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Date posted: 12th January 2023

12th January 2023

It’s Here to Stay, But How Well is Your Hybrid Model Working?

It’s Here to Stay, But How Well is Your Hybrid Model Working?

The hybrid working model, popularised by the Covid Pandemic, seems as though it is here to stay.

Employees certainly seem to hope so with Gallup reporting that 9 out of 10 employees that have remote capable jobs want to work either fully remote or hybrid.

However, business leaders must not be complacent when it comes to health checking their hybrid model and in this article, Alexandra Samuel offers six signs to look out for.

From the Wall Street Journal article:

Managers are out of sync with their teams

If managers are spending a lot more time in the office than their teams are—or a lot less—you have a problem.

For one thing, if your boss spends most of the time in the office, even though the official line is that you’re welcome to spend two days a week at home…well, it’s hard not to feel uneasy about working remotely. This situation is a recipe for employees commuting full time, and feeling resentful about it, or conversely, looking for a new job, with a boss who truly embraces hybrid work.

But it can be even worse if the boss is in the office less than the rest of the team. When you have to be in the office four days a week, but the boss is only there for two, it feels unfair—even when that discrepancy is directly related to the nature of your work and responsibilities.

Video calls persist for on-site employees

If your hybrid approach isn’t reducing the volume of video calls, it is a sign that you’re failing to make the most of your staff’s in-office, face-to-face time, or that you are making people come into the office for no reason. After all, why make people trudge to the office if they are just going to spend yet another day on video calls?

One solution is to align the on-site hours of people who work together. Yes, that will reduce some individual flexibility. But many employees will happily exchange some flexibility for fewer video meetings. One other benefit: Fewer video calls means less Zoom fatigue.

Work hours are expanding

Maybe some executives still see 12-hour workdays as a badge of honor, but for a lot of employees, that just leads to burnout and resentment. And that’s one risk of a hybrid schedule, since days crammed full of video calls and meetings often push other work (like email, planning and report writing) into the wee hours.

It’s easy enough to find out: Your company’s email and text records can tell you if employees are online more than they ideally should be. (It’s crucial to look at average usage across entire departments or teams, not at individual workers, if you want to avoid the kind of surveillance that erodes employee trust.)

If your data shows email and messaging creeping past business hours, start by looking at your managers’ habits—again, looking at a group, not at individual users—to see if this is a top-down problem. When the boss is emailing at 9 p.m., it can be hard for rank-and-file workers to unplug and unwind.

It’s all business

Many business leaders worry about what hybrid work means for their company culture, because they think of culture as something that happens when people are gathered around a conference table or heading out for drinks after work. The truth is that hybrid teams can build relationships and trust both in person and remotely—but only if there’s room for play and exploration as well as for the job at hand.

When on-site days are so packed that there’s no time for social chitchat, or if the volume of online communications is so overwhelming that there’s no room to waste on a little personal news, it’s a sign that you haven’t left any space for bonding. That doesn’t mean you need to send your team off to a ropes course or add a GIF to every email. Instead, use the kind of strategies that help global teams connect across geographic and cultural distance: Leave the first or last minutes of every meeting for informal conversation; call remote colleagues on their birthdays; set up an always-on webcam in the break room so that off-site workers can drop in for a spontaneous visit with their on-site colleagues. Managers who share personal asides and take time to chat between meetings cue the whole team to value relationship-building.

People miss the pandemic

“Remember when we were all working remotely?” is a question that should ring an instant alarm. When you hear your employees waxing nostalgic for the days of full-time remote work, you know the return to the office has been less than a clear win.

No, you don’t need to return to pandemic-era working conditions: There’s good reason to reopen the office and tap into the benefits of on-site work. But pandemic nostalgia is a sign that employees aren’t seeing those benefits—at least, not at a level that offsets what they miss about full-time remote work. Dig into what they’re missing, and then look for ways to reduce workplace frustrations, whether that means subsidizing commuting costs, or creating interruption-free hours, or increasing benefits such as tastier snacks.

Your late adopters relapse

One positive effect of Covid? Even the most steadfast late adopters—the people who refused to use Google Docs, Slack, Microsoft Teams or really anything other than email—finally had to learn to use online collaboration tools, many of which are just as useful in the office as they are when working remotely.

Now that they are back in the office, at least part of the time, are they relapsing? Have they significantly reduced their use of digital collaboration tools? In that case, it is a sign that you haven’t found a sustainable, effective approach to distributed and hybrid teams. If part of your team has reverted to the physical exchange of paper, or at best whiteboards in the office, the hybrid team isn’t going to be as productive as you’d like.

The hybrid workplace, in other words, isn’t a free pass to go backward. Nor is it a free pass to throw out everything that worked before. It’s an opportunity to take what we learned during the pandemic and build something new, something better. And the first step in that process is to be honest about what isn’t working. And then fix it.

Read the full article, here.

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