Evolving Workplace Webinar: Launching a Flexible Model

June 11, 2021

HR Policy Association kicked off its Evolving Workplace initiative with a webinar exploring how employers are approaching the flexible workplace.  The session, which consisted of panel discussions and breakout groups, highlighted the continued uncertainty in how organizations will return workers to physical worksites—and to what extent the workplace will look like it did before the pandemic.

In an April 2021 survey, HR Policy Association asked employers to share their plans for reopening their workplaces and found that almost all respondents (91%) anticipate returning to a “flexible” or “hybrid” model of work. 

Certain about uncertainty:  Tracy Keogh, Chief People Officer and Growth Partner at Great Hill Partners and Nickle LaMoreaux, Chief Human Resources Officer at IBM, discussed the larger context and environment impacting companies’ plans for bringing employees back to the workplace.  Both panelists noted that, somewhat surprisingly, the path to a return to the office seems less clear now than it might have several months ago.  Differences in case and vaccination rates, along with employee reluctance to return to work, require companies to be willing to adapt and change plans as new information becomes available.

Key takeaways: 

  • Uncertainty continues as recovery from the pandemic is uneven.
  • Companies must be flexible and willing to alter plans as circumstances change.
  • Variations in the willingness to adopt flexible or different models of working are emerging by industry.

Planning for a flexible model starts with understanding where tasks are best performed.  Susan Kelliher, Senior Vice President, People at Chemours, and Anne-Marie Sotire, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Research & Development at Bristol Myers Squib, discussed specific actions their companies are taking in bringing employees back to the workplace. 

Key takeaways: 

  • Many companies are realizing that “work is a thing you do, not a place you go.”
  • The most common approach to returning employees to physical worksites is to do it gradually and in phases.
  • The primary measurement of the success of a return-to-work strategy is business performance, but issues of worker well-being are becoming more important to companies.

The webinar concluded with small breakout sessions to discuss the concepts introduced by the panels in more detail.  Please see our comprehensive recap here to review a summary of what was discussed.

Thanks very much to all who participated, and stay tuned for future webinars and offerings as part of our Evolving Workplace initiative.