Who would have thought we would be talking so much about ‘hybrid working’, well I guess we have had a year or so of remote working (flexible working) and it has worked on many levels. And the road back is now hybrid or is it? Although we mustn’t forget that flexible working principle has been around a while in the UK. In April 2003, the UK Government introduced the 'right to request flexible working' which historically applied to parents and certain other carers. The legislation now includes all employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous employment, regardless of parental or caring responsibilities. Do you think organisations will be inundated with flexible working requests as we unlock and head back to the office, or should organisation take a more proactive approach, and how?
I’ve been speaking to a lot of CEO’s and business owners and hybrid working is definitely on the agenda, and most are taking a pro-active approach to handling it, in fact they are embracing it for the benefits it could have for them and their employees. I wanted to share with you some of the insights I have gained through these conversations, and in fact would like to give you some principles in approach.
Before we start, I would urge you to always have in mind your company vision/mission or purpose, however you frame it, to ensure that the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ you go about it, is aligned to the overall company’s purpose. This will give you a great guiding light, and make some of those tougher decisions much easier, and also help you with the communication with your employees. And remember it is the leadership of the company’s responsibility to help navigate this, not just HR.
I have summed up my conversations with three key words to help navigate a positive hybrid working approach, and they are 1). Collaboration 2). Connection and finally 3). Communication. Keep these central to the strategy of how you navigate a solution to the hybrid way of working.
Let’s start with collaboration. Collaboration is key to making anything work in the workplace, making sure people can interact and have those inspiring conversations, and allowing ideas to flow. So make sure that collaboration can still happen in the hybrid context, that might mean thinking about technology to facilitate this. Since you may have times where some of your team are at home and some in the office, ensure that they can still collaborate and no one is left out. You may want to think also about creating collaboration times together in the office or online, do whatever works for you and your business priorities.
Connection is vital, or should I say, making people feeling connected to the company, purpose and other colleagues is really the lifeblood of the culture. So how do we do that, well we need to think creatively in providing ways to stay connected in an authentic way. This in some way is employee engagement, and there are many strategies and technologies that can really help you here, I recently interviewed the CEO of Assembly – Jonathan Fields (https://www.joinassembly.com/), whose company provides online employee recognition & reward programs, a very powerful way to drive engagement.
Communication is like the glue that holds it all together, and a high priority whether hybrid or not. One of the challenges in remote working has been the impromptu conversations, the water cooler chats. So how do you create those water cooler moments whilst working in a hybrid way as a team, well why don’t you set up a 1 hour zoom meeting room that your team can just pop in and have a chat. Just like they would do in the office, the conversations can be informal but gives a clear message of openness and availability.
In addition to the above here are some other areas to consider in the move towards a hybrid way of working:
1. Phasing the return of staff, manage the flow, also provide a road-map of this process to staff.
2. Formalise the hybrid working with agreements or policies.
3. Focus on keeping the company culture alive.
4. Ensure inclusion is a priority.
5. Shift to a more outcome focused business rather than work done and how long.
6. Centralise support functions virtually to increase accessibility.
And finally, well-being has become to the forefront over the last year, so I would encourage to continue to build in a well-being strategy whether hybrid or not.
If you would like to know more about hybrid working then do check out our YouTube channel on Leadership lessons from across the pond with myself and my colleague Nancy Halpern, where we are in the middle of a series on hybrid working – link here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsYj0Pwe0LRVviuyzxGes_w