Turn the clock back three years and no one was talking about hybrid working. While some people worked at home occasionally, most employees were either office-based or home-based, with little cross over between the two. In our post-Covid world, the landscape has changed completely.
According to data from the CIPD more than three quarters of employers in the UK now offer hybrid working.
Now that employees have had a taste of this approach, there’s no going back. They love the flexibility it offers them, providing the opportunity to create a genuine work/life balance. The EY Work Reimagined Survey 2022 found that 80% of employees surveyed want to work at least two days a week remotely.
However, while employees are happy with the new status quo, managers appear to be far less satisfied. A survey conducted by Microsoft of 20,000 of their employees found that 80% of managers felt employees were less efficient while working from home.
So, given the different experiences of employees and managers, how can organisations make hybrid work and ensure it is productive for all concerned?
Building an effective hybrid strategy
Much of the tension between employees and managers seems to exist because the old rules of work have gone out of the window, but new ones have not replaced them. While this can seem a little scary, it can also be a fantastic chance to ditch previous bad practices and adopt new better ways of working.
It is the responsibility of senior leaders to grasp this opportunity and make it work for their organisation. Failing to act now could mean they lose their best talent, fail to attract the best candidates and damage morale and productivity.
Considerations for senior leaders
Here are the things I think senior leaders need to think about:
- Articulating their organisation’s strategic position on hybrid working
- Building a high-level hybrid strategy that clearly communicates the company’s expectations
- Explaining the degree of flexibility and choice managers and employees have within the model (for instance, if the expectation is 2 days back in the office, can employees decide which 2 days they are, or not?)
- Terminology and messaging (for instance, the term “Collaboration Days” may resonate better than “Office Days”)
- Communicating clearly through a variety of channels, including asynchronous methods
- Considering whether the wider economic landscape will impact employees. According to a recent survey by Instantprint 85% of UK workers think working in the office will become more appealing this winter in light of rising energy prices
- Being a role model – it’s critical leaders live by the same ground rules they set for employees
Above all, it is the responsibility of leaders to set the tone. They need to clarify what hybrid working means in their organisation, communicate this approach and be advocates for making it a success.
Considerations for HR
While buy-in from senior leaders is crucial, HR also has a vital role to play, making sure the new framework is understood and embraced by the workforce.
These are the things I think they should consider:
- Reviewing the performance management process and tool to enable connection and alignment (frequent check ins, short-term objectives, clear values and behaviours)
- Adapting working practices, policies and contracts to reflect hybrid principles all the way through from ‘hire to retire’
- Supporting leaders and people managers (many will need help as this stuff can be tricky)
- Revisiting the learning approach to reflect hybrid working (short, sharp, bite-size learning)
- Updating the employee value proposition so that it reflects and celebrates the new approach
Practical tools to support hybrid working
If hybrid working is going to work, everyone needs to be on the same page. Everyone needs to understand what is expected of them, be they a manager or an employee. This can be done by the whole team co-creating a Hybrid Charter, a document that outlines how the team will work together most effectively in the future. To create a Charter for your team, download our Hybrid Charter Checklist, taking you through the process step by step.
If your managers and employees are spending large amounts of time working apart, it’s vital that a mechanism is put in place to stay connected. It’s important that they have regular catch ups or check-ins to talk about what progress is being made against objectives, to impart timely and relevant feedback and to make sure employees are managing their workload and have the chance to ask for support if they need it.
Our Check-in template, sets out the areas a regular check-in should cover, providing a useful starting point that can be adapted to suit the specific needs of any organisation and their own approach to hybrid working.
Want to know more?
I talked about all this and far more with Neil Wainwright-Farrar, Head of Learning and Development at Clarity Travel and our CEO, Roly Walter in our recent webinar, “Treading the tightrope; optimising performance in a hybrid world”. We touched on a wide range of areas, including how performance management can aid the move towards hybrid working. As well as debating the theory, we also shared examples of hybrid working in practice from our own experiences. Click here to watch the discussion in full.