Hybrid working is the future. We know hybrids are better for the environment, but how can you make a successful hybrid working environment for all? Here’s Stephanie Davies with her top tips to help your team.
There’s been a lot of speculation about how the workplace will evolve once restrictions are lifted. Some organisations are asking people to come back to the office full time, others are ditching physical space altogether and going completely remote. Most, however, are looking to hybrid models in the short to medium term at least. If not permanently.
Here at Laughology, we’re hearing conversations between customer organisations and their people that are mirrored in workplaces around the world. People are being consulted to try and work out what sort of patterns of work they'd like.
Much depends on circumstance. Different people will choose different patterns. Living in shared accommodation near to work but finding home working difficult? You’ll no doubt gravitate back to the office. If you’ve got a long, expensive commute, you might not be so keen.
There’ll be a lot of adjustments in the coming months. We’ve all spent so long locked away in our homes wearing trackie bottoms and talking to screens that some of us have forgotten how to function socially in the real world.
For many, the prospect of meeting people face-to-face again in a work environment creates a mix of exhilaration and anxiety. We’re excited about leaving the house, but anxious about having to cast off home comforts and leisure wear. Having already ventured out, I can attest that it takes a bit of fine-tuning to get back into the stride of doing business the old way.
I couldn’t wait to have an audience again and approached my first small event of 30 people with all the enthusiasm of a Labradoodle puppy that had been fed blue Smarties. I was so excited I almost widdled on the floor when I walked into the foyer of the hotel that was hosting the event.
It’s the same old world out there, but everything seems new. All those things that used to be mundane are suddenly thrilling and novel. Rail travel, Pret a Manger, the M25, public toilets.
We’ve all become institutionalised to a degree, confined to Zooms and sharing a home office with family members and pets. Arguably online life is easier.
I realised just how maladjusted I’d become recently on an email exchange to a client from an upmarket property firm. When he suggested that his London offices were open and we could meet face to face I could barely contain my enthusiasm and replied: “Absolutely, I can’t wait. I can’t guarantee I won’t lick your face.” He didn’t reply for several days, during which time I tortured myself with anxiety. Had I offended him? Worse still, did he think I was serious?
Thankfully, when he did reply, he realised I was joking. Although, when we did meet, there was an awkward moment when he flinched slightly as I reached forward to shake his hand.
In addition to unintentionally scarring customers, we’ve also helped companies such as O2, Siemens and Warburtons to create the right environments for their people regardless of location.
One of the most important things for leaders and managers to remember is that although in-person connection may become less frequent in some workplaces, people skills are more important than ever.
The best managers listen and show empathy. They allocate more leadership time to their teams to understand what’s needed and build cultures that reach beyond the traditional office and into people’s homes.
A hybrid workforce also poses questions about inclusivity. Will proximity bias become an issue in organisations where those who are physically present in the workplace are viewed more favourably than those who are not?
Managers and leaders will need to be conscious of this. It might not just manifest as a more favourable perception of those in-situ. People who work ‘on-site’ may be given better access to perks or time with executives. While remote workers may be left out of meetings, inadvertently silenced on calls and potentially even paid less.
Supporting managers to build psychologically safe spaces where individuals and teams feel included is key.
So, in considering all the above, what can you do as part of and/or managing a hybrid team? We’ve added our top seven tips below. You can also watch our webinar on hybrid working and download our free resources.
1. Have some fun establishing your new ways of working.
Agree together what new practices and patterns you want to establish and what ones you want to keep from before the pandemic.
This will help people feel included and give them an active voice. You should all decide on the best ways to communicate as a team and agree on key principles that everyone can work to. For example, team meetings could always be online. Even if people are in the office, ask them to go into meeting rooms to join virtually so it creates more equal communication.
2. Have greater awareness
When you first come back into the office, be aware that people have been away for some time and may be anxious about being in a room with lots of people. As a manager, communicate how you’re going to support safe working, and create a psychological and physically safe environment for everyone.
Sanitiser, wipes and agreement on social distancing will still be important, even after 19th July. Everyone’s feelings will be different. Respecting these and working to address them will ensure conscious inclusion (clearly stating that face-licking is out of bounds may be helpful).
3. Ensure regular one-to-one time with your team
This is good practice at any time, but when you may not be working in the same place or at the same time as your team, scheduling regular time to keep in touch becomes even more important.
This can be online or face-to-face, but try and keep a balance for everyone. Add in social time with teams, remotely and face -to-face, ensuring everyone agrees on one form or another. If virtual, use breakouts and allow people to chat in smaller groups. Plan how to rotate those groups so everyone gets time with each other.
4. Talk about wellbeing and what this means for hybrid working
When people work from home, they may find it difficult to manage the boundaries between work and home, and some may tend to work longer hours.
Help people to meaningfully disconnect, managing technology and work/life balance. Set a good example with your own working practices. Encourage non-meeting days so people have a chance to do focused work.
5. Be clear on objectives
When people work remotely their performance may be less observable. Be clear with your team how you assess team performance and expectations around the working day. This may be different for individuals, so flexibility is key.
It’s always good practice to have clear objectives and provide regular feedback and feedforward - another area that becomes increasingly important in a hybrid environment.
6. Build in time for social connection and fun
Although many people do want to retain some element of working from home, most do want to return to their workspaces for some of the time and will have missed social connection with others.
This can include face-to-face meetings and online social spaces for informal conversations and activities. Laughter is key to breaking down barriers and helping people reconnect again.
7. Clarity is key
If you’re working in a hybrid way yourself, don’t forget to be clear with your team about when you are in or out of the office, so your team knows how to get in touch with you - and always provide opportunities for people to speak with you one-to-one.