, we’re big believers that not having to do the same thing every day—the same commute, the same sad sandwich lunch, and the same four walls—can be a big driver of productivity. And of course, employees who have their choice of where to work are much less likely to jump ship and go work for a company that’ll give them more flexibility. 

Sign up for a free trial to give your teams a taste of the Hubble Pass. 

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