Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Based upon results from our 5th Talent Work at Home Study (June 2020) we suggested that companies should consider adopting a “mixed” work arrangement strategy for their customer support teams. The question that we are often asked is whether a mixed strategy creates problems arising from a dualistic corporate culture. On the contrary, we believe it represents an opportunity to develop a strong, singular culture that embraces the flexibility of the work at home arrangement as part of its core values.
We should clarify that when we use the term “mixed” we are referring to customer support employees splitting their time between two settings. They work some of the time in the office and some of the time at home. This contrasts with a “blended” strategy where a portion of employees work entirely in the office while others work entirely from home. Research suggests that blended work arrangements are fraught with challenges of inclusion, often driven by perceptions of being out of the loop of information, having less ability to be mentored, and fewer opportunities for promotion. Ultimately, blended environments can lead to remote employee disengagement unless there is a concerted effort to counter it.
We continue to receive consistent feedback from our Excelling at Home course, and from our conversations with hundreds of executives, managers, supervisors, and customer support employees. They are expressing feelings that are at odds with each other. On the one hand, they want to return to a work environment where they can be in the physical presence of co-workers. On the other hand, they are apprehensive to return because of the virus, not to mention that they no longer want all those other things that go along with a regular commute.
By having the latitude to choose a personal mix of when they want to work in the office and at home, employees are empowered to balance the need for being near others with the practicality of working remotely. They can enjoy an effortless commute and familiar work surroundings while making occasional trips to the office to connect to peers, supervisors, and others. Or, they can choose to spend more time at the office simply because they prefer it, and yet they have the option to work from home on-demand to take care of issues requiring their presence, all the while staying engaged with their company.
So, maybe the “mixed” message is the clearest one after all.