Planning and Preparing for a Hybrid Future
Hybrid working is inarguably going to be a major part of the working world's landscape post-COVID. How should organizations go about planning and preparing for this mixed approach to working?
It may seem like it has crept up on us overnight, but preparations for hybrid, or agile, working has been slow on the upkeep over the past 10 to 15 years. The CIPD had previously described the progress from office-based to flexible working as “glacial.” But since the coronavirus, flexible working has come in leaps and bounds, for obvious reasons.
Naturally, this change will demand a blend of practical and cultural alterations. From the perspective of incorporating a hybrid working culture, there are many answers, but ultimately many questions that you need to ask, namely, how can we prepare for a hybrid working future.
According to the CIPD, 40% of employers expected more than half their workforce to stay working at home post-pandemic. However, the Office of National Statistics in the UK found before COVID-19, the results were only 5%.
As the boundaries between work and home start to blur, it’s important to contemplate a range of models, not just to keep your teams engaged, but to make sure that a hybrid future is one that is balanced, fair, and keeps the company culture intact. How can we do this?
Create Working Environments That Promote Collaboration
According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 47% of respondents stated their organizations wanted to work on multiple scenarios in the future, this is up from 23% prior to the pandemic.
There has been an emerging category of tools to help workers connect and collaborate, for example, augmented or virtual reality.
A hybrid work model demands physical spaces being reimagined, but this has to emphasize the need for networking and building a culture. You can achieve this by creating campus-style hubs and focus more on proper training.
Address Employees’ Anxieties
This is another vital area in a post-pandemic world. Employers have a responsibility to their employees. Even if employees are returning to the office on a part-time basis, people are going to be anxious to return. The longer the extended leave, the more anxiety, and this is not just exclusive to the pandemic; it can occur after maternity leave for extended sickness.
Health and wellbeing should be at the top of any employer’s agenda, and, in a post COVID environment, some of the results state that employees actually want to come back to the office, but also need regulations.
The Eden Workplace Return to Office survey conducted by Wakefield Research concluded that 85% of US workers are looking forward to coming back to the office, but 61% want strict COVID-19 regulations. Also, 26% of people surveyed said that employees who violate any COVID rules should be demoted or fired.
As workplace anxieties creep ever higher, it is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that employees feel secure in the working environment. A hybrid working model can ensure a higher level of compliance, as long as people’s anxieties are alleviated.
The C-Word: Communication
Hybrid working will thrive based on effective communication. If communication is not managed, this results in poor information and builds barriers to effective team working.
For any employee to feel that they are part of the culture, even when working remotely, there should be a default level of practice when it comes to workplace duties. For example, holding meetings online. This will guarantee each attendee experiences the same “environment.”
When office-based employees have face-to-face meetings that colleagues attend remotely, this can result in what is called “presence disparity.” A study conducted by Business Electricity Prices in the UK found out that 53% of remote workers were worried about being left out of in-person meetings and office-based activities.
The same survey found that more than a third of home working employees are worried about being overlooked for promotion and pay rises because they are not in the loop.
Another approach that can help would be to build regular human and social opportunities to connect. This naturally fosters team building and employee engagement.
The Manager Is the Key
For all of the necessary components to guarantee a successful hybrid working culture, there is a lot of demand placed on the employees, but naturally, it falls to the manager to glue everything together.
The approach of hybrid working will force managers to adapt and thrive, but they may also not be able to cope with the unique challenges that arise from remote and office-based workers. Both areas demand different leadership styles.
It is essential for managers to learn how to guarantee inclusion and diversity with a distributed team. It can prove beneficial with the right equipment, but from the people-focused perspective, it is essential for managers to receive guidance and develop skills to ensure effective communication.
Additionally, they will need extra guidance in performance management, not to mention building an effective relationship to foster collaboration in hybrid teams.
Hybrid Working = Flexible Working
With all of the challenges associated with remote and hybrid environments, many organizations are gaining ground because they are able to engage with workers more flexibly.
According to the 2021 Deloitte Global Resilience report, 72% of organizations that implemented processes to redeploy people towards different roles up to 2020 were able to deal with the pandemic more effectively.
That’s not to say that everybody else cannot prepare for a hybrid future more effectively post-pandemic. To be an effective organization, we need to focus on the notions of inclusion, collaboration, and development.
It’s not just the productivity aspects that benefit a business. While two-thirds of employees have reported that productivity has increased after working remotely, employee anxieties in returning to the workforce have demanded that we operate with a far more holistic approach.
Many companies argue that they were operating holistically prior to the pandemic, but the results are clear to see that with a minimal number of employers exclusively operating with a remote workforce prior to the pandemic, the numbers have understandably shot up over the last 16 months.
Preparing for a hybrid working future is not just going to benefit the workforce and the business, but help to shape the development of organizations to ensure that they can keep up with these new trends in the working landscape, maximising their talent acquisition and retention, and boosting the bottom line.
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