Nearly all of the clients we work with or speak to see hybrid working as something that is here to stay. For many organisations with multiple offices or workforces distributed around the country or globe, the sort of hybrid model that mixes office time with remote working from a home or “on the road” location isn’t new. But the adaptations we have all needed to make to deal with Covid-19, followed by the return to being back “in place” in offices and shared spaces, have meant hybrid working has become the norm.
Hybrid working has lots of benefits and appears to be popular with many employees. It offers increased flexibility to balance work and life, helps with managing the challenges of family life, reduces commuting time (reducing the CO2 footprint of the business) and potentially increases the geographical area the business can recruit from within.
We have had anecdotal reports about how the way in which hybrid working policies are structured and implemented in companies is becoming a key determinant in employees’ decisions to stay or go (or for that matter join), and one of the drivers behind ‘The Great Resignation’ and people trying to find a work / life balance that works for them.
We think that the guidelines and structures around hybrid working are vitally important.
But more importantly, if organisations are going to make the most of hybrid working, we need to go beyond there simply being guidelines about the expected balance between office time and remote working.
We think that hybrid working should be tailored around employee need. By thinking about the range of elements that can impact on an individual’s life at work and influence their development, connection, involvement and wellbeing, hybrid working can be designed to deliver an enhanced working experience and be part of transforming company culture.
Here are 6 thoughts on how to make hybrid working work best for your organisation:
- Be flexible and collaborative in shaping the approach – simply adapting old models and adding in an element of home working to a fixed hours office based model is not necessarily the best approach. Unlearn old practises, design new systems to work around individual needs and create a two way flow of trust by involving teams in sharing what works for them and shaping the approach.
- Create a remote first working environment – Rather than seeing remote tools as an add on to office working, build everything around the remote tools, people can use these tools equally from office, home or on the road locations.
- Factor in the informal – A lot of work stuff happens in the informal bits away from meetings and agendas. Chats in corridors and doorways, water cooler moments, quickly popping over to someone’s desk. Figure out ways to build that into everyday work practices, whether that’s online social occasions, increasing the amount of check ins you have with people or using the chat function to connect.
- Think about all levels of the organisation – senior staff often fare better with remote working than junior. They have home environments better suited to working remotely. And they have established networks of contacts and practices within the organisation. They already know how stuff works and they can transfer that knowledge to the hybrid environment more easily. Junior staff often learn a lot of their skills in the organisation by watching what goes on around them. How can you replace that informal learning in a hybrid environment? Could mentoring or buddying have a role to play? Can the tools of remote working be used to share softer skills, and establish new forms of networking?
- Clear and visible communication – It’s easy for the outcomes of conversations and meetings to be hidden in a remote working environment. To be honest it’s easy for this to be the case in an office environment as well. Be transparent with communications, create shared spaces to communicate in and for people to be able to see how projects are progressing or what decisions are being made. Remote working tools facilitate more people being able to be involved in problem solving or decision making so seize the opportunity to strengthen communication.
- Build a culture of resilience and change – hybrid working relies on trust and everyone feeling like a vital part of the organisation. Creating a strong culture based on a shared purpose and values is a key part of making this work. And so is nurturing and developing people so they are resilient and empowered agents of change. (read more here about how we believe developing transformational leaders should occur throughout the organisation, not just at the top level).
Hybrid working is a huge opportunity for organisations to work better, work more effectively and align around shared values and purpose. What are you doing in your organisation to help shape the workplace of the future? We’d love to hear from you with your ideas and approaches and we are always here to chat and see how we can support your organisational change.