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The Future of Hybrid Work

Certainly one of the many effects of covid has been the rise of remote and hybrid working. Both my coaching clients and organisations where I hold a board position have been working exceptionally hard to navigate and balance the needs of the organisation, staff and service users/customers. It is of course riddled with risks and challenges and it would be exceptionally unusual for anyone to navigate this sensitive road without incurring the frustrations of some stakeholders. So, what evidence is out there that might guide our thinking?

Gallup has recently published an extensive piece of research that may hold some insights. The research highlights three key findings:

  • Hybrid working is definitely here to stay and will likely be a key feature for most offices going forward

  • Any organisation that doesn't embrace this change is placing itself at risk of losing talent

  • Good hybrid working takes conscious design and effort to ensure it offers both an engaging and productive space for staff to do good work.

Statistical insights of particular note were:

  • Most people prefer a hybrid solution (59%), but there's a sizeable group that want want to work exclusively remotely (32%), this will have significant implications for the recruitment and retention of talent.

  • When given the option, the majority (38%) would choose to be in the office about half the time (40-60%) with 29% of people saying between 0.5 and 2 days a week.

  • Around 62% of people would like managers to offer some 'co-ordination' of when people go into the office, but there's no clear agreement about how that should be done. 38% would like total autonomy on when they come in.

The inevitable take home from this is that it will be incredibly difficult to please everyone. Both employers and employees should recognise that any solution will have costs and benefits.

There are ways to build engagement and consensus on the ways forward, but in all instances, there is a necessity to design your operating model from the ground up.

Things I have seen that have been successful with some of my clients (acknowledging that different things will work for different companies) include:

  1. Bring people together to determine preferences. This will typically reveal that there are differences of opinion and can help people move towards a more openminded way of designing a solution.

  2. Be really clear about everyone's roles and responsibilities, and have good systems for recognising performance. Being able to see levels of performance can really help answer important questions like: Is the work shared fairly across the team? Does working at home make a difference to productivity? Are our systems working well enough across all functions/locations? Questions such as these being left unanswered or unanswerable can undermine the integrity of your agreements and design.

  3. Build mutual understanding about which parts of our roles are better done at home or in the office. As illustrated by the Gallup study, most recognise that connecting with colleagues in person helps us to innovate and feel connected to something which is bigger than any one individual.

  4. Work with the team to decide the best way to bring everyone together for those tasks and responsibilities which need face-to-face working; whilst giving flexibility for people to do the individually focussed tasks at the location that works best for them.

  5. Design and use the office space for these more collaborative responsibilities. I've seen loads of offices transformed from open plan desks with a few meeting rooms, to a space with many more meeting rooms of varying sizes and fewer desks.

  6. Create informal get-togethers for people to connect and belong. One thing that often comes up in coaching sessions is how entirely remote working deprives us of those random 'water-cooler' conversations or the ability to get to really know our colleagues. Zoom/Teams can mean our all of our contact time is very task focussed and by giving people a chance to have some 'unfocussed' time together we can build trust, belonging and connection.

  7. Lead with empathy. Change can be difficult and people are often juggling competing demands inside and outside of work. By working to genuinely understand what the needs of your team are, we can adapt where it is possible to do so or support colleagues to navigate changes that might initially be difficult. Empathy isn't the same as giving everyone everything they want, but it is about listening and understanding in order to do your very best.

  8. Revisit Regularly. This is not a 'one and done' philosophy. Things change and attitudes will evolve. Being clear with team members that you will review the design regularly (ideally with specific dates) will allow people to engage with a more experimental approach to getting the best working environment.

What ideas have you implemented to get the best from hybrid working? I'm always happy to update my blogs with new ideas and suggestions!

As ever, thanks for stopping by and reading...

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