As the world opens up again, companies start to see more team members spending days in the office but will not be mandating office days. This office situation is best known as a hybrid working model. A system that promotes flexibility and collaboration by mixing in-person and remote work settings.
Hybrid working is increasingly being thought of as the new future of work. Companies around the world are starting to practice the hybrid work model based on both business and individual needs.
BBC cited a survey in May 2020 that showed 55% of US workers want a mixture of home and office working. According to Marco Minervini, an organisational design researcher at INSEAD Singapore, says that many companies are converging to different models of hybrid working: combining remote work with office work, amid the ongoing uncertainty.
With the tendency to include more freedom around when to work and where, Hybrid working models encompasses many possible systems. A personal finance website, The Smart Investor is one of the existing hybrid companies that implements a common procedure of hybrid working. They design certain days for in-office meetings and collaboration and remote days for work that needs individual focus. Physical presence is important for team-building or orientation but not necessarily for other work.
“We try to use home working days less for video sessions and more for the tasks that require concentration. A task that takes several hours in the office may be completed in just an hour or two at home.”Baruch Silverman, founder of The Smart Investor
Through hybrid working, employees experience the ideal work system that provides both structure and sociability ; independence and flexibility. While employees might value the ability to work from home, the hybrid working model also presents a number of challenges for team leaders. There could be the same kind of communication, team engagement and coordination issues like a full remote working system has.
So how can we maximize productivity while promoting a hybrid work office?
Organising Hybrid Working Days
Hybrid working models require meticulous planning and communication. With varying schedules and physically separate teams, clear communication is the foundation of a successful hybrid work model. Team leaders or managers should help their teams determine schedules based on team and individual priorities. Think about which employees or teams would benefit the most from in-person and collaborative work. Bring teams together regularly to avoid working at home burnout. Scheduling with flexible workers can be tricky so always plan workshops or get-together in advance. When the team and you finally get a chance to be together in the same physical location, make sure to use the occasion to be creative and collaborate. Remember that a balanced portion of work responsibility and team’s sociability is an essential ingredient to the ideal hybrid working model.
Documenting Your Process and Tools
Dmytro Okunyev, an advocate for hybrid working suggests team leaders who want to switch to a hybrid model to document their process and tools so that the employees know how to communicate in both settings of work. He recommends every team leader taking the time to write a handbook for employees on how they should behave and work in remote settings. This handbook can be useful for onboarding new employees as well.
Creating some kind of informal innovation should always be kept in the leader’s mind. The informal innovation can take the form of a virtual team building session or watercooler moments. It gives the team an opportunity to work together on more social type activities. Make time for fun, team members who laugh together, grow closer together. With a hybrid work model, you can get and give more freedom and trust which leads to more diverse innovation.
“All in all, informal office interaction depends on the culture you build from scratch, not the location you work from.”Dmytro Okunyev
In the remote or hybrid working setting, a rule of engagement is needed to maintain a sense of equity and inclusion. For example, team leaders can implement a policy that team meetings should either be wholly in-person or fully remote. This policy can be intended to ensure everybody in the meeting has equal means to participate as they are on the same level of working field. Connecting virtually has its own taste as meeting in person, but we can utilize technology to be creative and collaborative. It’s part of a process that the teams need to get used to. It’s important for hybrid team leaders to equalize how everyone connects and engages.
Adjustments & Improvements
When evaluating what your team will need to make your hybrid model successful, encourage a growth mindset among team members to consistently observe what is working and what can be improved. Every company culture has its own characteristics and challenges to respond to. This will be an opportunity where you can still build and improve upon your culture and incorporate it into this hybrid workspace.
Team leaders who practice a hybrid workforce model need to find out what technology solutions will work best for employees working in hybrid settings. It’s important to provide connectivity and collaboration tools in place for employees to make virtual work much more productive. An upgrade to the office space will also need to be made, such as improving the video and sound quality of conferencing technology as well as making the office more accessible and collaborative for employees with flexible schedules.
Regardless, a hybrid office is just your temporary situation or a long-term commitment, well-organized planning and clear communication will assure a successful and productive working environment. As a hybrid team leader, make sure that you’re providing your team with appreciation and positive feedback. It can help build trust and engagement even when you’re not in the same space.
Like a remote workplace, hybrid office gives new challenges for equity and inclusion, which are two essential keys in employee engagement. One of the biggest challenges in hybrid office is to maintain a positive company culture and organise informal interaction as well as social activities for employees to form strong relationships. But, this also means that the companies are given the opportunity to constantly work on and strengthen their culture.