Following the recent Sponge & Skill Pill webinar at LTDX 2021, 'A better normal: Successfully Adjusting to Hybrid Working’, with Gerry Griffin, Pam Hamilton, and Dan Curtis, we thought it would be useful to look at some of the key discussion topics.
The global pandemic has dramatically changed how we work, and it is clear these changes are here to stay. Once the crisis is over, according to YouGov research: “most workers want to work from home post-COVID, with 57% wanting to continue working from home at least some of the time”. These statistics show the new reality of working life and the simple fact that work will not be returning to how it used to be. As organisations begin to adapt, here are a few tips to help us all build a better normal and successfully adjust to hybrid working.
The move to widespread virtual working and the current move to hybrid working was sudden, and not one that many companies were prepared for. Organisations needed to adapt quickly to continue to succeed. Trust became prevalent – Managers placed trust in their colleagues to successfully work from home, and this trust must continue to adapt to the new parameters of hybrid working.
Individuals must be given a choice. While some would prefer to return to the office, as they have struggled whilst working virtually, others have thrived during this time and would prefer to only return to the office two or three days a week to focus on collaboration and live time with colleagues.
However, what works for some areas of an organisation might not work for everyone. The varying needs and requirements of teams, such as live time in the office, must be taken into account. Creating a single policy for an entire organisation will fail to acknowledge the diversity of its workforce. Instead, managers must ask questions and listen, and then create a nuanced approach that focuses on what everyone needs to be successful.
No one gets left behind
The main challenge of hybrid working is the irregular presence in the office space. Inevitably, this can lead to certain team members feeling left behind and requires organisations to take steps to remedy this.
Younger team members will need support while working remotely. Alternating availability in the office can cause a drop in development opportunities, such as the ability to naturally learn from senior colleagues. This does not mean that junior employees need to be in the office full-time, but it does mean they will need specific time to ensure their development. Presenting them with opportunities to shadow other team members, checking in on them, or simply asking them if they are having difficulties, can go a long way.
It is also important for employees to feel comfortable taking on new tasks and responsibilities, and this can be increasingly difficult when they are not in the office. They may feel less comfortable asking for help or support while working virtually, so it is vital this is offered proactively, and regular catchups are scheduled.
Ensuring equal access should also be a priority. If a meeting involves both office-based and remote employees, everyone needs to be included. Simply dialling in and listening, is not always enough. Make sure they are actively involved, regardless of location, and avoid anyone feeling excluded or forgotten. Making sure everyone has equal access is a difficult balance, but it is a vital step in making hybrid working successful.
Take time to connect
One of the most important factors in driving success is ensuring trust within a team. This requires time for everyone to get to know each other and develop connections. As we move into hybrid working this becomes more difficult, with team members working virtually and others in the office, the time they used to connect lessens and it can be difficult to create the same levels of trust.
To remedy this situation, time must be put aside to allow people to connect. This could be lunch once a week or a video catch-up call. Not every meeting needs to be about work and sometimes it can just be about wasting time together, as in the end, it is in an investment in your team. The ability to build connected teams, underpinned with mutual trust, is a key part of any hybrid working system.
Reassess working processes
Returning to the office through a hybrid system offers the unique opportunity to reassess how we all work, behaviours, habits, processes, and systems. We should all take the time to deliberately reset. In doing so, you and your team can reassess the value of your time and how it can be utilised successfully.
It is also important to ask employees their opinion. Are there back-to-back meetings with no real purpose? Assess if these are necessary and see if they are a valuable use of the limited live time available. Meetings need to be about real discussion, debate, ideas, and decisions. If people are not engaged and are simply checking emails, you must question if this is a valuable use of their time. Hybrid working offers the opportunity to do things differently, to be more productive and more successful, but this can only be achieved through an honest look back at how we used to work.
Inevitably, hybrid working is a new way of working for us all and it requires experimentation. These key lessons can help any organisation successfully start its hybrid working journey. Yet at the same time, it is beneficial to try different things and it is ok for some to work and others to require change, as it is often said, it is important to “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward”.
Microlearning courses on hybrid working are now available
As organisations around the world are now preparing for hybrid working we have a series of microlearning courses to support employees and managers.
We partnered with Pam Hamilton, author of Supercharged Teams: 30 Tools of Great Teamwork and The Workshop Book to bring you The Skill Pill Hybrid Working Pack to help organisations in making this change.