This article originally appeared on Inc.
The evidence is clear—the future of work is hybrid. According to research by Gartner, 82% of company leaders plan to allow their employees to work remotely after the pandemic at least some of the time.
Yet implementing a hybrid work policy is far from straightforward. Perhaps most concerning is the potential for hybrid workplaces to breed two tiers of workers, with those who come into the office less frequently relegated to lower status.
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to create an equitable hybrid environment that empowers your employees for success. Here are three lesser-known tips about how to successfully implement a hybrid work policy.
Implement mandatory “at-home days”
When leaders set out to design and implement a hybrid work model, one of the first decisions they need to make is whether to mandate that employees be onsite for specific days and, if so, which days. Apple, for example, has decided that, as part of its hybrid policy, employees have to work from the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Aligning your organization around specific “onsite days” is important for engineering effective collaboration and culture-building when employees are on site.
But, as a leader, you also need to consider implementing “at-home days”—days when your employees must work from home, or outside the office. In our recent webinar, Stanford Professor and remote work expert Dr. Nicholas Bloom explained that leaders should consider mandating at-home days. Mandatory at-home days help ensure that certain employees don’t disproportionately get a leg up by coming into the office, and everyone is on a level playing field.
In implementing at-home days, it’s also important to be thoughtful about those employees who have suboptimal working situations at home, such as unsuitable workspaces or roommates. For these workers, Bloom recommends considering establishing a formal petition program to grant these employees exceptions and ensure that they are not disadvantaged by being required to work from home.
Offer employees an allowance of “home days”
Mandating certain “at-home days” and “onsite days” will add necessary structure to your hybrid work policy. Yet, you should couple this structure with flexibility. Bloom recommends that you offer additional flexibility by giving employees a set allowance of at-home days that they can “redeem” on mandatory in-office days when they’d like to work remotely.
Flexibility is especially important when considering the research that shows women are more likely to want to work from home after the pandemic. According to research by FlexJobs, about 68% of women say they prefer to work remotely after the pandemic, compared with 57% of men. This is driven, in large part, by pervasive gender roles and the fact that employed women are significantly more likely than men to be caregivers at home.
Balancing structure with some thoughtful flexibility is key to designing a hybrid workplace that helps buffer against systemic inequities that plague the workforce.
Consider adopting your hybrid model for new college graduates
The most successful hybrid work policies will be the ones that are evidence-based and take into account the different makeup of your employees—including, for example, recent college graduates. Ideally, your hybrid policy should be designed to empower new college graduates who are entering the workforce for the first time. These employees are overwhelmingly more likely to gravitate toward in-office work as compared to remote work. According to research published by talent cloud company iCIMS, nearly two-thirds of college seniors want to work in an office for their first job after graduation, and only 2% want to work remotely full time.
Bloom recommends that leaders consider adapting their hybrid model for new grads. Consider, for example, shifting from a 2/3 model—two days onsite and three days remote—to a 3/2 model—three days onsite and 2 days remote—for new grads. I recommend devoting the extra in-office day to mentoring, networking, and training for in-person workplace skills such as public speaking.
New grads are the future of your workforce, and it’s well worth the effort to think carefully about which hybrid work models will set them in good stead for the future.
Adopting a more expansive approach to hybrid work
As a leader, you can’t afford to equate “hybrid” with complete employee choice. When you adopt a more expansive mindset of what it means to do hybrid work, impose necessary structure, and consider where you might need to build in exceptions for particular groups, you’ll set your employees up for success.
For more insights on the future of hybrid work and on how to lead through change, watch this fireside chat with Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University.