7 hybrid work best practices for IT leaders

In the hybrid work era, IT leaders have special roles to play in developing culture and best practices for the whole organization – starting with their own teams
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As IT leaders help their organizations move from a remote to a hybrid work environment, they will also be navigating these uncharted waters with their own IT teams. As a result, IT must quickly establish its own hybrid work culture and hybrid work best practices – both to maximize its own internal efficiency and to act as a testbed for other parts of the larger organization.

Plenty of challenges await in the realms of fairness, communication norms, tools, and related matters.

Plenty of challenges await in the realms of fairness, communication norms, tools, and related matters. Consider these seven best practices when establishing your IT organization's near-term and long-term hybrid work policies and environment.

7 hybrid work best practices for leaders

1. Create employee work-from-home and work-in-office location criteria

The goal: IT employees believe the work-from-home policy makes good business sense, is fair to everyone, is consistently implemented, and will not cause IT employee attrition.

The tip: Create a clear and concise policy stating who is and who is not eligible to work from home based on employee input and business necessity. Make sure the policy IT minimizes manager discretion and "wiggle room" that could cause the policy to be implemented inconsistently.

[ Want a primer on hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? Read also: Hybrid work: 4 best practices for fairness. ]

2. Move toward a "one team, any location" internal culture, processes, and best practices

The goal: Create a single company culture regardless of physical work location, thus avoiding the potential of a bifurcated culture pitting in-office and at-home employees against each other.

The tip: Through the combination of senior management edict, mid-manager and first-line manager agreement, and proper training, all management-based employee decisions such as employee task assignment, training, promotional opportunities, and compensation increases must be decided fairly and equitably regardless of physical location.

3. Define required communication channels and usage

Use IT as a testbed for new company-wide communication products and processes.

The goals: Maximize internal IT employee communication. Use IT as a testbed for new company-wide communication products and processes. Position IT as the internal thought leader on employee-to-employee communication.

The tip: Define and use a single IT integrated communication toolset that allows IT to become true "user experts" on the technologies they are providing to the rest of the organization.

[ Where is your team's digital transformation work stalling? Get the eBook: What's slowing down your Digital Transformation? 8 questions to ask. ]

4. Enforce in-office/at-home IT employee communication timing and expectations

The goal: Ensure that employees working from home feel that they are being heard and taken seriously by their in-office counterparts.

The tip: Employees working from home tend to return emails faster than employees working in the office because they have the ability to multi-task during virtual meetings. Establish a policy of no "meeting multitasking" regardless of physical location, thus placing at-home and in-office workers on a more even playing field regarding returning email correspondence.

5. Use hybrid meeting best practices

The goal: Provide at-home meeting participants with an equal footing during meetings containing both in-office and at-home employees.

The tip: Install webcams and TV-size screens in all conference rooms, allowing virtual employees to both see and be seen during the meeting rather than just being heard on a speakerphone.

6. Implement "hoteling" and/or "hot-desking" processes

The goal: Have a cost-effective place for virtual employees to work on days when they physically go to the office.

The tip: Create hoteling and/or hot-desking processes. Hoteling is when a specific set of offices, cubes, and/or conference rooms are set aside for use by virtual employees and must be required to reserve prior to coming to the office. This is like how you would reserve a conference room in advance for a meeting.

Hot-desking is similar to hoteling, except reservations are not required, they are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, the available office space includes all empty cubes, offices, conference rooms, and other workspaces within the office.

7. Establish home-office physical and technical requirements

The goal: Maximize employee health and at-home productivity by requiring an ergonomic and productive at-home work environment.

The tip: Now that IT employees have the ability to return to the office, IT leadership should include at-home physical and technical requirements as part of their overall at-home policy. Having high-speed internet and an ergonomic chair and desk is one example.

Moving employees back to the office is proving to be much more complex and problematic than it was to initially have your IT staff work from home. A primary reason: While the move home was required by law and necessity, the move back to the office is strictly a management decision.

As a result, whatever choices you make will be scrutinized by your staff – and all others affected by your decisions. I hope these seven best practices will help you navigate the journey to a successful hybrid workplace environment.

[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]

Eric Bloom
Eric Bloom is the Executive Director of the IT Management and Leadership Institute, the governing body of the ITMLP and ITMLE leadership certifications, and a leading provider of IT leadership, interpersonal communication and business skills training.

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