The world would have never been able to cope with the demands of a pandemic had we stayed where we are in our minds. Our ability as human beings to adapt and be resilient has led to innovations and mindset shifts. I recall even a few years ago working from home was a desire to be a workplace of choice. Look how far we have come.
In the current context of changing ways of working, workplace, and building a diverse and inclusive workforce, leaders are compelled to think differently, step out of their comfort zone of authority to influence and delegate. It’s a forced cultural evolution and with that, we have found guardrails to think of making work from home and business operations come alive.
As HR leaders we are often put in the most ambiguous situations to help leaders find a way to inspire the workforce in difficult times. HR is tasked to bring structure to the chaos and the pandemic is no different except that the impact this time has been global and long term which has created more dialogue than usual.
We need to think of ways in which we can ignite the comfort of our teams to start working together in various forms and not limiting ourselves to only physical or only virtual mediums. Somethings that add value in creating an environment to enable Hybrid ways of working are:-
Clarify What do You Mean by Hybrid
In most organizations leaders feel sometimes working from office and sometimes working from home is the only way to define Hybrid Workplace. However, that is just one way to look at working options.
Working from home permanently is also an option in the same organisation and working from office 100% could also be an option.
The gift of this definition lies in the business context, operating model, tools available to make these options possible within the organisational framework and resources.
Primary survey conducted by CISCO for post-COVID Office operations revealed that 58%employees said that they would like to come to the office 8 or more days a month.
Overall a combination of multiple types of working options essentially means Hybrid ways of working where no one size fits all.
Provide Proper Tools and Infrastructure for Virtual Teams to Deliver
Given those multiple ways of delivery will experiment, it is important that as employers we offer what it takes for employees to be connected and remain accessible.
This not only enhances virtual productivity but also clears any frustrating hygiene factors that hinder delivery. Furthermore, the survey says 98% express that technology challenges distract them from smooth interactions at work.
Before we allow for work from home and demand productivity numbers, we need to self-evaluate our infrastructure and build realistic plans and asks from teams.
Create More Flexibility in the workplace Culture
Support and trust teams to perform. A survey conducted by EY found two-thirds of team leaders have needed to work outside of standard working hours to find time to focus.
Reasons for this include unscheduled calls and urgent requests, coaching team members, answering emails, and dealing with home distractions and childcare.
While high-performing teams need to constantly deliver quality results, leaders need to encourage time-out, stop back-to-back meetings, improve delegation and trust in outcomes. Coach and mentor instead of micromanaging outcomes.
Wellbeing and Safety
Check in on how the teams are doing, what support do people need? How can we help each other? These are all relevant wellbeing questions that need to be constantly prioritized and understood by employers in order to drive healthy work environments.
For teams that do not have scope to work from home due to the nature of their work like front line sales teams, field teams, we need to ensure that their safety and well being is prioritized and we will do everything it takes to keep them safe be it insurance, financial aid, safety measures etc.
Trust is the key to high-performing teams. Prioritizing and repurposing resources to manage this topic is a huge shift we all need to make as employers as we move to Hybrid ways of working.
Reimagine Office Spaces
If fewer people come to office and offices are less occupied despite full headcount, we know that we need to creatively think about shaping office layouts that not only have a cost impact but also have an impact on in-office engagement.
Over 51% of employees from across the business in a survey conducted by Zoom said they would like to do small project meetings in the office but would like to attend large town halls, gatherings virtually and that’s a mindset shift.
We need to design an office with collaboration spaces, small project meetings and effective seating.
Inclusive Leadership Behaviour
According to Harvard Business Review, what leaders say and do makes up to a 70 percent difference as to whether an individual reports feeling included.
Despite this, only one in three leaders holds an accurate view of their inclusive leadership capabilities. Just by being empathetic and listening, leaders can make environments around them 25% more inclusive.
We need to ensure leaders are coached and educated to understand the nuances of inclusion versus being a popular leader.
A study by N. J. Adler says that as a leader, ‘it’s your job to create an environment in which all individuals feel empowered to express their opinions freely with the group. Pay close attention to whose perspectives are missing from discussions and make consistent efforts to include them.
Psychological safety has long been the underlying concern for the lack of good perspective on the table, more importantly now in virtual teams. The engagement of a team is a reflection of a leader’s inclusive behaviour.
There is no recipe to a successful working model, the proof lies in the experimentation of a blended way of working and learning from mistakes to imagine a workplace that can evolve with changing context.