HR Florida


Florida State Council Affiliate of SHRM

Hybrid Harmony: HR’s Role in Shaping the Future

By Dr. Kate Hill

Hybrid work models have solidified their place as a staple in the modern workplace, with 74 percent of firms in the United States using or aiming to employ a hybrid work model ( Companies such as AT&T and General Motors have shifted away from fully remote work, and mandated that corporate employees return to the office three days a week. Their hope was to preserve company culture, restore in-person collaboration, and reduce their carbon footprint. Hybrid workplaces are newly shaping the way companies view the future of work, making the corporate office and home office the perfect team. The question becomes, what can the HR leader do to ensure the hybrid solution is successful for both the employee and the company? As organizations navigate the complexities of hybrid work, Human Resources (HR) practitioners and their departments play an essential role in ensuring that these models are executed effectively. This article explores the research on the best HR practices for managing hybrid work models in 2024, focusing on strategies that promote flexibility and effective communication and prioritize quality of work life.

Crafting Flexibility with Hybrid Work

The cornerstone of a successful hybrid work model is flexibility. According to the World Economic Forum, the majority of the workforce (73%) desires flexible working options. Almost all 2024 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For are dedicated to permanent hybrid work environments. For instance, #4 on the list, American Express, claims hybrid work arrangements have allowed their employees to balance both personal and professional needs adequately, which is an increasingly important feature for younger generations. The newest generation of the workforce, Gen Z, is expected to make up 27 percent of the workforce by 2025 and prefers virtual collaboration tools and the malleability of hybrid models. Firms that ignore this research do so at the peril of their recruitment and retention goals.

The transition to hybrid models benefits all stakeholders. According to Forbes, not only is a flexible worker a happy worker, they’re also a much more productive worker. Although a universal solution does not exist for all companies, the most effective hybrid workplaces emphasize flexibility, intentional collaboration, and empathy-based leadership, according to Gartner’s Hybrid Work Employee Survey. Furthermore, hybrid work enables organizations to expand their talent pools, recruit beyond borders, promote retention, save on real estate costs, and build a team culture focused on trust and achieving goals. HR must design policies with those characteristics and outcomes in mind. The policies need to accommodate diverse work styles and personal circumstances, ensuring employees can balance their professional and personal lives.

Implementing Robust Communication & Engagement Tools

Effective communication is the backbone of a hybrid work model aiming to balance employee and company success. According to research from McKinsey & Co., employee withdrawal and disengagement are primary drivers of lost productivity. McKinsey & Co. and multiple analyses demonstrate companies must consider implementing helpful interventions to fuel [worker] motivation and dedication. Ensuring seamless interaction between remote and on-site employees requires robust tools and transparent protocols. “The true challenge working in a hybrid environment is building relationships,” according to a lead talent acquisition professional, Carolyn Dugan. By utilizing integrated platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom, companies can help streamline communication and collaboration. “People are connected to the work and each other,” says Dugan.

Although the pace for collaboration and relationship building may be slower in hybrid organizations using digital communication platforms rather than face-to-face platforms, HR practitioners can facilitate an intentional and meaningful experience for the relationship-building process. Promoting regular check-ins and updates by the manager and team to keep employees informed and engaged, and adopting a hybrid meeting protocol allows all virtual participants to feel equally included in meaningful discussions. Further, HR can promote a greater sense of acceptance and belonging within organizations by implementing events, such as Coffee Wednesdays, to bring together staff who do not directly work with others in their organization. Adena Health has implemented several technology platforms that allow employees throughout the firm to communicate and acknowledge employee achievements and contributions. According to CPO Heather Sprague, the goal of Adena Health is to facilitate and foster a crucial sense of connection and commitment.

Effective communication is critical in a hybrid work environment. HR must ensure that all employees, whether remote or on-site, have equal access to information and opportunities. Regularly seeking employee feedback about their hybrid work experience can help HR identify issues and make necessary adjustments.

