For HR professionals, putting people first feels like a given, but what does that look like in a world where it’s become increasingly clear that remote work is here to stay? While many of the benefits of remote work are widely accepted by employees, the ongoing call from employers for a full return to office has kept us from progressing in an increasingly virtual work landscape.

Now, as other countries are enacting remote work regulations that give workers the right to request flexible work and mass layoffs threaten to make office spaces obsolete by further reducing in-person attendance, it’s time to truly advance the future of work conversations beyond the physical workplace. Though many have hired chief remote officers to help establish cohesive and inclusive hybrid work cultures, most companies already have the perfect resource for easing the divide between home and office: Human Resources.

A Bridge Between Tradition and Innovation

Over the last three years, employers have had to change entire infrastructures to adapt to the rapidly changing work landscape. HR professionals must be ready to challenge traditional norms and balance them against the evolving needs of top talent, both internally and externally.

At an employee level, hybrid work is now an expectation like psychological safety, inclusivity and professional development. However, on the employer side, variations of hybrid work like telecommuting, job rotations and modified work schedules are a privilege.

Bridging this divide first requires combining tradition with innovation to build collaborative and psychologically safe work environments. Given that HR is a liaison between leadership and employees, we have an opportunity to redesign our workplaces to better meet the needs of all employees. For example, if one department requires intense, hands-on training, they might opt for standard in-office hours through the duration of new hire onboarding before transitioning to flexible arrangements full time. Alternatively, a new parent coming back from leave may appreciate more flexibility in their work schedule as part of their return-to-work plan. No matter what this looks like for an individual, team, or company, it’s important to adapt previous norms to accommodate modern-day demands.

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A Trusted Sounding Board

To properly advocate for hybrid policies that advantage both leaders and their teams, HR professionals must foster relationships built on trust and mutual respect, and that starts with creating avenues for open communication.

As the hybrid environment matures, unfiltered employee feedback is critical. To avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work that has a one-size-fits-none effect, HR managers can facilitate conversations that take into account the day-to-day lives of all employees, regardless of department or level.

At EZRA, we use resources like surveys, focus groups and mentoring to create open-feedback loops and sense-check how our people are adapting. We’ve even implemented all-staff town-hall meetings where EZRA leaders raise for discussion key decisions and company-wide transitions. We’ve seen first-hand how transparency and two-way communication at an organizational level can effectively replace uncertainty with connectivity across all departments.

Additionally, the digital coaching we offer to all employees provides valuable, holistic data that sheds light on where employers and employees can better align to create a hybrid work environment that fosters a sense of belonging while driving business outcomes, leading to highly engaged, motivated teams.

An Agent for Change

One of the greatest opportunities of moving to hybrid models is that people can have the flexibility to orient their work lives around their personal lives – not the other way around.

Whether it’s helping overworked parents save time with take-home meals or providing gender-specific health support, connecting employee feedback to the organization’s goals is the most important step for building a successful foundation for work. HR leaders who promote increasingly creative ways of working will set their organization up for long-term success.

More than ever, people are looking to employers to set the tone for social change like we started to see in 2022 with leaders like Jeremy Sopplman of Yelp speaking out in support of reproductive rights and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard transferring company ownership to a trust dedicated to fighting climate change.

Ultimately, as HR rises to the challenge of fulfilling more roles across the business, bringing together all viewpoints will allow us to move forward and make sound decisions as trusted advisors.

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