BCG identified 4 employee archetypes any company can use to optimize its hybrid work schedule

Boston Consulting Group

Kristi Woolsey, an architect who leads Boston Consulting Group’s Smart Environments unit, has studied workforce trends for decades, and even she can’t predict what’s in store for the post-pandemic workplace.

There is, however, one thing Woolsey knows for certain: "The war for talent is about to get bloody in a serious way."

A new BCG study found that 21% of knowledge workers were likely to jump to a new company in the next year and that more than half were open to looking for a new position. In other words, take a good look at your colleagues; a quarter of them will be gone in the next 12 months.

The implications for employers are clear. "Organizations need to design an employee experience that allows them to retain their best and brightest," Woolsey said.

At a time when many employees want the flexibility of working from home, embracing hybrid work — where people split their time between home and the office — offers a prime opportunity. On its face, hybrid is a happy medium: Employees enjoy the focus and flexibility that come from remote work, and employers benefit from face-to-face interactions in the office.

But striking the right balance is tough, Woolsey said. Imposing a diktat that employees be in the office on certain days or a set number of days each week is misguided — and likely to face resistance. (See Apple and Google.)

Instead, Woolsey recommends organizations determine how much time employees ought to spend on-site based on their responsibilities, then allow workers — together with their managers — to decide where they work week to week and month to month.

To that end, Woolsey identified four archetypes of hybrid workers along with percentage estimations of the suitability of remote work for employees in each category:

  • Anchored operators often need to be in certain spaces to do their jobs, often with specialized equipment. This group includes, for instance, scientists conducting lab experiments or IT people installing routers (0% to 20% remote effective).
  • Creative collaborators are people whose jobs require a lot of in-person interaction. Their work primarily involves figuring out processes — which work streams make sense, who’s in charge of what, and so on. This group includes executives leading initiatives and marketers launching products (20% to 50% remote effective).
  • Focused contributors do well-defined processes. They need to collaborate for specific tasks, but they can do many tasks solo. A finance person who needs to close the books once a month or quarter is a good example (50% to 80% remote effective).
  • Pattern specialists don’t do work that requires their presence in an office. They may benefit from going in from time to time for training, say, but they’re not needed there daily. These include call-center operators and data-entry personnel (80% to 100% remote effective).

Classifying employees using this framework helps organizations devise schedules that maximize productivity without sacrificing quality of life. "Managers can then say to employees: ‘This is your archetype. Here’s where you are most effective. Please think about this as you decide how much time you spend at the office,’" Woolsey said.

For example, a team of focused contributors might work in the office for a week and from home the rest of the month. Creative collaborators may decide to work a set schedule of three days a week in the office.

Most important, she said, is that leaders must exhibit humility and a willingness to experiment. "We’re in a test-and-learn period, and organizations need to make announcements using that language," she said. "They need to say: ‘We are going to try this, get your feedback, and make adjustments. We’re all going to learn together.’"

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Rebecca Knight August 2, 2021 at 04:51PM

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