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While there is a widely-held belief that three days per week within the office is the magic number, with a variety of large firms adopting it, it is a fundamentally flawed approach. As a substitute, what leaders must deal with is how hybrid work arrangements will serve customer needs.
A Columbia Business School study reviews a text evaluation of earnings call transcripts of S&P 500 firms to point out that company executives speak about customers 10 times more often than employees – a number that has grown over the past 15 years. Moreover, when firms discuss employees, executives usually tend to correlate them to risk aspects and consumers to growth opportunities.
Mockingly, executives fail to place this focus into motion when determining their return to office and hybrid work policy. For instance, a survey of 1,300 knowledge staff found that only 28% said their company is making it worthwhile to commute to the office. No wonder: while there is a widely-held belief that three days per week within the office is the magic number — with a variety of large firms adopting it — it is a fundamentally flawed approach.
As a substitute, what leaders must deal with is how hybrid work arrangements will serve customer needs. It may be that three, 4, five, two, one, or no days within the office works best on your customers. But the hot button is to prioritize customer needs in making a successful hybrid work plan and business leaders need to construct their strategies around this focus.
As a globally-renowned expert in the long run of labor who helped 22 organizations work out their hybrid and distant work policies, I can inform you confidently that that is the largest mistake firms make in hybrid work. Namely, they fail to “start with why” and do not work from the tip goal back to the policies required to make it occur for the sake of customer success.
Debunking the parable of the three-day work week
The idea that having employees within the office for 3 days per week is the optimal solution for hybrid work is misguided. This one-size-fits-all approach fails to contemplate the unique needs of the purchasers.
The three-day work week emerged as a well-liked solution amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic. As firms experimented with hybrid work models, this arrangement appeared to strike a balance between the advantages of distant work and the necessity for in-person collaboration. Nevertheless, the adoption of this model by quite a few organizations has led to the misperception that it’s universally applicable.
The effectiveness of a three-day work week varies significantly across industries and roles. As an example, in sectors like software development or creative services, a greater degree of distant work may be feasible with none loss in productivity or sacrifice of customer needs. Then again, industries or functions that rely heavily on in-person interactions, resembling sales, may require more on-site presence to take care of customer support quality. A tailored hybrid work strategy takes these industry and role-specific considerations under consideration, ensuring that the work arrangement aligns with the inherent demands of the sector.
As a substitute, leaders should adopt a more agile approach, one which prioritizes customer needs and adapts to the ever-evolving business landscape.
Related: A Latest Distant Work Trend is Helping Employers Retain Talent Amid Labor Market Pressures
Understanding your customers
Step one in crafting a customer-centric hybrid work plan is to realize a deep understanding of your customers’ expectations and preferences. This involves examining customer feedback, conducting market research and interesting in open dialogue along with your clients. By understanding their needs and preferences, you’ll be able to tailor your hybrid work arrangements to raised serve them.
As an example, an organization providing technical support services may discover that their customers highly value prompt responses to their inquiries. On this case, adopting a hybrid work model that ensures adequate staffing during peak hours, no matter worker location, can be critical in meeting customer needs.
Indeed, one among my clients who does provide such services found that it was more helpful to have staff working remotely many of the work week. That is because most employees were way more willing to work non-standard hours once they worked remotely. Thus, the corporate was higher capable of provide customer support during an extended time period with faster responses by having shifts during non-standard working hours. Still, customer support staff got here into the office someday per week, to be sure there was someone available for the rare occasions when customers got here to the office in person.
It is not surprising, right? My very own LinkedIn survey found that 80% of respondents worked more non-standard hours in distant work, in comparison with within the office, as staff are more willing to work longer and fewer standard hours in the event that they do not have to waste time commuting to the office.
Aligning hybrid work with customer expectations
Once you have identified your customers’ needs, it’s essential to align your hybrid work arrangements accordingly. This might mean rethinking your assumptions concerning the optimal balance of distant and in-office work for various roles.
Consider a B2B skilled services organization that has long relied on face-to-face meetings and events to construct relationships with clients. With the rise of distant work, a lot of their clients might now prefer virtual meetings, necessitating a shift within the sales team’s approach. On this case, a hybrid work model that gives greater flexibility in how and where employees work could higher cater to changing customer preferences.
