HYBRID WORKING

If you thought adjusting to working from home was challenging…Here comes hybrid working.

It took months for leaders and employees to adjust to working remotely, following Covid-19 last march. The next era of work might be even more messy, especially looking at McKinsey’s latest research that says 68% of companies lack a detailed plan for hybrid working that has been communicated to their teams.

Pre pandemic, 95% or more of time was spent at work locations. During the pandemic lots of that work shifted to working from home which has resulted, according to McKinsey’s survey of 100 executives across different industries and geographies, in an increase in customer satisfaction and productivity along with increase employee anxiety and associated burnout. According to the same survey post pandemic 9 out of 10 organisations will be combining remote and on-site working.

Every business is unique and has it individual challenges but like any “change” within a business, the move back to the office, remaining remotely or embracing a hybrid model has to be treated in the right way. Managing this next change properly will help alleviate the pain of the transition and ensure the benefits are realised.

Vision

Without a clear vision and rationale, employees will be confused about what you are trying to achieve. By being clear on what you are trying to achieve and being intentional about what you are trying to create, coupled with the teams being engaged as part of the process and actually listening. This means that when you communicate what you want from your teams you can also articulate why it’s important. The team need to understand the rationale for the decision and feel they have been heard, by doing this trust is built. People want to be part of a team but travelling an hour each way just to do emails next to their colleagues will not achieve this. As we have seen this week at Apple, CEO Tim Cook just saying you are back in the office the following days may be met with a ‘think’ again.

Alignment

Aligning the top team behind that vision is critical to actually delivering the benefits. Breaking down silos and cross team communication and planning are critical to delivering on the vision. The top team need to understand that the vision will not be realised straight away and that you may need to iterate and trial different solutions, working together and sometime making compromises for the common good. People need to know what they do fits into the overall plan and what part they play. As Howard Schultz of Starbucks put it ‘When you are surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything can happen’

Feedback

Your vision might be to create a hybrid model where collaboration and experiences are achieved in the office, but other work is possible remotely. You might want to focus on the microtransactions that used to be opportunities to discuss projects, share ideas, network, mentor and coach. How can these be facilitated in your new ways of working and how can technology support them. Gathering feedback and measuring progress how people feel is critical, are you actually delivering what you set out to achieve? Ensuring alignment means that when cross function collaboration is needed, the top team members support their teams to be available.

 People Management

 One of the key parts of the plan is equipping leaders with the skills to manage people remotely and developing them as leaders but also ensuring policies and procedures are in place that support them.

Anxiety, burnout, brain drain, failure to recruit and retain teams are all potential consequences of not managing this transition properly. Pre pandemic we observed organisations promoting people into people leadership roles without support and development, now with remote/hybrid working this will magnify those challenges and really impact on both engagement and productivity. Supporting your leaders with soft skills especially focusing on empathy rather than authority.

Lack of innovation, resistance to change & poor communication

A trio of blights that affect so many organisations. Innovation even 10 years ago was cool for organisations, now it’s not cool, it’s about survival. If the pandemic has taught us one thing it is that we need to change and be ready to constantly change. Trust in leadership is a critical element in getting our teams onboard and we need to lead in a new, more positive and impactful way; communication is critical to building trust. But not just us telling them what to do but by truly listening to their feedback.

Finally

How do we expect teams to challenge themselves and try new ways of doing things when we don’t allow them to fail? We can only grow as a business by learning from the mistakes. The teams must not be afraid to make mistakes and have the resilience to bounce back quickly when they do.

People are at the heart of all great businesses and by creating a clear vision for hybrid working, aligning your team behind it, followed by communication by which I mean listening as well as talking you will help stop most of the anxiety and frustration which is being felt out there.

Stuart Ewen

Partner in Mindset Associates who help Businesses Deliver People Led, Customer Focused Change and Growth.

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