The most successful companies struggle with prediction of employee growth. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the need for a clear policy of how to work from home to optimize non-core parts of their business such as lease, electricity, and other utilities, etc. Having to work from home policy (work from anywhere) enables companies to widen their talent pool. They could hire talents from areas that were hitherto not accessible to them before. Here is some guidance on how to work productively at home, manage online meetings and lead teams through this time of crisis;
How do we design an effective hybrid framework?
A 2-day shift at the office and a 3-day remote is great, but the reversal would work as well. Some areas have so much traffic, and by using this hybrid model we can alleviate traffic and have better quality of life. I don’t believe it is too difficult to make this work. You can always decentralize decision-making and allow subgroups in your organization to find the best way forward.
I don’t trust the results of most surveys done on this topic. They tend to be targeted at white-collar office employees and conflate crisis with preference. In general, most of us, if not all of us, appreciate flexibility.
Most folks who have kids don’t want to be at home with kids all day. That is what schools and daycare are about, which have been sorely missed. I know very few executives who want to work from home or have their employees work from home in contrast to what most survey results suggest.
Why? There is a remote overhead. They also understand the essentiality of face-to-face meetings and their contribution to culture, productivity, and collaboration. Take IBM for example. After years of actually pushing some of their employees toward becoming home-based or remote workers, they eventually realized the toll it was taking on culture and team-building, despite having the coolest whiz-bang tools, and began requiring new hires and employees to locate themselves within commuting distance of an IBM office.
A company that intends to have a hybrid setup should gather data on suitable days for Work from Home/Work from Office department by department. This isn’t one size that fits all; then allow for flexibility in reasonable cases. Every industry behaves differently. Solutions must be tailored to the specific industry and activity types.
How do you reinforce a culture of accountability?
The hybrid work environment requires a transparently accountable culture which is so far missing in most public organizations. The critical definitive factors – Trust among the stakeholders together with honest adherence to an ethical code, need to be made a part of any futuristic hybrid work system. Invest in technology to facilitate staying connected, then have these open conversations.
Secondly, when communicating, repeat your message by reposting content or the same challenge on several channels or platforms, this transparency will throw light on the problem faced. Of course, hybrid work patterns should be analyzed through proper design of work frameworks, and also in the near future, it will be a need for every business organization.
What do you do in situations where you have a mix of both blue- and white-collar workers?
There is a need to factor compensation for increased use of electricity and personal gadgets due to the hybrid work of employees. Therefore, every business organization should not just pay attention to organizational problems but also take into account employees’ personal views which would help business leaders to make wise decisions. The question is; how do you compensate remote workers for the use of their own assets for the company? Their homes become office spaces and they use electricity to charge laptops?
Should the compensation for those working from home and those working at the office be the same? Who takes care of health and safety at work for the remote workers?
Instead of surveys, why not just speak to your people one on one, find out how they can be effective, and have a life-work balance in their own words and their own time and put that plan into place for them? We forget humans are individuals and not every plan suits all. The best and most comfortable shoes are those that fit right and that you feel comfortable walking in.
Each person will always be responsible and do the right thing if they own it. Make it their plan, and they will always measure themselves harder than you ever will.
How can we foster equity, inclusion, and belonging in hybrid work?
I can’t even begin to imagine their struggles and challenges of parents, especially single moms and dads. You need to enable them to work where, and when, your organization supports it and where/when it’s best for them to make it possible for them to contribute to the team and balance the seemingly impossible tasks their family lives demand of them.
One of the challenges is how young people entering the workforce would be trained and brought into the ‘work society’, if you may. Some of them have already experienced remote study and graduation. How would it affect their expectations, reasoning, and performance if there is no in-person interaction and round-table discussions that make one feel part of the organization and group?
Online onboarding takes away the excitement of being in a new office, making new friends, coffee breaks together…desk hopping for quick discussions, drinks after work, etc… The physical aspect of an office provides both personal and professional development. So how would the shift affect the new generation?
Things may be much simpler than they look, with the exception of the industries that require physical presence. It’s a matter of perspective, in the end. Focusing on results, defining deliverables and treating employees as intrapreneurs could make the workplace almost unimportant.
How do we ensure transfer of tacit knowledge (“soft skills”)?
Unless there is a concerted effort to establish “informal” remote training sessions for information workers, there will be slow attrition of tacit knowledge that traditionally occurs in an office environment if we have 100% online interaction. A hybrid approach will somewhat mitigate this loss of tacit knowledge by alternating work schedules between home and office. Experienced managers are more successful when they can coach employees and share their experience (e.g., tacit knowledge) spontaneously when working in both team and individual environments
Hybrid work is here to stay. There are technology shifts as a business driver. This means we will need to strategically plan how we can work remotely for most positions unless, of course, it is a manufacturing plant where we require a number of people. The offices will be leaner; therefore, let’s strategically plan and embrace change.
What skills do leaders need in this new environment?
Leaders need to allow employees to have a choice in their work environment. If someone is more likely to be promoted because they choose to come into the office, that’s an indictment of the hiring process. That’s hiring based on relationship and personal preference over the ability to do the job.
If a leader thinks it’s more difficult to manage a distributed workforce or hybridized teams, they need to improve their skills. Management’s lack of ability to lead in a contemporary setting is not an excuse to force a version of the status quo. Any work set up that prioritizes the failings of leadership over innovation and supporting people to work where they can be most successful is fundamentally flawed.