That was the case for one among my clients, a law firm. Their leadership initially assumed that, because the pandemic wound down, their clients would wish to shift back to in-person meetings. But I strongly encouraged them to really survey their clients slightly than act on their assumptions. And what the law firm found was that loads of clients preferred videoconference meetings for many interactions. That is since it was quicker, more convenient, and cheaper to set those up than to have in-person meetings. Sure, in-person meetings were still king for more intense and nuanced discussions, but clients preferred most day-to-day meetings to occur by video conference.
A customer-focused hybrid work plan should include mechanisms for measuring success and adapting as needed. Commonly assess the effectiveness of your hybrid work model in meeting customer needs through customer satisfaction surveys, feedback sessions, and other metrics. Use this data to make informed decisions on adjustments to your strategy.
As an example, if customer feedback suggests that response times have increased because the implementation of your hybrid work model, consider adjusting staffing levels or redistributing tasks to raised serve your clients. Consider an example shared with me by the Chief Human Resource Officer of a rural healthcare system with several hospitals in a Midwestern state. While they’ve many staff on a hybrid and even fully distant modality, they encountered a problem with the case management department and utilization review, who were working remotely. That they had to bring them back into the office as they realized the importance of getting them work alongside the hospitalists for his or her in-patients. It was crucial for ensuring proper discharge planning and smooth transition care, which they found couldn’t be achieved as well remotely. That is an example of how they couldn’t make hybrid work satisfy their patients and adjusted the placement of staff to prioritize patient needs.
Cognitive biases: The hidden barrier to customer-centric hybrid work plans
Cognitive biases, that are dangerous judgment errors that cause bad decision-making in every part from our work life to our relationships, often undermine effective hybrid work arrangements. One cognitive bias that may impede the shift towards a customer-centric hybrid work plan is the established order bias. This bias refers back to the tendency to prefer the present state of affairs over any changes, even when the potential advantages of the change outweigh the risks. Within the context of hybrid work, the established order bias may lead leaders to cling to traditional in-office work arrangements or to adopt the favored three-day work week without considering whether these options genuinely serve their customers’ needs.
To beat the established order bias, business leaders should critically evaluate their existing work arrangements, looking for objective data and feedback to find out if the present model effectively meets customer expectations. By doing so, they’ll make more informed decisions concerning the optimal hybrid work model for his or her organization.
One other cognitive bias that may hinder the event of a customer-centric hybrid work plan is confirmation bias. This bias refers back to the tendency to look for, interpret and remember information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or assumptions. Within the context of hybrid work, confirmation bias may lead leaders to focus solely on evidence that supports their views concerning the ideal work arrangement, while ignoring or dismissing information that contradicts those beliefs about what customers really need.
To counteract confirmation bias, business leaders should actively seek diverse perspectives and opinions, each inside and out of doors their organization. By engaging in open dialogue with employees, customers, and industry experts, leaders can gather a more balanced and comprehensive understanding of the aspects that impact hybrid work success. This permits them to design a piece model that genuinely prioritizes customer needs, slightly than simply conforming to their pre-existing beliefs.
By recognizing and addressing the influence of cognitive biases in shaping hybrid work decisions, business leaders can develop more customer-centric strategies that genuinely serve the needs of their clients. This awareness, combined with a commitment to continuous improvement and transparent communication, paves the way in which for a successful and adaptive hybrid work environment.
The important thing to a successful hybrid work plan lies in prioritizing customer needs above all else. By debunking the parable of the three-day work week and adopting a more agile approach, business leaders can create tailored strategies that actually cater to the unique needs of their industries, teams and customers.
Understanding your customers’ expectations and preferences, aligning hybrid work arrangements with those needs, and empowering your team to deliver exceptional service are vital steps in designing a customer-centric hybrid work plan. Transparent communication and a commitment to continuous improvement through measuring success and adapting as needed further solidify your organization’s ability to navigate the complexities of hybrid work.
Ultimately, by placing customer needs on the forefront of your hybrid work strategy, you’ll be able to foster a thriving work environment that supports each worker satisfaction and customer success. By embracing this customer-centric approach, business leaders can ensure their organizations remain agile, adaptive, and prosperous within the ever-changing landscape of the trendy workplace.