The key to unlocking “hybrid” is understanding the real reason for wanting to implement it. Are we offering a hybrid working arrangement to pay lip service to a growing swarm of irritated employees demanding more flexibility or are we genuinely interested in providing staff with the opportunity to mould and shape their working environment?
This dynamic – between the employer and employee – is fundamental to planning for a labour market trend that is now being dubbed “The Great Resignation” (or “The Big Quit”, if you prefer). Four million Americans decided to leave their jobs in September 2021. More pertinently, recent 2021 Gallup research suggests that 48% of working Americans are actively job-hunting; according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index for 2021 this figure is as high as 54% for Generation Z. Similar trends can be seen worldwide.
Peeling back the layers of the Great Resignation reveals (amongst others) two reasons for its genesis: (1) employees are not adequately supported; and (2) employees crave more flexible working hours. Tackling one without the other is like trying to treat an infectious pandemic-like virus with hot chicken soup – it may make you feel better but it won’t solve the problem.
Creating an environment conducive for hybrid working must go hand-in-hand with supporting employees. The UK’s CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) posits seven strategies to make hybrid working successful and also create an employee-support culture. This includes the need for organisations to:
(1) Develop the skills and culture needed for open conversations about wellbeing:
- Upskill managers to discuss wellbeing confidently
- Create an organisational focus on wellbeing
(2) Encourage boundary-setting and routines to improve wellbeing and prevent overwork:
- Establish boundaries and routines – and monitor them across the team
- Take breaks between video calls
- Notice signs of overwork
(3) Ensure effective coordination of tasks and task-related communication:
- Set clear objectives
- Calibrate the frequency of task-related communication
- Develop more deliberate task-related communication
(4) Pay special attention to creativity, brainstorming and problem-solving tasks:
- Take time to explore the functionality of the technological solutions
- Identify which tasks are more effective face-to-face
(5) Build in time – including face-to-face time – for team cohesion and organisational belonging:
- Creating common purpose across the organisation
- Building personal and team relationships online
- Building in face-to-face time, post-pandemic
- Timetabling co-located working within teams
(6) Facilitate networking and inter-team relationships:
- Create opportunities for co-working with other teams
- Encourage inter-team relationships and networking at the organisational level
(7) Organise a wider support network to compensate for the loss of informal learning:
- Recognise the points when learning needs are more intense
- Organise more structured development opportunities.
It is also practical to create “wellbeing champions” or “hybrid guardians” whose role it is to take responsibility for these strategies and help roll them out. However, a word of caution – getting to the nitty-gritty, for example, of who works online, with whom, and for how many times a week needs to be preceded by a detailed review of the current status quo and what should follow next:
- What do we wish to achieve through hybrid working?
- Where are we right now in the process?
- Which skills and tech tools are needed to facilitate the implementation of a truly hybrid ecosystem that is inclusive of both online and offline employees?
- Who are the key stakeholders that will lead, influence, and implement the hybrid skills rollout?
- What kind of data will help us monitor the effectiveness of hybrid working?
- When does implementation take place and how often does monitoring occur?
Taking a ‘quick-fix’ approach and offering an abundance of new apps without walking through the above process will certainly not cut the mustard. This invariably causes chaos rather than cultivate camaraderie.
A questionnaire or conversation can help gauge the sentiments of staff but it can also be a useful tool in clarifying the legal implications of hybrid working, suggesting possible policies and procedures, and sounding out plans and preparations. Keeping the channels of communication open between employer and employees throughout this process is not only a wonderful opportunity to build trust but can be key to repairing any disconnect that has built up in recent months.
There is no best model for hybrid working, no off-the-peg solution. Every organisation should adopt a system that seeks to support its own particular blend of personnel, tailoring hybrid to its own team’s needs. Some companies require a greater mix of online, some require greater monitoring, and not every team member is ever alike.
Although the challenges facing companies are often different, experience and research has informed us that hybrid working done well leads to an increase in wellbeing, an improvement in inclusion, and an uptake in collaboration and upskilling. So when do we start?
Head of Communication & Development, Penteris