Since 2020 the ways that employees interact with each other and their leadership has fundamentally changed. The post-pandemic workforce also looks and thinks differently, so companies pursuing Hybrid or Return to Office strategies have to be cognizant and responsive to these changes in expectations and priorities.
Worklytics specializes in compiling anonymized data points from digital collaboration tools, aggregating more than 200 unique metrics that identify and bring transparency to employee workflow and experience. Clients use this analysis to make data-driven decisions around workplace strategies, remove roadblocks for employee collaboration, and course-correct as necessary.
There are six key metrics that have most commonly helped companies measure the effectiveness and impact of the Hybrid/Return to Office programs on their workforce:
New Hire attrition has always been a challenge for companies. On average, one in five new hires will leave in 45 days. Remote work has exacerbated this trend, since there is no in-person orientation, first day lunch, walk around the office to meet everyone. For all the benefits and convenience of remote work, it can also amplify the sense of isolation, disconnection from the work culture, and likelihood of under or mis-communication.
Remote worker on-boarding focuses on meeting with colleagues whom you interact closely with on a day to day basis. However, there is often little interaction with other peers and no accidental, casual interactions around the break room, coffee machine, water cooler, etc. that build camaraderie. New hires in hybrid roles risk only seeing a few people the days they are in the office, which prevents them from build networks that are in fact the leading indicator for employee morale and happiness.
In fact, our data analysis of employees hired during the pandemic show the difficulties they have in building their networks. We compared new hire networks pre- and post-pandemic and the results are drastic. While pre-COVID, most new hires had interacted with 26 peers within the first 6 months of hire, post-COVID saw that network shrink by almost 50%.
Tracking this metric as employees return to office ensures that the new workplace strategy doesn’t further isolate new hires, improves employee networks and morale, and has shown to greatly impact the success rate of the hybrid program.
KPI to track: size of peer collaborator network for each cohort of new employees by week.
Organizational silos have long been a common roadblock for team performance, and remote work during the pandemic has had a strong influence on the creation and proliferation of silos within organizations of all sizes. The pandemic saw most employees working very closely with those in their own teams/functions, and the interactions with those in other teams waned. This measure correlates very closely to employee experience survey results showing that employees with small peer networks feel silo’d.
Remote work has led employees to be far less likely to collaborate broadly with multiple team members and get wide buy-in for projects. Employees also tend to be very “out of sight, out of mind” when analyzing interaction with management which correlates very closely with employees feeling disconnected from the rest of the organization and feeling their work doesn’t have much impact.
While hybrid and return to office definitely helps companies address such concerns, one major drawback often is if the hybrid arrangements don’t ensure adequate face-time with other teams. If hybrid arrangements are done by teams and aren’t deliberately set up to encourage interdepartmental interactions, this siloed mode of communication continues and codifies into the way the company works.
KPI to track: Number of interactions within vs. between teams.
One of the many benefits of the remote work environment is the ability for employees to create flexible work schedules depending on the personal lives of employees. Some employees start much earlier than others, while many stay past or start work again after the traditional work hours. While this flexibility can allow for a greater work life balance, it does further hinder collaboration across teams that work in different timezones or schedules.
Our data shows that distributed teams across timezones are less likely to work and ask for help and their response times to questions from those in other timezones can extend by more than 4 hours on average. This not only negatively impacts team effectiveness but can lead to employees feeling undervalued and disconnected from the organization.
When designing hybrid or return to work schedules for teams, leaders can ensure such flex schedules don’t impact performance by creating an overlap of at least four hours between the various on-site and remote teams. This helps bridge the communication gap while also helping teams interact and build relationships with each other.
KPI to track: Number of hours overlap per day within teams across the organization
As counter-intuitive as it may initially sound, one of the major risks in managing remote work environments is the risk of over-collaboration in teams. When teams work in an office together, they were used to just quickly turning around to ask a question, or see what others are doing. Now, this interaction is replaced by either a scheduled or an unscheduled meeting. Since these meetings are typically longer and take more effort to coordinate, it tends to lead to a highly disrupted day. This leaves very little time for focused work, as seen in our research below where we measured how an average employee’s day tends to look across organizations.
This over scheduling for employees who are asked to attend and coordinate more and more meetings vs. just casual interactions, leaves little time for actual focused work to be done outside of these meetings.
As managers bring employees back to the office, this over-collaboration and meeting requirements has to be managed appropriately to ensure that even in a bustling office environment employees get fully focused time to get work done. Our analysis has proven that implementing programs such as “meeting free afternoons” or communication guideline/etiquette can also further help employees get more focus time, thereby making them happier and feel more productive.
KPI to track: Number of 2+ hours of meeting free blocks of time in the workday (Focus Time)
In the remote work environment managers don’t have the kind of visibility into the employee’s wellbeing as they did when everyone worked in the office. Pre-pandemic, employees had multiple interactions regularly with managers allowing them to signal and communicate to their manager on how they were feeling. Those opportunities no longer exist in remote work, so to correct this lack of visibility, managers need to be more proactive about reaching out and have more regular one-on-one check-ins with their team members. However, many managers have not done so and kept their pre-COVID one-on-one schedules, further exacerbating an employee’s sense of isolation.
To add insult to injury, when employees work on-site, they often have casual interactions with skip-level managers or leaders in other areas of the organization. This helps employees gain access and visibility with the senior managers, while also providing leaders with important information on the employee morale and status across all layers of the organization. This is very hard to replicate when in a remote organization, and requires intentionality from the leaders on having regular meetings and townhalls. However, similar to Immediate Manager 1-on-1s, we have seen interactions with leaders more than one layer above an employee have fallen by more than 75% and while there are greater volume of meetings, the likelihood of 1-on-1s has tapered down to almost nonexistent.
Access to managers and visibility is one of the biggest drivers of employees not feeling valued and appreciated by their companies and is one of the biggest indicators of attrition. Hybrid work arrangements can only solve this issue if managers and leaders are deliberate about the use of on-site days as those that allow for 1-on-1 meetings. This intentionality is critical for the success of hybrid plans and measuring these metrics can help leaders understand where and how to focus their efforts during the hybrid transition.
KPI to track: Number of meetings with managers, skip level, and two levels higher in the org structure.
Remote work and flexible schedules often blur the line between work and personal life. Collaboration data showed that throughout the pandemic it was not uncommon for employees to work far longer days than pre-pandemic, with significant work done “after hours” and on weekends. On average, we saw up to 2 hours of discretionary time spent on work.
Such long hours, especially when there is significant work activity on weekends, is the strongest indication of employee burnout and attrition.
KPI to track: Emails and Chat volume from managers and work done after work hours/weekends.
As our way of working together in a team has changed, it is only logical that the KPIs and metrics used in the past are no longer relevant. These six research and data-driven metrics can help companies face their workforce strategies with confidence. Not only will they know if their hybrid program works, but also be able to proactively course-correct as necessary.
With the right metrics we can ensure this new experiment which gives people much more flexibility is a success for everyone involved.