As we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, one thing is clear: hybrid work is here to stay. The past couple of years have highlighted the benefits and challenges of this new way of working. The Future Forum Pulse Survey found that 58 per cent of knowledge workers are working within a hybrid model and 68 per cent say they prefer this option to more traditional in-office models.
So, if teams are to work effectively in a hybrid context, they must proactively address the challenges that hybrid work arrangements pose in order to capitalise on the benefits. Here are some of my tips on how to achieve this:
- Establish your organisation's digital guardrails. Hybrid teams need to explicitly state the digital norms, behaviours and principles around how to utilise the array of digital tools, like Teams chats, emails, and virtual meetings that are integral to hybrid work.
- Master virtual meetings. The nuances that come with virtual meetings must be tackled as virtual meetings are an inevitable part of hybrid work practices. Also, keep them short or have ample breaks, and assigning roles and establishing meeting etiquette will ensure they run smoothly.
- Offer location AND schedule flexibility. Stop focusing on flexible work arrangements and start to think about productive work arrangements. Offering schedule flexibility allows employees to complete work tasks at optimal times of the day and therefore boosts productivity and wellbeing.
- Establish core, cross-collaboration hours. Hybrid teams need to designate specific windows of time for synchronous collaboration such as Teams chats and virtual meetings. These act as anchor points for the whole team and provide time to drive projects forward (so there are no communication bottlenecks that can result when people are working more flexible hours).
- Kick off projects in-person. It can be difficult to replicate a launch or project kick-off online. Can your hybrid team find ways to come together physically, at least for initial phases of projects?
- Find asynchronous ways of working that work in your organisation. Avoid ‘lift and shift’ practices where your organisation simply takes previous synchronous
ways of working and shifts them to a digital, asynchronous format. For example, your previous 60-minute meeting that occurred in-person in the office may be better organised as a briefing video that’s pre-recorded, distributed to the team, with an attached document with some key considerations for people to comment on, followed by a 15-minute video call.
- Shift to outcomes not hours worked. Focus on deliverables and tasks, rather than the number of hours worked. This will help to overcome digital presenteeism that’s rampant in hybrid teams.
- Overcome proximity bias. Inequities between co-located and remote employees can cause tension in hybrid teams. If underrepresented groups are spending the least amount of time in the office (such as working mothers and minority groups), it could limit their access to professional development opportunities and hamper promotional opportunities.
- Tech that supports, not constrains hybrid teams. All too often, the tech that was deployed to make hybrid work possible is slowing employees down across departments, from IT to HR. As an organisation, invest in systems to simplify and automate workloads and select digital collaboration tools employees can access securely from anywhere, anytime.
- Active listening. Avoid the temptation to rely solely on large-scale surveys and aggregated results. Workforce surveys, focus groups, telemetry data and more need to be combined with active listening by building solid communication channels between employees, managers and leaders. Build a transparent culture that welcomes honest, open feedback.
At a time when the ‘great resignation’ has made finding and hiring talent more difficult as people become more particular about who they work for, where they work, and how they work, it’s time for employers to embrace this new era and adapt where necessary to make work rewarding, fulfilling and exciting.
- The Coach Place Global
Who is Dr Kristy Goodwin?
Dr Kristy Goodwin is a speaker, author, researcher and media commentator exploring the impacts that our digitalised lives have on our physical health, mental wellbeing and productivity. She is passionate about igniting peak-performance in a digital age by sharing brain-based solutions. Dr Kristy was the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award for her PhD studies, has been awarded a NSW Quality Teaching Award and won a University Medal for her research examining the impact of technology on the brain. You can find out more about Dr Kristy here.
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