Transitioning to Hybrid Working is not about going back to normal.
2020 was the year the world went remote. Work from home became a daily norm. Two years later, we now see world economies easing into the new normal. However workplaces are anything but ‘back to normal’. Employers want to re-establish normality and employees want far more flexibility and autonomy. Results from the latest workplace survey by PWC show that the majority of workers do not want to return to the office full-time. Ninety per cent of Australians want to keep working from home, in some capacity. Designing a hybrid working model requires considerable cultural transformation.
The hybrid model combines both in-person and remote working arrangements so employees can enjoy the benefits of working at home and coming into the office parts of the week. It’s important to identify whether a hybrid model makes sense for your workforce. And also to look at the best way to optimise and motivate your people to help you achieve that. Leaders need data on requirements that go beyond our current understanding of location based requirements.
Here are 5 key questions that help us to uncover these other requirements:
1. What do you want your days to look like? How do you want to feel everyday at work? This helps us understand requirements for productivity, and ways of working. It asks us to re-imagine our work day.
2. How do leaders define success right now? How do you feel about that as an employee? This helps us understand requirements for performance management and employee motivation and engagement.
3. What stresses you out? What alleviates stress for you? This helps us understand requirements for employee wellbeing and health.
4. What do you value most? How does your current work arrangement align with what you value? This helps us understand requirements for aligning individual and corporate purposes.
5. How do you create the changes required to shape culture that is fit for the hybrid model you need?
1. Re-imagine your work day - focus on outcomes for success
Productivity, ways of working, and corporate culture relate to employee engagement. What our day looks and feels like is very much dependent on the culture we work in. It frames the way we relate to each other, how we relate to work, and the outside world.
I recently conducted a number of webinars on Hybrid Working for JOST & Co which included asking participants how they felt today, and how they wanted to feel everyday at work into the future. Overwhelmingly respondents went from feeling tired, peaceful and content to wanting to feel valued, appreciated, excited, and creative at work every day. Anecdotally this suggests to me that employees and leaders alike want to feel more joyful and powerful in their work day
Because of the acceleration of certain trends around employee autonomy, flexibility and a- synchronous workflows, we can now re-imagine a strong culture that both meets the needs of employees and balances that with the organisation.
This perfect storm of conditions has meant that leaders can now shape their culture. But it’s not about going back to where we were. The world has changed. There’s been too much change at the individual level as well as too much change at the business level. So we can’t assume that with everybody coming back into the office, you’re going to have the same exact culture, in the same way that it had been before.
2. Shift from Inputs to Outcomes
Definitions of success have to shift from inputs to outcomes, and an expectation that every team member takes accountability for how they contribute to a shared outcome.
This implies that no single policy or program is likely to fit all circumstances and combinations of remote and onsite work. We have to acknowledge and account for employee preferences. Workflows should integrate teams who will be working dynamically. In a hybrid workplace teams will often be in different physical spaces and working flexible hours, so new team practices will need to be developed to cope with this. We need to ensure we are setting conditions for collaboration to flourish, and encourage staff to connect across teams to identify and leverage synergies.
It is important to keep inclusion and fairness at the front of mind. There’s no excuse for systematically unfair or exclusionary practices, and a hybrid model of work, although potentially fairer in some ways, also opens up an organisation for opportunities to bias, discrimination and uncompassionate practices. Being vigilant on known biases and their impacts is essential.
3. More compassionate leadership - It's got to be personal
The hybrid model requires a compassionate leadership which involves empathy and action. More frequent interactions allow for giving and receiving feedback. Leaders can pop in to non-essential virtual meetings that simulate the behaviour you might have experienced in the office. It’s like ‘stopping by’ to see how things are going.
In a hybrid workplace, leaders should balance between face to face and virtual meetings. Face to face as well as virtual connections should be the routine for staff and customers to enable mutual trust and understanding.
New leadership skills means spending more time on getting to know team members personally and encouraging collaboration across teams. This is an essential requirement of leadership in the hybrid model. Definitions of success have to shift from inputs to outcomes, and an expectation that every team member takes accountability for how they contribute to a shared outcome.
Leadership must now turn their focus towards ensuring that team leaders get the support and extra training they need to perform in the far more dynamic workspace of a hybrid model.
This will include improving evaluation of job roles and tasks, based on their suitability to in- person or remote work, which allows optimisation for individual team members, as well as the iteration of workflow procedures and systems that facilitate these tasks.
The focus now more than ever has to be on employee wellbeing and health. We need to be more attuned to the health and wellbeing of employees. Even engaged workers run the risk of burnout. We know that engaged employees produce far better outcomes. Yet, Gallup recently discovered that engaged workers, who are not thriving in their lives, are much more vulnerable to stress and burnout and add risk to the organisation.
Comparing employees who are engaged but not thriving with those who are engaged and thriving, those who aren’t thriving report the following risks (according the latest Gallup poll on wellbeing):
- 61% more likely to experience burnout often or always
- 48% more likely to report daily stress
- 66% more likely to experience daily worry
- 2x more likely to report daily sadness and anger
A recent workplace survey by PWC found that there was still work to be done on mental health and the well-being of their staff. Only a quarter (26 per cent) of Australians said they were encouraged to take short breaks in the working day and just 21 per cent said their employers allowed them to take time to incorporate wellbeing initiatives into their daily activity.
Again, these results reflect what we hear from organisations. Many are aware of the need to increase wellbeing and resilience, and develop more psychological safety. Establishing compassionate leadership within the organisation is a precedent to improve the wellbeing of their workforce.
4. Align individual and organisational purpose
There are a lot of people, who for the better part of 2 years now, have been questioning what’s important for them in their lives and what works for them. People are asking existential questions like “what is this all about” and “why am I here”
The bar is being set high on whether their job is aligned to their life’s purpose. Leaders and managers have a role in helping people to figure that out, what matters to them, and if the organisation can meet some of those needs.
5. Leading Change for Hybrid
Any organisational transformation requires good change management. I recommend following an ADKAR model.
The ADKAR Model of Change Management, created by Jeffrey Hiatt, is an outcome-oriented change management method. ADKAR is an acronym made up of these five steps:
Each step is carried out in sequence and then builds on the previous step. Change efforts start out on the individual level but consequently, will drive organizational change.
A – Awareness involves making employees aware of the change. It is important to address why change is needed and to explain the risks of not changing.
D – However, the desire to change should come from the individual, freely chosen, rather than being imposed on them. One of the best ways to achieve this is to influence and inspire the employee to take part in the organisational change.
K – Employees need to know not only what to change but also how to make the change. Equip them with skills, knowledge, tools, and processes to change.
A – It is critical to transform knowledge into the ability to make the change through training, coaching, and many other practical application. All too often, a gap exists between knowledge and action which hinders achieving the desired change.
R – Last but not the least, change must be sustained. Together with an intrinsic satisfaction, reinforcing change through rewards and recognition, can make the change successful.