The hybrid work model is here to stay, and the way organizations shape their new work models in early 2022 will influence the structure of the workforce for many years to come. It’s becoming clear that the most practical approach for larger companies is a combination of remote and in-person structure, focused on high engagement, connection, and collaboration.
Your goal for the first quarter of 2022 should be to create a work environment that is valuable for both those working in the office and those working remotely, while recognizing that the two experiences will never be the same. Your office structure 2.0 must also address pain points created by the pandemic, like video meeting fatigue and feeling disconnected from colleagues.
Creating a successful hybrid workforce takes planning, but these five resolutions can help ensure that you are on the right track:
1. Decide if your teams will work synchronously or asynchronously
There are upsides and downsides to both synchronous and asynchronous work models. Working asynchronously can provide tremendous flexibility to your teams and allow you to recruit across multiple time zones. However, it can also lead to feelings of isolation and a constantly interrupted workflow. Synchronous teams may be more productive, but working uniform hours doesn’t offer the flexibility that many job seekers crave after almost two years of non-traditional work.
If you are considering committing to an entirely asynchronous model, remember that you may be halfway there. You likely have already integrated asynchronous communication tools like Slack and Loom into your everyday routine. But when your teams are accustomed to working asynchronously you must be deliberate about scheduling those rare but key live meetings to get the most out of your face time.
2. Build a robust virtual infrastructure, including training
A top-of-the-line suite of virtual tools is worthless if your teams don’t know how to take advantage of it or if they have to guess about appropriate tech etiquette. If you are planning to commit to remote work, do so fully to ensure that working at home or in the office feels seamless.
You might not need to add more software into your hybrid workflow, but you should maximize the capabilities of the software you already have. For example, create a collaborative calendar for your team members to mark when they will be in the office or when they are working from home and update it regularly.
Go a step further by making the expectations for your hybrid teams clear. How quickly is it expected that you return instant messages? Are your employees responsible for responding to pings after close of business? How long is it appropriate to wait for a response before moving on to the next task? Confusion about questions and answers that may have been obvious in a traditional work environment can lead to breakdowns in productivity if they are not addressed. Train your employees, old and new, on how to use your hybrid tools in a way that makes sense for your organization.
3. Know when it's time to plan an out-of-office event
Many employees reported increased feelings of burnout and work-related stress during the pandemic, so getting out of the office just for fun can provide a much-needed reprieve from daily tasks. But it is important to know when it’s the right time to plan an office outing.
If your teams are stretched thin trying to meet deadlines, an afternoon off work devoted to team bonding might actually add more stress than it alleviates. Work to ensure that your teams’ daily needs are met before planning time to step away from work. Finally, be open to feedback and address concerns as they come.
4. Focus on flexibility
Much of what employees like about WFH is the flexibility to handle necessary non-work-related tasks with less stress. For example, when the cable technician comes to fix your Wi-Fi or your child is home sick, you don’t need to take time off or leave the office.
Ask yourself how you can maintain this flexibility in your new workplace model. As you scale, build your culture based on trust.
5. Don't leave behind the empathy you gained for your colleagues
During the pandemic, many of us had a daily glimpse inside each other’s homes. Work became more personal as we watched our colleagues step beyond their titles and act as pet owners, parents, and caretakers. Our empathy and appreciation for our teams grew, making us more thoughtful and connecting us in a different way.
As you plan and execute a hybrid office model for your organization, be careful not to leave this newfound appreciation behind. Cultivate a mindful office culture that continues to respect your employees as whole people – with passions, challenges, and talents that go beyond their job descriptions. Your hybrid workforce and your amazing teams are counting on it.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
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