4 strategies for navigating in-person and remote work arrangements


While the country is still dealing with the reality of the pandemic, some employers have begun setting their return-to-work plans in motion. For some workforces that moved to an entirely remote environment, employees could return to their workplaces, usually in a staggered fashion and under new working arrangements. In other cases, employees were given a choice to opt out of returning and remain remote full time. Despite the difficult circumstances, people have been adjusting to new ways of work while prioritizing health and safety.

Read more: 5 workplace benefits employees want this year

But we still collectively face an uncertain and changing future. Employers should resolve to continue investing in and creating more meaningful experiences that alleviate some of the pressures placed on their people — whether they’ve returned to their workplace, remain remote, or a combination of both. Many of these opportunities are borne out by Alight’s Workforce Mindset Study, which provides insight to employee reactions, desires, and expectations, as well as reveals employer actions that will contribute to a great overall employee experience in 2021.

Here are four ways that employers can enable a workforce in transition:

Monitor employee well-being closely

Today’s newly-remote employees say they’re working more hours compared to before COVID-19, with an average increase of nearly one extra day per week, according to Alight’s study. Compounding the issue is employees’ difficulty in separating work and personal commitments, which now share the same physical space and therefore create a constant cognitive reminder of all you could or should be doing. The result is a short-term increase in productivity, but there are potential costs to physical, emotional, and social wellbeing due to increased fatigue, burnout, and reduced quality of life.

Well-being is really a proxy for employees’ capacity to perform and there is compelling evidence that employers should invest in the well-being of their employees across a broad spectrum of needs, including physical, emotional, financial, social, and career. Managers and leaders should conduct frequent check-ins with employees to see how they’re doing, and also encourage colleagues to check-in with each other. In the past, office drop-ins or pass-bys on the floor contributed to interaction and related well-being, but now employers must offer new ways for workers to connect with their colleagues, whether it’s through video chats, digital platforms, or even virtual social gatherings complete with team building activities.

Ensure personalized and relevant support

For employees who remain virtual as well as those who remain separated at work, either well into 2021 or permanently, employers should make sure their current communication practices and technology support are sufficient. According to Alight’s study, only 39% of remote employees say their employer has introduced new technology or tools for work-related communication and collaboration, and a mere 9% say their employer has offered reimbursements for internet or other related expenses.

It would behoove managers to create an open dialogue with each person, as employees have their own unique circumstances — for example, some might have young children at home, while others live alone or with roommates. Employers can offer flexibility in reimbursements and enable their people to decide how to use resources that best address their personal well-being priorities.

Seek employee input and feedback frequently

Regardless of the physical work environment, one of the most impactful actions employers can take is to provide frequent opportunities for employees to offer input and report on their situation and experiences. For employers ramping up remote capabilities, this feedback can be instructive as they’re rethinking their approach to performance and talent management while reducing operational overhead. Greater diversity of perspective can help create environments where people want to work. Employees can contribute more fully to the organization when they have a better understanding of its goals and challenges.

Rethink the physical and digital

With greater proportions of the workforce able to perform their individual work tasks remotely, hybrid arrangements will expand dramatically where employees may work remotely for much of the time, but come to the workplace for other activities. This should result in changing objectives for the physical workplace to one enabling healthy and safe collaboration, ad-hoc access to tools not effectively available remotely, and to reinforce culture and brand experiences.

To best support a modern, agile workforce, employers should frequently revisit and iterate on both remote and on-site work policies and related experience design based on employee input and new technology. This creates clarity around expectations and commitment from leaders, managers and employees. Employers will benefit from involving employees in the development of these policies and experiences, as accounting for their preferences and incorporating their ideas can broaden awareness and ensure wider adoption, adherence, and effectiveness.