Management & Leadership
Hybrid working - the new business model
The way we work is evolving. Now is the time to take the initative and create a hybrid working model which is good for your organisation and your people
Developing team performance for more agile, innovative organisations
Everyone's hybrid is different
Around the world, remote, home-based working has become normal for many of us, since Covid-19 changed our lives. As businesses now consider what is the right path for those people and their jobs, we hear much more about hybrid working. Globally, Microsoft is now able to bring many employees back to work on campus yet still expect that many of their people will want or need to work from home some – or all – of the time. At least one bank has given the majority of their employees the choice of working from home, head office or a branch, depending on what is most appropriate for them individually and their work.
“Hybrid” covers a wide range of alternative systems including working from home, mobile working, remote working and office based. It can be even more complicated when talking about teams where different members of the team are rarely together, even when they all have the opportunity to work from the office. This can make the manager’s job more complex. Research among German HR managers indicates that there is a strong perceived need for training managers and leaders to deal effectively with “leadership at a distance”, and some need for managing relationships better to avoid conflict.
It is also clear that very many people value the flexibility of WFH and are unwilling to give that up. Indeed, this flexibility may become a key way of managing future talent as older people retire and we have fewer young people available for work. Every organisation and business will need to find flexible ways to support both the needs of the business and their people.
What are the challenges of managing hybrid teams?
Managing a team in which some workers are co-located in an office while others work remotely poses a host of difficulties. Living with the pandemic provides additional stress and complication. That is why, at this moment, it is crucial to lead with compassion.
Compassionate leadership means creating the conditions to make it possible to have difficult conversations when you need to. Listening, understanding and supporting are essential skills for any leader and manager who wants to lead well during normal times and it’s even more vital now. What is the experience your people have at work? And how do you inspire them to be the best they can?
Encourage a remote-first culture
This strategy makes remote work the default option for your employees. People will do their jobs effectively from everywhere. Remote-first means that people based outside of the office feel they are as valued as office based employees.
Remote-first also puts an emphasis on what people need to do their best work, when they may only come into the office occasionally. Team manager should take time to find out what people need to feel connected to their manager and their colleagues. You may need new procedures, tools and communication systems to enable the whole team to do a better job—whether they work next to each other or somewhere around the globe.
Technology, trust and communication
Not everyone has the internet connection, phone signal or technical skills to make remote working as good as office working. You may be able to help with some of this but not necessarily all of it. Management understanding and support is essential, especially when it comes to using remote tools and making sure everyone is confident and able to use them.
Trust is a huge factor in successful remote working. You need to let your people know you trust them to do their work and do it well, even when you can’t see each other. Research by both Chartered Management Institute and Deloitte, found that trust is key. One global head of operations found that billable output has increased with the move to remote working. It’s important too for managers to avoid micro-managing; trust your people to do the work they know they need to do.
Remember to communicate often. That means listen, ask questions and also talk. Social connectedness is an important factor in feeling part of the team, wherever that team exists. Create opportunities to be in touch with your teams, and learn to have as good a personal connection remotely, as you do face to face. KPMG encourage their teams to take conference calls while they are walking. Connection and communication doesn’t have to mean everything is on Zoom.
Prioritize and be flexible
For now, the only certainty is that the future is uncertain. The easiest way to plan is to establish specific goals so that everybody on the team knows what’s most important and can focus on outcomes, rather than hours worked. If you are used to using weekly Monday “huddles” to prioritize these will continue to be vital. You just need to find new ways to make it happen when you are in different locations. This can also be a great opportunity to help everyone develop confidence and skill working with a range of online tools, as well as a way of getting to know each other through different settings.
Make it inclusive, make it work for everyone
Not everyone can work from home all the time. If people have additional responsibilities for children or parents for example, then have a conversation about what is possible and how it will work best for the person and the business. Caring for family tends to affect more women than men and if you want to keep talent in the business, flexible solutions will be key.
With flexibility and technology come negative consequences for employees’ physical and emotional well-being. Your employees may well be exhausted by changing rules, uncertainty around cameras on or off, taking a break, different working patterns, managers who aren’t sure how to manage when they can’t see everyone. Management skills and confidence are essential to help manage this transition effectively. Now is the time to review your managers’ skills and capabilities so they are able to help teams deliver the performance you need.
At CLS we specialise in helping organisations achieve the outcomes you need. Whether it’s training managers and teams to work differently, helping leaders find their new leadership style, or facilitating company wide thinking sessions to develop new ideas for future business, we are here to help. Our global team of facilitators, coaches and trainers work in any language, in a hybrid environment and will help you find the innovative, cost-effective approach you need for business success.