Return to Office (RTO) and Hybrid Work Models: Adapting to New Ways of Working

Return to Office (RTO) and Hybrid Work Models: Adapting to New Ways of Working

In recent years, the realms of sales marketing, distribution, and loyalty have undergone significant transformation in response to the challenges and opportunities brought about by remote work. Discussions held during HSMAI leadership meetings and conferences within these sectors have illuminated the evolving dynamics of the workplace, emphasizing the importance of happiness, productivity, and equity in this new era. It’s noteworthy that the embrace of remote and hybrid work models varies across the globe. As Gallup (Brecheisen, 2023) research revealed, “the attitude of leaders had an outsized influence on workplace strategies.”  

A unique aspect of this transformation is the long-standing practice of sales and revenue manager leaders working remotely. They have adeptly adapted to the changing landscape. However, the broader shift associated with hybrid work is now associated more with leaders in branding, above-property management, marketing specialists, sales enablement, advertising, project management, property support teams, loyalty, and distribution teams. These professionals now allocate a specific number of days to working from home each week, marking a significant change in work dynamics.

At the core of these discussions emerges a pivotal question: should compensation for remote work differ from that of in-office work? Within HSMAI, executives have engaged in spirited debates on this matter, with concerns raised about the potential for such a compensation philosophy to disadvantage women and other underrepresented groups. Surveys (The Economist, 2023) have revealed a growing willingness among employees worldwide to accept pay adjustments in exchange for the option to work from home, signaling a shift in work preferences. However, this trend has prompted organizations globally to contemplate potential disparities in compensation and opportunities and how to address these concerns.

In the specific context of marketing and advertising agencies, a notable trend has emerged. Executives in these sectors are placing emphasis on high-potential employees who choose to invest their time in the office for informal learning opportunities. These individuals are viewed as particularly deserving of additional development and are more likely to receive growth and advancement opportunities. This approach underscores the importance of striking a balance between remote work flexibility and the unique benefits of in-person collaboration and learning. 

Remote work has undoubtedly demonstrated its strengths in facilitating concentration and efficiency, especially for roles that demand solitude and deep focus. The reporting from The Economist suggests that certain functions are more effectively executed from home, challenging the conventional belief that productivity is intrinsically tied to physical office presence. The Gallup study suggests that the best decisions about RTO should consider “(1) employees’ preferred way of working (2) focus on developing communication skills for managers so they can speak to their teams (3) provide managers with training on managing different types of workplace arrangements, especially remote and hybrid.” 

However, the discourse on the impact of remote work on productivity takes diverse forms across the globe. In regions like the United States and Canada, the adoption of hybrid work models has gained momentum, aligning with the desire for workplace flexibility. Consequently, organizational leaders are reassessing their approach to the workplace, recognizing the impracticality of mandating a complete return to the office. As one participant in a study aptly put it, “Feeling good about yourself and your workplace is not a seniority perk; it’s the most important thing to keep your employees healthy, productive, and engaged at work (McGregor, 2023). A recent study showed that companies that provided more employee choice outperformed on revenue growth by 16 percentage points compared to companies that provided fewer choices (McGregor, 2023).

Korn Ferry (Ferry, 2023) in a Leadership article “Why the World is Back at the Office But the US is not” has also identified how RTO policies are a North American practice while the rest of the world has returned to the office and adopted similar policies for remote work as they had pre-pandemic. This trend of remote and hybrid work is a trend that HSMAI leaders in other parts of the world have clearly stated is a NORAM issue only. Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Management teams in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East returned to the office in 2022 as pandemic concerns eased.

David Rock (Rock, 2023) has also identified a “patchwork framework” in addressing RTO practices in North America. This framework meticulously ensures that teams are represented in the office on the same days, fostering collaboration and ensuring a critical mass of colleagues for meaningful in-office interactions. This focus on RTO implementation is critical to ensure that all employees benefit from the value creation associated with RTO workdays. 

Moreover, certain HSMAI leaders have adopted a distinctive approach to their designated “collaboration days,” a term coined by an HSMAI leader. These leaders describe their practice of hosting two in-person collaboration days per week. As Michelle Woodley, President of Preferred Travel Group, and past chair of the HSMAI foundation, explained, “We’ve implemented two in-person collaboration days each week where we sponsor lunch, and I personally make an effort to join our team. These days provide an invaluable opportunity for personal interaction with our people, fostering not only informal learning but also enhancing business communication.” This personal touch not only enhances collaboration but also cultivates a sense of unity and camaraderie within the organization.

The evolving work paradigm in sales, marketing, distribution, and loyalty, as discussed in HSMAI leadership meetings and conferences within these sectors, underscores the critical imperative of balancing happiness, productivity, and equity on a global scale. While the adoption of remote and hybrid work models varies by region, organizations worldwide must remain flexible and responsive to the evolving preferences and needs of their employees. It is recognized that the future of work is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The collaborative and personalized approach embodied in “collaboration days” exemplifies how organizations can foster a sense of belonging and enhance productivity in this ever-evolving landscape.

Key Takeaways
• Culture and teamwork are fueled by intentional efforts like “collaboration days” for in-office hybrid workdays. 

  • Some companies see in-office work as important for high potential employees to drive career growth and advancement. 
  • Discussion continues on how fully remote employees may be tied to different compensation models

To read more about the top talent trends, downloadthe HSMAI Foundation Special Report: The State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent 2023-2024.

The post Return to Office (RTO) and Hybrid Work Models: Adapting to New Ways of Working appeared first on HSMAI Global.

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