As the world starts to define the new normal coming out of the pandemic, one thing is clear: hybrid work is here to stay.
Research suggests most employees favour the arrangement continuing as the new model for work, but there is much debate over what a hybrid work model should look like.
The model an organisation chooses will affect what technologies, people and processes it invests in and unfortunately, there’s no straightforward model that works for every business.
When the pandemic hit there was no possibility of planning, contributing to the mixed success of remote work arrangements. Now, there is opportunity for planning, experimentation, and analysis.
A plan is essential for establishing a healthy, equitable working environment and avoiding a toxic hybrid culture . Without a holistic plan, remote workers may feel their careers will suffer by working from home, in-office workers may struggle with their work-life balance, and team communication might lose structure and cadence.
However, most organisations either have not yet formulated or communicated a comprehensive vision for how hybrid work will look going forward.
“There is no single way to implement hybrid working, and its exact form is likely to vary from organisation to organisation.” – CIPD UK
Office or Remote Centric?
A great place to start is by deciding whether your organisation would be better suited for an office-centric or remote-centric hybrid model.
An office-centric model might expect employees to typically be in the office, focusing on maximising the advantages of in-person work, while keeping flexibility that can benefit individual productivity and well-being. The risk with this approach is that remote workers may feel unable to contribute to discussion and may fear getting overlooked for advancement in the company. This highlights the need for a framework to facilitate discussion around working arrangements, career progression, and wellbeing.
A remote-centric model will maintain working from home and cloud-based collaboration as the new normal. Employees are empowered to work autonomously, commutes and other inefficiencies are minimised, and businesses can cut significant costs in office space and physical capital. But this model poses the risk of employee isolation and poor communication.
One way to mitigate these risks is to support managers with the tools to have more frequent, structured check-ins with their team members - like the working from home activity:
With much to consider in the planning stage, these are some key questions to get started:
- Where are your employees/offices located?
The most obvious question is how realistic the daily commute is for most of your employees. Are the benefits of in-person interaction worth the time costs of commuting?
- What have been the main challenges since covid?
If remote work was sprung on your business like so many others, you already have plenty of data to work with. It might be worth surveying your employees. What did they enjoy most? What did they like least? Were there any unexpected learnings?
- How autonomous can your team be?
If you’re working with mostly well-established, experienced team members with well-defined roles and communication channels, remote-centric work will likely have little effect on the day-to-day functionality of your teams. Conversely, a team full of new starters in need of mentoring and frequent input might benefit greatly from opportunities to collaborate in-person.
- Is there a particular strategic focus on innovation?
An advantage of the office is spontaneous, organic collaboration. It’s simply easier for people to bounce ideas off each other in-person. However, if your team is focused on deep work, there’s a good chance your workers will be more efficient from home, working autonomously.
What’s at stake?
Remote work is expected to save companies millions , but with so many aspects of business changing, it’s hard to determine what areas need the most reform. Two areas that will require consideration for every organisation will be assessing individual circumstances and culture impacts, both of which can have significant implications for employee experience.
The choice of where to work goes way beyond the binary arguments about productivity or trust. The type of work, tenure, personality, team needs, manager capability etc. all play a part in deciding where it makes most sense to work. Companies that get their hybrid strategy right are achieving increased productivity, wellbeing, and performance.
However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. This interactive flow tool is designed to help individuals reflect and consider where it makes most sense to work in a hybrid world.
The sudden need for hybrid work has only accelerated a move to a coaching-oriented management style amongst professionals. Working from home comes with an intrinsic level of autonomy, which transforms a continuous coaching approach from being effective to being essential.
- Increasing meeting cadence
Companies practicing regular check-ins between managers and their direct reports already had success before hybrid work was the norm. Frequent 1-on-1s keep team members on track with expectations and outcomes; they allow goals to be assessed and optimised, facilitate priorities being communicated, and help mitigate the isolating feeling working from home can cause some people.
- The Coaching Manager
Managers should focus on nurturing the right environment for employees to succeed. One of the consequences of working from home is that it has opened up opportunities for business to become more personal . Zoom calls have revealed some personal conversation starters such as pets and kids, and managers might use this to cultivate a more human relationship with their employees which builds trust between both parties.
- Regular feedback
Frequently sharing praise will confirm to employees that their contributions are recognised regardless of current working arrangements. Research shows that a creative, consistent system for sharing feedback is essential for creating an equitable culture of praise.
As we speed toward the new normal, companies that succeed will be defined by their approach to employee experience. Considering all the stakeholders when designing your hybrid work model is the most important step to setting your organisation up for success.