By Raf Uzar, Penteris
The terms “leadership” and “leader” have almost become throw-away terms today with a whole plethora of professionals ready to offer advice on how to progress, improve, and develop in being a “leader”. Yet times have changed and the demands on leaders are very different now from what they were some 30 to 40 months ago. Online and hybrid working is now part of the workplace environment and coping with this new demand – this new standard – is part of the leadership remit.
Understanding hybrid and knowing exactly why you want your business to implement it is the key to making it successful. Are you offering a remote work arrangement in order to pay lip service to the growing swarm of irritated employees demanding more flexibility or are you genuinely interested in providing staff with the opportunity to mold and shape their working environment?
The dynamic between employer and employee is fundamental to planning for a labor market that has been tainted by “The Great Resignation” (or “The Big Quit”, if you prefer). Gallup research from 2021 suggests that 48% of working Americans are actively jobhunting; 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.
The Great Resignation tells us that employees are not adequately supported and that employees crave more flexible working hours. We need to tackle both these needs to be successful leaders.
“In a recent survey 64% of employees at top companies said they would forgo a $30,000 raise if it meant they didn’t have to return to the offce.” (Kalev & Dobbin, Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2022)
Therefore, nurturing a workplace open to remote working must go handin- hand with supporting staff. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPID) in the UK points to seven strategies that can make hybrid working successful and also create an employee-support culture:
(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 taskrelated communication
- Develop more deliberate taskrelated 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 faceto- 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 coworking with other teams
- Encourage inter-team relationships and networking at 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 – deciding 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:
(1) What do we wish to achieve through hybrid working?
(2) Where are we right now in the process?
(3) Which skills and tools are needed to facilitate the implementation of a hybrid workplace that is inclusive of online and offine employees?
(4) Who are the key stakeholders that will lead, influence, and implement the rollout?
(5) What kind of data will help us monitor the effectiveness of hybrid working?
(6) 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 simply not work.
A conversation or questionnaire 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 open the channels of communication between employer and employees 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 and 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.
The challenges that leaders now face are often different. Recent research tells us that hybrid working done well leads to an increase in wellbeing, an improvement in inclusion, and an uptake in collaboration.
“Covid-19 provided the ultimate proof of the concept that firms can remain effcient while allowing employees more leeway in where and when they do their work: Even though millions switched to flexible and remote work arrangements during the pandemic, productivity didn’t decline.” (Kalev & Dobbin, Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2022)
Published: GGI Insider, No. 121, September 2022 l Photo: netsay - stock.adobe.com