Hybrid work best practices: how to get it right
How can you make hybrid work successful in your organisation? From building trust to better communication, here's how to make the hybrid model work for you.
Hybrid working is here to stay. According to a recent survey of Fortune 500 companies, three out of five executives believe that up to 25% of their workforce will continue to work remotely some or all of the time.1
And CNBC has reported that 45% of US companies have implemented, or expect to introduce a hybrid working model.2
But introducing a hybrid model is one thing. Making a success of it is another. Successful hybrid working doesn't happen by chance. There are effective, and much less effective, ways of creating and managing a hybrid workforce, and there are measures that leaders and organisations can put in place to make the most of it in the workplace of the future.
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What is a hybrid way of working?
There are several types of hybrid working models, and leaders and organisations need to make sure they choose the right one to help make their team and their business successful.
An office-centric hybrid model sees employees working mainly on-site but allowed to substitute one or two days a week working from home or remotely. In this model, the organisation stays in charge of scheduling.
At the other end of the scale, fully flexible hybrid working empowers individual employees, allowing them to choose how many days they work remotely on a rolling and changeable basis. This is the most employee-centric model, but there are potential pitfalls, and business leaders need to take care to avoid them. These include:
Lack of equity creating a divide between remote and on-site workers
Remote workers may feel they're missing out on executive attention, perks and opportunities for promotion
Diversity of home working environments. Not everyone has access to a well-equipped home office or a quiet, work-friendly coffee shop
Murky boundaries between working and 'off' time
How can you make hybrid work successful?
Look at tasks and create workstreams
The first step towards implementing a successful hybrid working policy is to look at work tasks individually. Team leaders can plan what needs to be done synchronously – with team members working alongside each other simultaneously and what can be done better asynchronously – by individual employees, potentially on their own, at the times they choose.
Research, writing and complex planning may benefit from quiet time and increased concentration away from distractions
Coordinated tasks, which need leadership, mentoring, assessment and project management, maybe more effective when teams work together at least some of the time
Innovation-based tasks like brainstorming, creative thinking and cross-department projects, or social initiatives like team building demand synchronicity. You might achieve more successfully on these occasions when people get together in real life
Know where your productive energy comes from
Productivity requires energy. Leaders in successful hybrid working organisations need to consider how they generate that power in their business – whether team members develop and produce work individually or you fuel it with collaboration and cooperation. Look at ways people can generate productive energy for maximum benefit to the company and the individual.
Reimagine office space
Having a significant proportion of people working remotely at least some of the time isn't just an opportunity to reduce office space and costs. Moving to a hybrid model is a chance to reimagine and redesign that space so that it's not just smaller, but it's more suited to the people working in it. Create more space for meetings, shared working, and socialising, and look at how you can best use communal areas.
The most successful hybrid teams include everyone in the remote/office-based mix, including managers and leaders. Doing it themselves means leaders can demonstrate best practices for hybrid working. They'll experience the benefits and challenges of both office-based and remote working, as well as have a chance to show how to create and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Engage new starters
The first days and weeks of a new job are crucial, so helping new starters get to grips with the way hybrid works in your organisation is critical. Give every new starter a buddy or mentor to show them the ropes. And encourage people to engage early across remote and on-site teams with chat and online social activities. Getting new employees to spend more days on-site with experienced coworkers early, before easing them into more remote working, can help them learn the job faster.
Invest time and money
It takes time to bed in new ways of working. They also demand new skills. Upskilling, introducing new ways of carrying out jobs, and investing in the right technology will ensure you equip people to move forward. Investing time and money will also help everyone feel supported, valued, and connected with a positive company culture.
Share key conversations
Remote workers may feel disconnected from what's happening on-site. Make sure you share vital conversations and decision-making with the whole team, not just those physically present at work.
What skills do you need to succeed in a hybrid work environment?
The new era of hybrid working calls for new skills, both in management and in teams. Plus, businesses need to adapt their recruitment, onboarding, and training processes to suit the new hybrid world.
Relationship and conflict management
Relationships can be complicated when people aren't in the same physical space, and they aren't working at the same time. Conflicts can arise because of misunderstandings or perceived unfairness. Managing these challenges and maintaining positive company culture is essential for leaders of hybrid teams.
Addressing difficult issues
Addressing issues like discrimination and poor performance across a hybrid workforce requires strong communication skills. Managers need to develop empathy and balance supportiveness with assertiveness.
Building and maintaining trust across a hybrid workforce also requires skill. Remote workers may feel pressure to work longer hours, leading to digital overload and burnout. Meanwhile, managers may lack confidence that people are achieving work goals when they don't see it happen in front of them. Checking in regularly while avoiding micromanagement can help here.
Moving to hybrid working is all about change. Leaders and managers need to support their teams in adapting to the new workplace whilst adapting their management styles to make the most of the new working environment.
Eight best practices for hybrid work
Communication is the number one ingredient in making hybrid working a success. Use your communication tools so that people know where everyone is on a given day and what projects they're working on. And always keep the chat channels open so people can share ideas just like they would if they were sitting in a room together.
Have a formal policy
Having everything in black and white will help avoid accusations of unfairness and make employees feel more secure. Everyone should know who can work remotely, when and on what tasks. Policies should also set out what your organisation needs for reporting, digital and face-to-face contact, working hours, and taking part in on-site events and socials.
Get the hybrid work environment right
Rethink and redesign tasks to suit the new options for remote working. Look at the design of the office to allow for different groups and teams to work together. Invest in seamless connections between HR and IT to support individuals wherever they work.
Listen to employees
Create an environment where people are encouraged to speak up and join in work-based and team-building activities. Gather feedback from pulse and annual surveys, and communicate the responses. Encourage cooperation and collaboration.
Don't expect people to be 'always on'
Only message when you need to. And time your communications to fit in with people's working hours. Respect each others' right to disconnect at the end of the day.
Think about culture
Keep building and maintaining a positive, open, inclusive and supportive culture across your on-site and remote workforce.
Be clear about expectations and accountability. Listen to feedback, assign responsibility for specific tasks or targets, and create an environment where people can voice ideas, opinions and questions without fear of negative responses. Avoid time-consuming micromanagement.
Don't forget employees who can't work remotely
Rework HR to take everyone into account. Revise informal learning and look at how managers can effectively recruit, onboard and train across multiple remote locations.
Revisit and revise
Make sure to test and learn your hybrid initiatives, and be prepared to make changes quickly, especially if they're needed to make your workplace more diverse and inclusive.
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