2021 has continued to be a year of change and unprecedented events; from significant political changes, a global market crash, environmental disasters, and probably the biggest world event in the last decade – a global pandemic that continues to make waves in the world of life and work as we know it. TO BE or NOT TO BE in the office, that is the question? And there’s the whole question of other places you can be too, like co-working spaces and cafes. So hybrid working is all about where you work, and it’s combining working in the office with working at home or another location.
During 2020 and some of 2021, we were forced to work remotely. This is entirely different to choosing to work flexibly. Hybrid working is not new, but it was thrust into the mainstream to respond to pandemic lockdowns, enabling businesses to continue functioning even when employees couldn’t attend the office. However, now we are seeing a relaxing of coronavirus restrictions, many employees want to continue with this way of working.
But this isn’t the best place to start! It shouldn’t just be about locations. We should be thinking about how hybrid working improves productivity and gets the job done better. What are the business benefits of mixed working, how can it help access diverse talent, and how can it help you redefine your employee value proposition. Once you have those things figured out, you can worry about creating policies around how many days should be spent in the office. It should be a two-way process; once you have looked at the business benefits and decided it works for you, it’s time to consider your employees. Is it something they want? How does it benefit them, and what does success look like for each of them? Other questions you need to consider are:
- Is your internal communication effective?
- Are your employees confident in telling you how they feel?
- Does your leadership style suit hybrid work?
- Is your team suitably engaged for hybrid working to work?
So, let’s have a look at these questions in a little more detail…
How’s your communication?
Without excellent internal communication, hybrid working is doomed to fail. As a business, you have to ensure your employees are kept up to date at every stage of the process, and you have to be confident that your employees will speak up if they have concerns along the way. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have transparent systems of communication?
- Do employees know precisely how to report to their line manager, have clear KPIs and milestones and ways of reporting these?
- Are employees able to have open and honest conversations around their personal circumstances and values?
- Are two-way conversations with employees encouraged?
- Do you have agreed schedules and times to communicate?
- What tools will you use to communicate when working remotely?
Do your people want to work remotely?
At the pandemic’s start, it seemed that most workers wanted to work remotely and embraced this change. 70% of professionals were classed as homeworkers. However, as the lockdowns lasted longer and even as restrictions have been lifted, some couldn’t wait to get back to the office. So, please don’t assume everyone wants a hybrid model. So, remember to take these things into account:
- Plan carefully and talk to every employee – one size does not fit all.
- Some love flexible working; others cannot wait to get back to the office.
- Think about employees different ages and life stages.
- Think about how you are going to stop an in-the-office vs out-of-the-office culture and keep opportunities fair, such as promotions, equipment etc.
- How are you going to keep your employees feeling connected? It can be lonely working from home, and many people said they missed the “water cooler chat” or the social aspect of the lunchroom.
- Do your managers need further training to help them effectively manage a remote team?
Are you tech-ready?
Technology is one of the biggest things to get ready and ensure it works as well as possible before sending people out to work remotely. Without the right tech in place, people will spend more time trying to fix things than they actually will working, so ensuring you have the right tech and support in place is vital. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your IT infrastructure ready? Can people access everything they need remotely? Will you have dedicated IT support?
- How will you stay connected? MS Teams, Zoom, Slack, Email?
- How will you ensure your tech is secure?
- What tools and devices do you need? Will you provide these?
- Broadband restrictions. Have you considered the differences employees will have in terms of broadband access? Some may have superfast fibre, and others will be living in rural locations with limited access.
- Software licences. Do they allow for remote working?
Location, location, location
Moving to hybrid working means you may have additional space in the office. So, do you still need the same size premises? Now is a good time to maybe look at smaller premises, think about how you can utilise the space for co-working, or maybe rent the extra space as an additional income. Furthermore, just because your employees may not be on your premises full time, it’s still a good idea to consider where and how they are working when they are at home. Speak to each employee individually and ask:
- Do they have a dedicated workspace, or at least a desk and chair?
- How are they ensuring they take regular breaks and a lunch break?
- How are they managing their hours? Are they working longer than they would in the office, or are they working without taking breaks?
- Do they feel supported?
- Is there anything else they need or would like
This is all brand new – it is not like a new chapter; it’s like a completely new book. So we cannot make decisions or actions in split seconds, there needs to be some consideration around policy and procedure, which feels frustrating, but that is the nature of change.
Please join me on the 2nd of December as I join a panel of experts to discuss the best way to navigate your team through hybrid working. To register for this free event, click here.
If you would like one-to-one support transitioning to a hybrid working model, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sarah started her career in fmcg marketing working as a brand manager on Clover and as an interim manager on Clover (twice) and Quorn. She founded a start-up interim management company in Gloucestershire and that business changed the percentage of women and diverse talent in senior marketing and HR roles. Sarah specialises in attracting, onboarding, developing, engaging and retaining diverse talent into forward thinking businesses to improve productivity, performance and profit. Flexible working and wellbeing play a large part. Since covid-19 wreaked havoc on the job landscape, Sarah has a created an innovative programme to get senior experienced professionals back into work or fine-tune their current role so that it makes happy.