Hybrid working– a new way of working
Thanks to the amazing roll-out of the UK’s vaccination programme, along with the Government’s gradual lifting of restrictions, it feels like the country is slowly starting to return to normal.
As a result, business owners are having to think about what this means for their employees and what the new world of work will look like.
The suggestion seems to be that a new ‘hybrid’ or blended working environment will be the new norm. In other words, part continuing to work from home, and part working from the place of work. Clearly this will not be the case for every business sector. For instance, retail, hospitality, leisure, along with many other business sectors would simply not operate if the team were working partially from home.
Nevertheless, for many businesses this new hybrid way of working is an option. As a result, business owners need to think about putting in place strategies, as well as managing a change of mindset if this new working environment is to thrive and be successful, not only for the employer but also for employees.
So, what will this mean for business owners? What will they need to consider and put in place as part of a hybrid workplace strategy? Here are some ideas to consider:
1 – A change in mindset -reinventing the workplace culture
Employers and employees will need to change their mindset from the old style of working to this new environment. There will be a bigger focus on communication and trust, both of which will need to be actively managed.
Employers will need to create a culture where both people and performance can thrive at the same time – staff wellbeing, particularly mental wellbeing will be the key to successful hybrid teams.
2 – Communication
The way employers/employees communicate has massively changed during the pandemic. Leaders should think about implementing a communication plan that sets out:
- How people communicate
- How often people should communicate
- How quickly people are expected to respond
There will need to be a continuing emphasis on video conferencing as a way of communicating effectively, as well as ensuring that meetings are conducted online even for those that have returned to the office, so that those working from home feel included.
3 – Development of managers:
Business owners will need to reassess their current teams to ensure current team leaders/managers are best suited for managing virtual teams. Good characteristics for managers in the new hybrid world will include humility, self-awareness, willingness to learn, and appreciation for others.
4 – Review Work processes
To fully understand any potential difficulties, along with working preferences and experiences by every employee and team member, business owners will need to conduct a listening exercise to review team logistics. The outcomes of these listening sessions will help to form how the team will operate going forward.
Business owners will need to ensure that any discussions take place in a safe environment, so that all employees feel comfortable sharing aspects of their personal situations.
By reviewing existing work process, business owners will be able to re-design work processes that suit both office and home working. A range of flexible working arrangements such as job shares, compressed hours, flexible start and end times could be offered to suit both the employer and the employee.
5 -Time Management
Business owners should look to synchronise work schedules where possible. This can be achieved by setting optimal times for meetings that suit both the team and the business. This will help to set everyone’s expectations.
6 – Project Management
Consider implementing a suitable Project Management software tool to allow both individuals and teams to track and progress tasks as well as accounting for any outcomes. There are many good project management tools out their including Monday.com and Asana.com – check them out and find one that works for you.
7 – Clarification of roles
You will need to be able to track teams, tasks, progress and results; as well as have ‘people managers’ who can answer questions, provide feedback, raise concerns and support training & development.
This will be important going forward, and business owners may decide to appointment someone within the team to specifically help manage this process.
8 – Contractual implications of hybrid working
Hybrid working could lead to a formal change to the terms and conditions of employment. Business owners must understand the potential implications and perhaps review all employment contracts as part of the process.
9 – Training and Development
Review and update Training and Development plans so they reflect the new working environment. Ensure that these training plans cover the following:
- Effective communication
- Building collaboration
- Managing change
- Performance Management process
- Career development
- Team and relationship building and collaboration within hybrid teams
- Technology Skills
- Onboarding including diversity, inclusion, and employee engagement within a geographically distributed team
- Mental health & wellbeing support
Update staff handbooks and other information and guidance, and where needed arrange for additional training including for you as the business owner.
10 – Systems and Equipment
A review of systems and equipment will be important, as well as ensuring appropriate security measures for data integrity are in place.
11.- Health and Safety
As the business owner you are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of your team whether they are ‘in work’ or working from home. You therefore need to review your teams’ home-working environment and make sure it complies with all health and safety requirements.
12 – Fairness and Equality
Identify areas where inequalities could develop. Ensure the new strategy you are putting in place provides equality within the team whether working from the office or home. And make sure all employees have ongoing access to career development conversations.
This new hybrid/blended way of working will take time to embed and for people to adjust – employers and employees will need to be realistic.
This process will take time and may need revisiting and refining over time. Remember it is a work in progress and should be open to change where necessary.
It feels like a ‘brave new world’ and for many business owners not a little daunting. But with time and a continual review of the points mentioned above, there is no reason why this new way of working won’t enable businesses to not only survive but thrive in the months ahead.