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A flexible workplace: how to make hybrid working work for everyone
Working outside of the office has changed the way people think and work. We’ve discovered that it’s doable, and the benefits are actually worthwhile. And for the foreseeable future, it’s clear that remote and hybrid working will be here for a while.
Employees don’t have to go through the arduous journey to get to and from work. They suffer less burnout from gaining a better work-life balance, and still, their productivity doesn’t suffer. In fact, in some instances, it increases.
However, many employers struggle with not having people present in the office. They don’t necessarily trust that an employee is putting in the full time and effort they are being paid for, and that the workplace culture suffers due to the lack of people around.
Another factor that’s been raised is – “Why are we paying for all the office space if people aren’t coming in to utilise it?” It’s a dilemma that must be focused on to satisfy everyone.
What is hybrid work?
Hybrid working is where employees work part-time in the office and part-time outside the office in places such as home. Remote working means that the employee rarely or does not enter the workplace.
Horses for courses
Depending on your business type, having a Hybrid working environment has varying impacts.
If your company relies heavily on creative thinking, for example – design work, having employees work remotely can have a greater negative impact than a company that primarily follows a structured process. Creative work demands collaboration and idea bouncing.
Process-driven companies such as accounting firms are less impacted by remote work as certain aspects of their business, such as business compliance and filing GST returns, can be done anywhere without human interaction.
What the people want
Leaders need to recognise that people want to be seen as people, not just workers.
People view life differently now. Covid has taught people that there is more to life than work. Employees now demand more flexibility than ever before, and with the attitude that they’ll turn their heads if they can’t have what they want (work and life)—forcing employees to work from the office when it doesn’t necessarily work for them results in backlash. Take the great resignation, for example; employees quit once employers demanded they return to the office after allowing remote work during the pandemic.
This is where hybrid working comes in.
It’s the middle ground between what employers and employees want.
How to make hybrid working work
Embrace that it’s your responsibility.
Hybrid working is new territory, and there is no cookie-cutter approach to making it work. We are building the plane as we are flying it, so the company needs to have a plan that incorporates hybrid working – how to make it work for everyone.
It’s up to the leaders to be brave enough to try various things and constantly review and improve as they go. Leaders must be good at what they do and take a holistic approach to leadership.
They need to set an example and display the right behaviours. This is not new news for leaders. Employees need to see their leaders doing what they are espousing others to do.
- Starting from the top, determine what your policy will be for the office.
- Identify what the exceptions are.
- Adapt based on the needs of each team. Because for some, personal interactions may be more important versus other teams where it’s less significant.
Don’t tell, give reasons.
There are a lot of reasons to justify employees coming to the office. Look for ways to connect the reasons to your company’s purpose, values, and culture. The office offers employees the chance to be mentored and collaborate with others to learn and grow. When a person knows that they also contribute to helping others learn, it enhances their sense of purpose.
A free lunch fills the belly. Purpose and learning fill the heart and mind.
Give them control.
Depending on the type of job, you may need to specify the days employees are required to be in the office. If you don’t have this policy, encourage the team to come up with when they should come in. This will build commitment from everyone and create an environment where they know when they’ll have face-to-face interactions with the team.
Depending on the nature of the job, it may be necessary to define the days when employees are expected to be physically present in the office. If such a policy is not in place, encourage the team to establish their preferred office days. Doing so builds a sense of commitment among team members and creates an environment where they can anticipate and plan face-to-face interactions with their team.
Hybrid working comes with its challenges, but it’s a solution between what the employers want (working in the office) and what the employees want (remote working). In my next article, I will explore ways for leaders and managers better to manage communication with employees and teams amidst hybrid working so that everyone is rowing in the same direction.