Remote working is not new, it has been in the offing for some time, especially for companies providing knowledge-based solutions. The pandemic expedited the transition, and the long-term impact of this shift is only just being unearthed to most of us.
During Covid, most of our life got reduced to our mobile devices, whether it was education, shopping, knowledge-sharing, socializing, consuming news, and most significantly work. Our workspaces swiftly transformed into a corner of the house, our dining table, or a desk in the house. One of the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been on how we perceive work and workspaces. The concept of the ‘Hybrid Work Model’, not entirely novel, now widely popular because of Covid.
Shift to the hybrid work model – the people’s choice
After the initial shock of how one would get work done remotely, most organizations moved to efficient utilization of the work-from-home mode. As we moved deeper into the remote working models, various challenges surfaced. For many people there were space constraints to work from home; many of us have experienced the blurring of professional and personal lives with continuous access to our work while at home; and it was becoming increasingly difficult for women professionals to balance their responsibilities at home and their professional commitments.
All this, cumulatively, called for a work model that would allow our workforce the fluidity to choose where they can work from. The hybrid work environment hereon will work as a blessing in disguise for these professionals. Allowing them to be gainfully employed and be present for their professional and personal commitments as well.
A few months into the lockdown, many organizations felt that the office spaces have become redundant. However, many surveys concluded that office-goers missed the office environment and couldn't wait to get back into the office space. This was in stark contrast to the ‘office spaces are dead’ denouement, giving us ample reason to conclude that office spaces continue to be a much-needed workforce requirement. While organizations are not preferring one work mode over the other, the popular consideration is to create a hybrid working model where employees continue to work from the office as well as home. The shift to a hybrid work model is not just the need of the hour from a business perspective, but also needed from a people perspective.
Mindset Enabling Hybrid Working
In pre-Covid time, there was a mindset that many of the more important aspects of businesses like complex ideation, high-level meetings, client management, leadership hiring, etc could not be achieved successfully remotely. However, the past year has taught us that almost all of this can be achieved remotely. Take for example leadership hiring, I was hired last year without an in-person meeting with the CEO of the company. My entire on-boarding process was successfully and seamlessly handled remotely. This shows that there has been a substantial shift in the mindset for hiring of critical roles. Many companies have successfully developed and deployed processes that enable coherent talent acquisition across levels and geographies.
Organizations have learned how to run complex meetings on collaborative platforms. Client management has been so efficiently handled remotely that many clients now prefer this mode of interaction. This massive shift in perspective has influenced even the skeptics by converting them into happy users of remote functioning. This mindset shift is a key enabler in the switch to the hybrid work model.
Hybridity of Work Functionality
As organizations are shifting from the traditional work-from-office, and the newer work-from-home modes, into the hybrid work model, leaders have the mammoth task of defining what work/tasks can be performed remotely and what would need to be done on-site. The ‘Hybridity’ of work would take centerstage by dividing individuals, teams, and leaders into various groups that could be deployed to work in a specific environment as guided by business needs. Work functionality will dominate this division. Hybridity requires employees to be resilient, and they should be prepared to navigate through the different working dynamics with fluidity.
Future of Hybrid Work Models
The hybrid model will not only look at hybridity of the workspace, but would also flow into hybridity of roles, tasks, resource allocation, and ultimately how we get things done. While it remains to be seen how immense the impact would be on technology versus human interaction for some critical functions. We can for certain say that the future of work has taken a massive turn from hereon. Certain skills that were ‘good to have’ would now be considered mandatory in the workforce.
People who can ace both work environments, remote as well as on-site, would get preferred for certain roles. Managers would need to demonstrate greater empathy to navigate the team handling challenges within the hybrid work model for team management. Team meetings in specific intervals, leaders checking on team members, accessibility to resources, flexibility in dynamic working environments, shifting gears from technology dependent work to human interactions, would all be critical aspects of how performance would be measured in the hybrid work environment.
Enabling Hybrid Work Model
The hybrid work model would be heavily dependent on two enabling factors within the organization - technology integration and human resources processes synchronicity. As the workforce moves from one specific location to a more fluid work environment, framework that identifies the relevance of the employee being in the office based on their role, interface with other employees, and any human interaction needed would need to be developed. Many processes like employee engagement initiatives, which would involve a lot more tech and need to be implemented remotely, would get impacted. Needless to say that organizations would need to invest in robust technology infrastructure to make this as seamless as possible. Allowing people to work across geographies with flexible work schedules.
The dynamism of how the work environments are quickly transforming, and the adaptability of businesses towards these shifts has been incredibly awe-inspiring. This new work model establishes a whole new perspective of work, workplace, hierarchy, team structures, and performance measurement. While there are many merits of the hybrid model, there are abounding challenges that leaders and businesses need to think through and overcome. As organizations become flatter as a result of the fast-changing nature of the workspace dynamic, it is important for organizations to embrace this change positively and look at the immense scope of possibility that it opens up by knitting the world closer.
Know more about the hybrid work model at the upcoming People Matters TechHR SEA 2021 coming to your screens from 5th to 7th May. Click here to register.