Promoting Mental Health and Quality of Work Life

The shift to hybrid work models has significantly influenced employee mental health and quality of work life, raising important considerations for HR practices. For example, the Gen Z workforce strives to have meaningful impacts through greater access to resources and prevention, heightened awareness, benevolent leadership, and a company culture focused on positive well-being. The hybrid work model can sometimes cloud the boundaries between work and personal life, often leading to high-stress levels and burnout. HR should prioritize mental health and quality of work-life initiatives to support employees. Ola Snow, an HR professional at Cardinal Health, recognizes that “protecting the mental well-being of employees, especially in remote work situations, is a challenge. The isolation can sometimes be lonely and detrimental to mental health.” She focuses on ensuring her employees know how to effectively apply the company’s mental health and well-being resources.

Compared to fully remote positions, hybrid models offer employees flexibility and autonomy, which can improve the quality of work life by allowing them to manage their schedules better, all while still maintaining the benefits of in-person interactions and relationships. These benefits often lead to an increase in job satisfaction and a reduction in stress levels. Hybrid work enhances employee quality of work life by extensively reducing commute hours, where employees can dedicate increased time focusing on their personal development, family and economic needs, health, and well-being, leading to a balanced lifestyle, translating to increased career satisfaction and higher productivity rates.

HR should support employees and managers by providing guidelines on setting boundaries, such as defining work hours and creating dedicated workspaces. Flexible working hours can positively affect mental health, well-being, and quality of work life by reducing stress and promoting a healthier work-life balance. Employees have the flexibility to manage personal responsibilities, attend appointments, and take breaks as needed, leading to improved overall well-being. Implementing these goals requires HR practitioners to design stigma-free hybrid work environments that prioritize both quality of work life and mental health awareness through the creation of specific policies and programs that focus on valuing an employee’s personal and professional well-being throughout the organization.

Nevertheless, challenges such as feelings of isolation and disconnection from colleagues often arise, especially in remote or hybrid work environments. According to Paul A. Jones, CPO, USANA Health Sciences Inc., “Not all people have the demeanor and personality type to be successful in a hybrid-work situation. This fact must be recognized and addressed before allowing everyone to work remotely or in increasingly hybrid situations. Some will flourish, and others will be set up to fail.” HR should ensure employees have access to mental health resources, such as therapy services and assistance programs. Frequent employee check-ins, collaboration-building, and recognition activities instituted and led by HR can ensure employees remain connected despite physical distances and promote a culture of openness to mental health challenges.

Navigating a New Normal for Hybrid Work

Hybrid work is no longer just a passing trend; it is here to stay. Hybrid work provides a substantial opportunity to boost organizational effectiveness, employee happiness, and environmental sustainability. However, the hybrid model may only be ideal for some organizations and firms, and moreover, may only be ideal for certain departments, work styles, or personalities. Suppose HR considers the organization would benefit from hybrid work. In that case, HR must meet the business needs, success within industry standards, type of work, and likely success of increasing collaboration and innovation opportunities through HR policies. If hybrid work models are chosen, HR departments must remain agile and proactive in addressing the needs of their workforce to guarantee success. By implementing these best practices, organizations create a productive, inclusive, and supportive hybrid work environment that benefits employees and the business. Embracing flexibility, fostering effective communication, and prioritizing mental health and quality of work life is critical to thriving in the hybrid work landscape in 2024 and beyond.

About the Author

At a time of high work demands, changing worker environments, and the risk of declining mental health and burnout, Dr. Kate Hill is on a mission to strengthen teams, drive improved organizational results, and offer optimism for the new future of work. Hill is a respected and trusted business executive, thought leader, scholar, and HR researcher. Hill is known for her proprietary approach to setting boundaries and building sustainable strategies in fast-paced and high-demand business environments. She brings over a decade of senior-level leadership in project management and global virtual teaming expertise, working with Fortune 500 companies on national technology initiatives and billion-dollar network optimization projects. Hill’s publications on team collaboration, quality of work life, performance, HR team management, HRM leadership, policy, and other groundbreaking areas have been presented across the United States and Europe. Finally, she is a post-doctoral research fellow for the Center for Innovation Management and Business Analytics at the Florida Institute of Technology, where she teaches, mentors, and counsels students and colleagues, enhancing their capacity to use their network to make impactful professional and academic contributions. Dr. Hill can be reached at [email protected]