We recently ran an in-house webinar for a large global client with staff in all time zones.  People have worked remotely for years and are mostly comfortable doing so, but hybrid work post Covid, even for this organisation, is recognised as a new form of working requiring dedicated consideration to ensure best outcomes.  Work processes, systems and contracts are being re-designed to fit the “new hybrid” for all types of job role. The webinar on hybrid working we ran gave managers an opportunity for frank discussion of challenges as well as opportunities.

Some tips for Hybrid Working

There is no one size fits all

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has accelerated a trend to hybrid working and that this has been fully embraced by some companies and rejected roundly by others. Each organisation must find its own working balance of remote to co-located work, based on its unique situation. This balance is needed to for healthy employees, healthy relationships and a healthy work environment.

Culture is what we make of it

Whatever your size of organisation, you need to consciously manage and develop the kind of culture that you want to have.  How will this be different to what was the “norm” pre-covid?  What has shifted? Be aware that ongoing remote work in the hybrid model will magnify fragmentation, confusion and dissonance.

The Virtual Distance model proved helpful in this context.

Virtual Distance is a measure of what is lost when the human is translated through the machine. It’s the emotional detachment felt (often unconsciously) when we don’t meet face-to-face and caused by the persistent and pervasive use digital communication. The greater the virtual distance the team has, the more difficult it is to work which affects high performance and innovation.  By examining the factors that make up Virtual Distance, we can reduce those barriers and find ways of re-connecting what has become unstuck.  It’s crucial to find time for real conversations, one-on-one, not just to be updated on tasks, but to find out how your people are coping, really.

One way to reduce the feeling of disconnect is to create more clarity about organisational (or team) purpose, mission and values.  When people are working from a distance it’s easy to lose a sense of meaning – why is your work important, for whom and how does this connect to the bigger picture?  Can everyone bring their best selves to work (regardless of where their workplace may be on a particular day)?

The manager’s role

Recent research emphasises that post-covid, developing “empathy-driven leaders” is rated as the top requirement for the current and future leaders. Successful managers will prioritise people over process, create transparency and embrace a growth mindset. This has always been the case but is now all the more critical with a population fatigued by the pandemic.

The style best suited to managing hybrid is a coaching one.  Practiced well it encourages people to learn and grow in skill and autonomy. This requires understanding individual needs through questioning, listening and sharing.  It is moreover a style which helps create clarity, transparency and accountability. The manager needs to spend time with individuals and at the same time never lose sight of the team as a whole.  You can’t pander to all whims (and will be unlikely to keep everyone happy all of the time).  During the pandemic, working from home was mandated for many, now it may be a choice.  Be clear, as a manager, about what you are within your rights to insist upon – sometimes you need to have everyone in the room at the same time so that working from home cannot always be an option.  Research shows the best format for creative problem-solving, brain-storming and handling sensitive topics is when we are gathered together in person.

Whatever our situation in this post-pandemic era, it is likely not to be “normal” or a return to previous working practices, but the beginning of something new with the potential of being much greater than what was before.  We hope you will be able to adopt best practices of hybrid work while finding creative ways to deal with the challenges.

We are here to support you to develop empathy-driven leaders and to build your values-based culture.

Get in touch here to request a webinar on hybrid working.

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