Hybrid issues – Early leavers and the work from home problem

There is a very sharp learning curve happening in the workplace right now. Hybrid working is rapidly becoming the standard in some industries, but it brings with it a new set of challenges, many of which we haven’t faced before. Hybrid has many benefits, and people certainly seem to want it, but is it also causing a sudden increase in early leavers?

As we come of out restrictions for what will hopefully be the last time, we now need to start living, not just with covid, but with the long-term effects it has had on the workplace. Undoubtedly, the biggest and most fundamental change has been how the pandemic accelerated the move to remote working.

During the repeated lockdowns, we were all working together in a national spirit of ‘carrying on’, but as hybrid working becomes normal, we are perhaps starting to see a potential rise in the number of early leavers. What is considered an early exit from a job varies, but certainly, anyone who moves on in the first ten weeks or so is in that bracket. So how does hybrid working contribute to this?

Why employees leave early

Top of the list is that the candidate finds that the job role isn’t as they expected, or they do not enjoy a change of career in the way they expected to. Some of the other reasons people don’t stay in a new role are usually very similar to the reasons employees generally take the decision to move on. These include the expected motivators such as issues with how they are being managed, not getting along with or not having a rapport with co-workers, unsure of what is expected of them, a lack of feedback, and so forth. With an early leaver, the usual suspects of career advancement, a better benefits or salary offer, and new opportunities are not often in the mix because these were probably the reason the employee originally took the new role. Finally, sometimes the new team member is a just bad fit or their performance is not as expected, and the decision is taken to remove them.

Whatever the reason, a departing new hire is a problem. Although a good recruitment partner will offer a replacement service, it is still not a great situation to be in. Fortunately, early leavers are not common, but we do seem to be seeing more teething problems and actual resignations than before the pandemic.

How hybrid could be a factor in early departure

When there is a sudden change in a working environment, it takes time to embed. While hybrid working is attractive to candidates initially, they may well not be prepared for what the practicalities of working from home in a brand new job actually be. It’s important that new team members are inducted properly and fully introduced to their new workplace. We all know this, and all good employers have a period of settling in and learning the job. The formal part of the introduction to the role may not be the problem, though. Workplaces are little, self-contained social groups. When you start a new job, you are not just taking on the role you are integrating into the workforce. Those first weeks are crucial for getting to know the people around you, learning the ins and outs of your job and getting to understand the nuances of how the team operates. If you are working from home, this integration is difficult and may not even happen.

When we talk to candidates who have left jobs early, we are finding that too much home working, implemented too soon, seems to be a big factor. Remote working seems to be creating a firebreak in the natural development of relationships and working practices. In short, candidates are feeling removed from the working day, and that is leading to fear of underperformance, uncertainty in their role and isolation from their co-workers. From there, it is a short hop to an unhappy experience and eventually resignation or actual underperformance. Hybrid working could, therefore, be the root cause of unnecessary early departures.

How to combat the hybrid problem

When you look at the list of reasons people give for leaving early, they are clearly linked by workplace integrations. We have seen and heard of several instances where employers have recognised that they need to install new processes based on hybrid working rather than adapt the old ones, and these are working exceptionally well to reduce staff churn.

Examples of good practice included:

  • Extended on-site introduction periods
  • Focus on building relationships by ensuring that new team members spend extended periods with their co-workers learning the ropes
  • Adding wellbeing checks to the introduction process
  • Gradual moving to hybridity with a sliding scale of time spent away from the workplace
  • New management processes that include increased contact for home-working new staff
  • Arranging ‘all staff’ gatherings
  • Encouraging remote social events such as online lunches
  • Discussing the potential issues surrounding hybrid fatigue with new workers
  • Training and awareness sessions to recognise the effects of hybrid working on emotional wellbeing

These are just a few of the tactics we have seen being used to ensure the welcome keeps warm for new workers. Each workplace is different, of course, and that means it’s important to make the support fit the role and the worker. Whatever the methods used, though, hybrid starters do seem to need a different induction process.

From what we are seeing first-hand, the space between starting a hybrid role and leaving it early because the worker feels they are underachieving, disliked, unmanaged, or abandoned seems to be a very small gap sometimes. Fortunately, bridging that gap also seems a matter of a few small changes that could turn a potential bad hire into a loyal and valuable team member.

As always, we are here if you need us.

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