Doing Hybrid Right

The ‘hybrid’ work model allows organizations to operate with a blend of employees working from office or from home. People have the flexibility to deliver work based on their own schedules.

Considering that it was over 30 years ago when management guru Peter Drucker famously declared, “Commuting to office is obsolete,” the shift to remote or hybrid work was certainly long due. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, conversations around hybrid work have become much more frequent. It would be easy to assume that technology companies with the best of tools at their disposal would be at the forefront of the hybrid work revolution. However, giants such as IBM and Yahoo have repeatedly mentioned that they believe working from office is crucial to productivity and collaboration.

The ‘workplace’ has undergone a seismic shift and all companies have been forced to switch to hybrid models of working almost overnight. In Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s words, we have had “Two years’ worth of transformation in two months”. The data supports that view as well and the fears that traditional managers had about employees running amok and being unproductive outside an office environment have proven to be unfounded. In a survey conducted by Zenefits, a massive 78% of employees claimed that flexible work arrangements boost their productivity.

With 30% of employees saying they would quit their jobs if forced to work entirely from office, hybrid work is no longer just a ‘good-to-have’ for companies. However, there are certain aspects that leaders must focus on to make sure that hybrid models deliver results as well as keep the people engaged:

1. Simplify ways of working:

Avoid tying people in knots with complex policies and stringent guidelines. Empower them and let them be accountable for their time and work quality. Rethink your policies to make them relevant to a distributed workforce.

Instead, discuss expectations clearly and have regular check-ins to have a dialog about feedback.

2. Ensure compliance, not policing:

Client requirements might sometimes require stringent compliance procedures, but keystroke monitoring and surveillance software are more likely to produce disengagement instead of engagement.

Ensure that you take measures to protect client data without making people feel like they are always being watched.

3. Invest in inclusion and well-being:

Without the camaraderie of ‘watercooler conversations’, emotional well-being and engagement levels can take a sharp dip. Nurture psychological safety and an atmosphere of trust within your team.

Carve out time to have ‘non-work’ conversations and encourage people to bring up any challenges they are facing. Despite the challenges that the pandemic poses, employee engagement has actually gone up during the last year.

The clear reason for this is the heightened focus on well-being and checking in with people to ensure they are physically and mentally ok.

Support your people in being able to express themselves and find their unique voices. In a hybrid work setup, marginalized communities can get further marginalized. Create an environment where people feel included and treated with equity.

4. Be outcome-oriented:

Focus on the output generated and not the time spent at work. Hold people accountable for results, but avoid disengaging them by monitoring the number of hours that they work.

Allow people to create schedules that work for them and allow them to attain the right balance.

Covid-19 has forced upon us a mass migration to hybrid work, but it is crucial to let hybrid become the new normal. There already are voices of protest from people being asked to return to physical workspaces. The true test of a company’s commitment to hybrid working will be what they choose to do as vaccination coverage increases and hybrid models become less of a necessity.

With newer ways of engaging people, delivering better results, and even saving on time and money through hybrid work, why not embrace the change? So, are you ready?

 

Contributing Authors: Sumit Singla, Pattie Money, Howard Nizewitz, Sam Reeve, and Donnell Green

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