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The hybrid work model has revolutionized how we view our work environment. Survey findings reveal that 64% of employees of all generations would consider quitting their job if forced to return to the office full-time. They now expect a hybrid remote office going forward.
As of 2023, the current workforce employs four generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (Millennials) and Generation Z. Each at different phases in their personal and professional lives, with diverse ambitions and visions.
Different communication styles and values can cause misunderstandings or conflicts within the workplace. Hybrid work environments have the potential to add a layer of friction for business leaders overseeing such a diverse workforce.
For companies that haven’t established a long-term post-pandemic plan, now is a good time to do so. Implementing engagement strategies can help create a healthy hybrid work environment for all generations, bring employees together, and improve collaboration and innovation.
Here are three actions that leaders can implement to create a thriving multi-generational workforce in a hybrid work environment.
1. Invest in collaboration technologies
Workplace communication and collaboration tools have evolved in recent years, accelerated by the rise of remote work environments during the pandemic. Entire companies have connected within a virtual space to conduct team meetings, lunch and learns, and virtual happy hours.
Communication tools can help teams to collaborate seamlessly within hybrid work environments. When evaluating the best technologies for your team, consider your communication preferences.
Statistics show that Baby Boomers prefer to be reached by phone or face-to-face, and 55-65% of Millennials and Generation Z prefer online messaging. At the same time, Generation X bridges the gap between these two generations through balanced flexibility.
Don’t forget about the needs of each generation as well. For example, collaboration tools can help foster career development for Generation Z staff by helping them build stronger connections with older employees. This can be accomplished by encouraging group chats and pairing different generations on new projects.
Set boundaries around the usage of collaboration technologies. While generational preferences should be incorporated into your chosen tools, some forms of communication lend themselves to specific channels. For example, using in-person conversations for lengthy explanations and chat and email tools for quick questions or announcements.
2. Promote flexibility for a healthy work-life balance
The traditional work model has evolved, making the hybrid system commonplace in companies of all sizes. Flexibility allows employees to achieve a work/life balance that suits their lifestyle choices, which is highly influenced by age demographics. Employees may require a flexible schedule for multiple reasons, including childcare logistics, caring for elderly parents, or personal health concerns.
While a certain amount of in-office attendance is appreciated by all generations, flexibility is no longer seen as a perk, but as an expectation, with 87% of all employees preferring a flexible work schedule.
Leading by example is one of the ways management can help promote an organization’s values around flexibility and hybrid work. Companies can increase employee morale, enthusiasm and adoption by communicating that flexibility is important.
Companies must avoid falling into the proximity bias model to prevent division and disconnection between remote, hybrid, and on-site employees. Many Baby Boomers are approaching retirement and focusing on job security over promotion. However, the younger generations are still thriving for growth opportunities and establishing their careers, with 21% voicing concern about losing out on career advancement within a hybrid work environment.
3. Set expectations, and define and communicate what hybrid means
The definition of a hybrid environment is unique to every organization. Whereas some companies require employees to be in-office twice a week, others may emphasize remote work with the scheduled in-person meetings saved for clients or team activities.
Establishing clear guidelines and parameters can help set expectations and address any questions or concerns. Equally important is maintaining internal dialogue and open communication around employee needs.
This comes into play when considering how hybrid models affect employee performance and well-being. Millennials and Generation Z report burnout due to the lack of social contact in remote work.
With over half of the millennials and Gen Zers preferring a hybrid model of three days at home and two days in person, organizations must establish clear guidelines and parameters to contain employee expectations and address any questions or concerns.
When setting parameters, outline where and when employees will work, what is expected from them, and how their performance will be measured. This will go a long way in reassuring all members that they are being treated fairly and that their contribution is valued.
A multi-generational workforce is rich in diversity, and learning to navigate it during a time when companies are redefining themselves can be exciting. By executing well-thought-out hybrid work environment strategies and carefully considering each generation’s preference, business leaders can strengthen their retention numbers by creating a positive work environment and instilling a sense of camaraderie within their teams.