This blog was posted on The Enterprisers Project’s website here.

Today’s work environment bears little resemblance to pre-pandemic times. With remote and hybrid work fast becoming mainstream, here’s how things have changed, and what’s stayed constant

As organizations commit to hybrid work as the new norm in a post-pandemic world, one thing is clear: The workplace will never be the same as it once was.

What’s changed?

Pre-pandemic, only six percent of employees worked primarily from home. Fast-forward to 2022 and approximately 42 percent of remote-capable employees are working on a hybrid schedule.

With an overwhelming number of employees saying they want hybrid work to become the new normal, flexible work arrangements are becoming integral to an organization’s hiring and retention strategies. Pre-pandemic, industries that offered work flexibility were often considered somewhat progressive and it was more the exception than the norm. Today, hybrid work is standard in a growing number of fields.

Still, there are challenges. For example, hybrid work increases security concerns and organizations must implement best practices to protect themselves and their clients from cyber threats. With employees potentially using personal devices and home wi-fi connections, IT security teams must constantly consider new vulnerabilities and strategies to remain safe. Clear policies and practices, along with training programs that reflect these new procedures are essential for any successful hybrid work model.

On the positive side, hybrid work reduces the impact on our environment. Working remotely means less paper consumption and energy used to maintain office buildings and less waste from consumable products in the workplace. It also provides team members an opportunity to practice sustainability when working at home.

More importantly, remote and hybrid work eliminates or limits commute time, which reduces our carbon footprint by lowering gas emissions. Eighty-four percent of employees say that not having to commute is a top benefit of working remotely, according to a survey by Bloomberg. Not only is hybrid work a win for the environment, but it enables employees to enjoy a better work-life balance, less stress, and more productive working hours.

What’s stayed the same?

To be productive, employees must be happy. Happiness depends on a positive team culture, which involves connecting with others. The desire to connect with colleagues doesn’t vanish in a hybrid environment; in fact, the need to feel a part of the organization is more important than ever.

But fostering team culture may require some extra effort and planning from you as a leader – for example, virtual book clubs, company-wide networking events, volunteer opportunities, and virtual wellness challenges are just a few ways you might bring team members together. Provide different options for individuals to collaborate and build relationships to ensure everyone has their needs met both professionally and socially. Learn to recognize colleagues in new and unique ways as you adapt your approach to building culture.

Another factor to consider is the need for comprehensive team training and development. Online learning management systems provide a convenient, flexible way to share training materials and track team member accomplishments while ensuring that geographically diverse teams have the same opportunities for professional development.

Sharpening soft skills also remains essential. Encouraging continuous education and mentoring, developing presentation and leadership skills, providing constructive coaching sessions, and helping team members hone job-related skills are all valuable endeavors for both hybrid and in-person work environments.

“Be willing to change, because life won’t stay the same,” as the saying goes. If hybrid work is new to your organization, be transparent, listen to and support your team members, revisit your hybrid/remote work policies regularly, and revise them as necessary. C-level executives and human resources should work together to foster a flexible, balanced workplace that works for everyone.