Over the past year, many leading businesses announced that hybrid and remote work is here to stay. Although the pandemic served as the biggest factor in this shift, remote and hybrid work settings are increasingly becoming a permanent fixture in the business world.
The hybrid world of work has posed many challenges, created unique opportunities, and enabled the workforce in new ways. As organizations and leaders prepare for a future where the hybrid way to work is the norm, understanding how to cope with new changes becomes vital for success. Here are four steps to prepare for a hybrid workplace
1. Find out what your employees want
Since employees and their well-being is at the center of the workplace transformation, the first step is to understand what your employees expect. Most work-from-home policies and strategies were implemented overnight last year due to strict compulsions, with little to no room for including diverse voices. Today, while remote working options enjoy overwhelming support from the workforce even these demands and motivations aren’t uniform but they’re on a spectrum.
While some may prefer an equal mix of office and remote working as and when required, others might prefer fixed schedules, or the flexibility to pick the days they want to come to the office. There is also a subset of employees who want to visit the office on more days than working at home. Being aware of these different needs and wants can help organizations create work models and frameworks that are in tune with the demands and expectations of their workforce.
2. Redefine your environment, processes and culture
Over the years, companies have invested extensively in office spaces. Leading technology companies invested in redesigning their workspaces to encourage innovation and collaboration.
With lesser in-person interaction and informal communication opportunities, building processes that cultivate openness, trust, and collaboration will become even more important. Thus, business and HR leaders will have to overhaul their processes and workflows to build a culture that is effective digitally as well as in the physical workplace. These changes can serve as an extension of the existent corporate and organizational culture without diluting them.
3. Retrain the leadership and management
One of the most critical aspects of preparing for a hybrid world of work is to help managers and leaders acquaint themselves with new practices and norms. Studies have shown that managers have been out of sync with their team members over the past year. It is critical to recognize that the scope, role, and ability of managers will be drastic, if not entirely different, in the new normal.
Thus, managers and leaders need to be trained on how to move from a culture of surveillance, oversight, and approvals towards being more supportive, trusting, and transparent. For instance, managers will need to evaluate the performance of their team members without visibility or physical proximity being a factor. Similarly, managers will need support to become better mentors and facilitators of resources to their team members.
4. Keep increasing flexibility and ownership
The key determinant of whether hybrid work becomes a permanent fixture of modern work-life or companies revert after a few years of experimentation will depend on how satisfied the employee and the employer are. In addition to the right goal and expectation setting, this will require constant improvement from all the stakeholders to make the new framework accessible, equitable, and suitable for everyone.
By embedding flexibility into the very nature of hybrid work models, employers and HR leaders will be able to redesign processes faster, adapt quickly, and respond to disruptions better. Employees, on the other hand, must step up to take ownership of their work and cultivate self-sufficiency in their work lives.
Making ‘hybrid work’ work: Investing in the right technology
In addition to the right processes, goals, and models, the transition to a hybrid workplace will also require investing in the right set of tools and solutions. Here are just a few types of tools that will be indispensable to make hybrid and remote work a success:
Communication and collaboration
It is time to move beyond video meetings and conference calls to integrate physical and digital meeting spaces. Solutions like hybrid meeting rooms (that offer a combination of hardware and software capabilities and can be used as fully functional video conferences spaces), virtual interactive whiteboards (that allow real-time multimedia collaboration), and instant messaging and feedback tools will be essential.
Further, look beyond basic features for solutions that have integrations with storage and documentation, project management, and allow file sharing. Also, along with user-friendliness, the focus while choosing such tools should be access management, user control, security, and privacy.
Time and project management
Although project and task management solutions have become the norm in most industries over the past decade, they need an urgent update. New-age project management tools should support employees in becoming self-reliant, manage their time, and navigate the workday with ease. Time management features need to be an integral part of such solutions, particularly if the employees are working on flexible or different timings.
It also becomes even more critical to support employees in maintaining a balance between their work and personal life as when they are working remotely, the boundaries tend to blur. As the global workforce learns how to control their time, day, and goals better, such tools can help track time, automate tasks, share files, set up meetings, and keep track of overall progress.
Employee engagement and well-being
Ensuring that employees feel included and engaged has been a tough task for employers and HR leaders. The challenge is set to intensify with the adoption of hybrid work models as we are still cultivating trust, transparency, and accountability in these settings. Ensuring healthy social interaction between employees and supporting them virtually can help elevate engagement. This calls for new ways, approaches, and solutions to understand and implement employee engagement and how it applies to the virtual workplace.
Similarly, new tools and mechanisms to gauge employee well-being are needed to ensure that managers can identify the challenges that their members are facing. Leading technology tools offer cutting-edge employee engagement and core HR solutions that have distinct features and a user-friendly interface.
Learning and training
A workplace culture and design that encourages continuous learning needs to be aided with the right set of tools, interventions, and policies. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that we all must prioritize learning to ensure unexpected disruptions and challenges. This includes not just learning and training for hard skills and competencies, but also things like communication, empathy, and mindfulness. Organizations must deploy smart, AI-powered tools that personalize learning experiences, conduct evaluations and assessments, and make training a seamless part of the work-life.
Preparing for hybrid work: The final word
The way we have understood flexibility and adaptability has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past year. To make the most of these changes and thrive in the new normal, we must also expand the definitions of productivity, collaboration, and employee well-being. The post-pandemic world, when remote working will simply be an option and not a necessity, is going to be the first real test for managers and employees to handle the hybrid work environment. Since the outcome of this might irrevocably change how work is done, we must all work towards preparing for a hybrid tomorrow.
This article is part of a series on preparing for a flexible future of work in partnership with Zimyo.