Six top tips to navigate a successful hybrid working model
At last, Freedom Day is here. We’ve long waited for government restrictions to ease, yet what this will look like within an office environment is still all very new. Companies everywhere are having to make new decisions that will impact the daily lives of their employees.
According to Microsoft’s 2021 report, 73% of employees surveyed expressed a desire for flexible remote work options post-pandemic, and 66% of businesses said they were considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
Whatever route is taken, it’s highly likely that many of us will adopt some kind of hybrid approach for the long term. This is an obvious change from the pre-COVID model but is equally different to the completely virtual approach we have experienced during the pandemic.
On top of this, what we have to remember is that simply ‘returning to the office’ and transitioning into a hybrid form of working are completely different. There are complications and practical aspects to a hybrid workforce that we may not be familiar with.
Six steps to a successful hybrid workplace
While an obviously hot topic on business agendas, it has been brought to my attention in particular as many of my customers are looking to operate a little differently within the ‘new norm’. Whether this be from looking at this change from the individual point of view or giving everyone their own choice on how they want to work.
Or perhaps, simply returning to the office and going back to business as usual. Yet If you are looking to give employees a choice, you must consider the significant cultural and practical changes this will bring.
Here are six tips that can help you on that journey.
1. Explore the logistical challenges of a hybrid model. For instance, what would happen if everyone says they want to work in a hybrid manner? What would happen if everybody goes into the office at once, or nobody at all? A lot of these hurdles are unlikely to be solved at once, and many will not appear for some time as a hybrid model comes into full force. Yet it's vital to start talking about what is, and what isn’t working as early as possible.
2. Challenge managers to overcome their own biases to consider individual employee preferences. Our ability to work at peak performance changes drastically according to our personal needs. For example, although it may suit some to have everyone in an office on a Wednesday morning for training or team meetings, it may not suit others. Ultimately, we all have biases about work styles and preferences. One person's idea of flexibility may be very different from others and line managers can have a tendency to impose their own needs unwittingly.
3. Result based accountability. We know that this is the most efficient way to manage performance, yet many managers are still drawn to management of process or inputs which can lead to presenteeism instead. Rather, encourage your teams to be held accountable against their outputs. This provides much more freedom and empowerment than monitoring days and hours.
4. Highlight interdependencies with your employees to help them appreciate the bigger picture. Hybrid working patterns still need to be win/win. They need to enable the business to perform as well as supporting personal choice. Ensuring that teams understand the impact of their working preferences and their responsibilities around availability and information sharing allows them to be treated like adults and enables them to make responsible choices in everyone’s interests.
5. Emphasise the journey and pilot new approaches. Many employees will still see the need for having the office as a ‘hub’ that keeps us connected through work, but a lot of the need to be in the office can be centred around presenteeism. A hybrid workplace could eliminate those stereotypes by trialling new ways of working, that instead focus more on output, delivery and value.
6. Consult your employees and agree on what the future of the workplace will look like. Employers have a responsibility for addressing any anxieties that people may have about returning to the office; even if this is on a part-time basis. Undoubtedly, many will be nervous about the return. Inviting views and listening to staff helps us to work together to address any challenges up front. Mental health and wellbeing are at the top of the agenda, so it is important to be aware of what employees are experiencing so we can offer support proactively.
We are all accustomed to working all under one roof at the same time - we’ve been doing this for decades. Arguably, due to the implications of the pandemic, we are also now well-equipped at collaborating together, from our separate home offices.
However, what we have not yet had the opportunity to grasp is the balance between the two, and make this a sustainable option. By considering these six steps, maybe we’ll begin to see a more vibrant, autonomous and flexible future within our workplace.