Recently, hybrid working has become something of a buzzword for how work may work in the future.
Defined as a combination of fully-remote, partially-remote and office-based employees, the hybrid working model gives all employees the autonomy to decide how, when, and where they work best.
And as we look towards the future of work, hybrid working has become a possibility for many organisations globally.
But what should you focus on to embed the hybrid model successfully in your organisation? Communication, equipping your managers and focusing on employee equity will all be key — read on to find out why.
Company culture is more than the office
One big fear of the transition to a hybrid working model is that company culture will be eroded as employees increasingly decide to work away from the office. However, company culture is about more than the location where work takes place — it’s about fostering shared values, connectivity and trust between employees.
Transitioning to a hybrid working model will mean that organisations will need to find new outlets where they can externalise and celebrate their culture, so that their people will continue to feel connected to their company and its mission, whatever their setup.
Suggestion: Company culture is about the connections you establish between your people, not the building you spend your time in. However, remote workers may find it harder to get to connect with office-based employees. The key to developing this connectivity will be in how organisations involve their remote workers in shared, company-wide one-off experiences that are equal to the experience enjoyed by employees on-site — like our recent Zoomathon, for example, or Avo Consulting’s virtual coffee machine chats.
Don’t underestimate the importance of watercooler conversations
The majority of us, at least until recently, spend most of our time with our colleagues at work. However, when some members of a team are fully or partially remote, they may quickly start to feel isolated from team discussions held on the fly, or those informal chats that take place over lunch.
This can lead to a feeling of FOMO — or fear of missing out — as remote team members start to feel unincluded, or there is a bias, intentional or not, in favour of employees present in the office.
Suggestion: Creating different outlets for informal ‘watercooler’ chats will be essential if a hybrid working model is to work long-term. Not only do these types of informal interactions foster stronger peer relationships and a sense of belonging, but employees that have close friends at work are more likely to be engaged, productive members of their team.
There’s no such thing as over-communicating
The hybrid working model poses new challenges in how organisations communicate with their people, both at an organisational and inter-team level.
Remote employees, for example, may find it harder to keep track of different voices when they’re dialling in to meetings from home, and may be missing out on the subtleties that are more easily conveyed in a face-to-face context. Successful implementation of the hybrid model will hinge on making communication clear and accessible to every employee.
On a basic level, this might mean using multiple platforms, including meetings, shared documents, emails and messages. But as we learned in our recent podcast series, tone of voice is equally as critical to ensure that this communication is interpreted correctly.
Suggestion: Video calls among groups of colleagues can leave remote workers feeling left out and disconnected — especially if the majority of the meeting attendees are in the same physical office space.
All-remote company GitLab introduced a policy requesting all meeting attendees to dial in separately if any remote colleagues are joining the call. This helps ensure that all employees have an equal experience in meetings, and provides remote workers with a level playing field to communicate and contribute.
Managers need to be equipped to lead hybrid teams successfully
Managers are the critical link between employees and their organisation. As organisations transition to a hybrid working model, managers will be at the forefront of this change as they implement it within their own teams.
Before transitioning to a hybrid model, organisations will need to equip their managers with the skills to lead hybrid teams. This may include improving communication methods and emotional intelligence, as well as helping them develop new strategies and processes to lead effectively.
Suggestion: When we think about equipping managers to lead teams, we often think of strategy and process. However as we transition into a potentially hybrid future of work, organisations will need to support managers to support their teams in a new way: with empathy.
Businesses will need to have transparent conversations with their managers on wellbeing, and help managers to not only advocate for their own wellbeing, but that of their office-based and remote team members, too.
No employee experience is created equal
Every employee will have their own way of working that makes work work for them. However, in a hybrid context where more employees are likely to work remotely, organisations will need to ensure that they are creating the conditions to help every employee thrive, whether their working setup is office-based, semi-remote or completely remote.
This is where equity comes in. Equity is about creating the conditions that allow every employee to have the same outcome at work, and meeting the needs of each individual. In an office-based context, these needs may be more visible on a day-to-day basis — however, organisations thinking about making the leap to hybrid working will need to consider how to create an equitable experience for all employees, whether they’re fully remote, partially remote or office-based.
Suggestion: Creating an equitable experience for a hybrid workforce will hinge on understanding — and removing — any barriers that are impeding your employees, regardless of where they’re working from.
This might include making some changes to existing processes and frameworks, such as adjusting working hours, offering different equipment or tools, or providing more accessible ways for remote workers to join meetings or informal catch-ups.
Remote working doesn’t always take place at home
The concept of remote working often comes with the big assumption that this subset of employees will work from home. And while many will, organisations should be aware that each remote worker will have their own individual needs to work at their best. For some employees, this might include needing access to alternative working spaces.
Decades of research into organisational psychology, such as Clayton Alderfer’s ERG theory, point to the fact that the environment we work in is key to not only our performance, but also our innovation and collaboration. This requirement will need to be met for remote and partially remote employees on an individual level if hybrid working is to be embedded successfully.
Suggestion: Ensuring your hybrid workforce can work at their best will depend on providing each individual with the means to do so. Looking forward, organisations may need to provide extra technology or equipment, such as desks or monitors to facilitate this setup if employees choose to work from home, or provide a remote office or co-working space for others.
Want to learn more about the hybrid working model? Click here to read our interview with Peakon’s CPO Rick Kershaw on what it entails.