We are beyond remote work: the hybrid work life is already here; not as a necessary evil, but as a strategic business opportunity for every organization to establish a clear and efficient company work culture.
Whatever the type of the industry or the size of the company one has or works in, we all have to do the ground work in order to match the physical environment with the digital one. Some companies are more mature than others in handling remote work, but the difference now is that we are not talking about a dilemma of remote work versus office, but about the fact that hybrid work will be the norm, both internally and also versus customers. For all of us.
Even companies that have a long experience and significant infrastructure on how to handle remote work for their employees, are reviewing their process and getting prepared for the hybrid way of working, listing all the important parameters to take into consideration.
Where to start? From what we know:
- Flexible and hybrid work is here to stay.
- Leaders are out of touch with employees.
- The workforce is exhausted, even if the productivity level does not always indicate that.
- Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized.
- Shrinking networks are endangering innovation.
- Talent can be everywhere in a hybrid world.
Next step? What to figure out:
- What should be done remotely and what not?
- How do we bring people back to the workplace safely?
- How do we enable everyone to do their best work when both employees and customers are working from home, in the office, or at a worksite – and everywhere in between?
- How do we prepare ourselves as every business process and customer interaction merges physical and digital presence?
How to act?
1. Always People First
1. Empower managers to lead the shift.
- Set clear priorities and be transparent on what you expect from them, what you allow and what not.
- Train them: the skill on how to manage remote teams, what to expect and how to set clear expectations and targets can easily be taught.
2. Build a feedback system: You only benefit from having your ear on the ground (and it doesn’t cost you anything).
- Be conscious in asking people, colleagues, peers, reports about how things are going and listen to their feedback
- A feedback system can be as sophisticated as an internal company poll, as simple as a box for anonymous feedback from the employees at the office, or something in between – like scheduled 1 to 1 meetings with that purpose only: there are no excuses for not having a feedback process, in any business environment.
3. Help people learn and grow.
- Every single employee, every single customer can benefit from learning something new: make a point out of sharing resources, encouraging the growth mindset and inviting people to share newly discovered tools, processes, ideas, resources with you.
4. Combat digital exhaustion.
- Digital exhaustion from the constant connection is a fact and it will have a big negative impact and a financial cost very soon for the companies that do not realise it and do not take actions to prevent it. Fight it from the top: lead by example and set a clear communication etiquette: i.e. no emails over the weekend or after office hours. Take care of yourself and of your employees by acknowledging that you need disconnection zones, better planning, less impromptu job requests and assignments.
5. Embrace the opportunity to work with wider talent.
- A flexible workplace has only to gain from the opportunities the hybrid model opens up. Be more open-minded in the way you approach recruitment: think about your needs and who can cover them best and not about where these people are located. The increased value and financial benefit of such an approach are tremendous – especially for companies with small budgets and blueprints.
2. Fix the Place
- Make sure that people are safe in the workplace.
- Establish and communicate a clear etiquette (do people have to wear masks, perform self-tests, announce they got vaccinated, etc…?)
- Review your work space and your company’s workflows in order to guarantee maximum safety:
- do people have to come in at the same time?
- how do you spread out lunch breaks?
- do you have to re-locate teams in order to adjust better the number of people at the office and minimize crowded interactions?
2. Design for people not in the room.
- It will continue to be a given that not all people attending a meeting will be in the same room: whether it is members of your team, or the customers attending virtually, you have to realise that you need a very good, sustainable solution for hosting hybrid meetings. So, depending on the size and budget of the company, or your role, take that into consideration in advance and try to find a solution accommodating that need.
- Be Inclusive: remember that people might have hearing problems, vision problems, different types of equipment or connection capacity: simple things like making a point out of using clear fonts in the documents you are presenting, speaking slower and louder, or not taking it for granted that people can use video, can go a long way and make life a bit easier for everybody.
- Establish a digital workflow.
- Use a work cooperation program to facilitate remote collaboration and minimize the length and/or number of meetings. Stick to it even when most people are in the same room, so that everyone can get updated and kick start at any time. Τhere are several options, like the Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, Slack, even the good old fashioned Skype could work for you: again, cost is not an excuse of not having a digital workflow protocol.
- Review all aspects of the business.
- Every business process will be impacted by the move to hybrid, and every business function will need to transform. From product development and manufacturing, to marketing, sales, customer service, and facilities, HR, and IT, every business process will need to be adjusted. To mention two important areas of paramount importance and applicable to all: cyber security and people’s safety. Think about how you establish a way of working, that would not jeopardize any of those and will protect you from big problems that could have been prevented.
- Be transparent and explicit.
- Set clear flexible work policy that gives people choice in how, when and where they work. The key is to align as an organization on a policy and principles to enable flexible work, and to determine what decisions you will make centrally and where you’ll empower personal or team initiative.
In a hybrid world everything is more complex. You can’t predict or guess how your organization, or people will respond to the situation. This is why we all have to be more conscious, more prepared to adjust and to actively listen to one another!