While we may not know exactly what's coming in 2022, it's safe to say at this point that hybrid work is certainly here to stay. While it offers some clear benefits, it also comes with some unique challenges. At Rhythm Systems, we have been using a hybrid work model for 15-years, where some team members work in the office some days and at home other days, some are fully remote, and a handful typically work in the office each day. The only way this model is successful is if it is a win-win for both the company and the team.
Here's what you need in place to make flexible hybrid-work work for both your company and your team.
1. CLEAR ROLES AND GOALS
This is important in any company, but if your hybrid work model is going to succeed, it is absolutely essential to ensure that everyone knows what each person on the team is accountable for, exactly what to focus their time and energy working on, and how their success will be measured. People can only self-manage toward the right outcomes if they know what those are. Not establishing clarity around roles and goals in a hybrid environment will set you up for wasted energy, duplication of effort, time burned in unnecessary meetings, anxiety, uncertainty, dissatisfaction, missed deadlines, poor execution, and dismal results that could lead to team member turnover, customer churn, and lost revenue.
How do you get clear on roles and goals? We recommend using simple Job Scorecards to clearly establish and communicate what each role's purpose is, the key responsibilities they are accountable for, and the desired results (with KPIs to measure each). If each person is able to view their role on one simple page, it cuts through the clutter and allows them to focus on their highest, most valuable contribution to the team, no matter where they are working.
For goal clarity, we recommend following a planning process that enables the executive team to connect company goals for the next quarter with strategic initiatives to move the company's longer-term goals forward. Then, the company's plan cascades to each department and team, and each individual links their 90-day goals up to the team plans. Each goal should be well-written with a verb to make it clear what they are doing, have start and end dates and a clear owner, and have Red-Yellow-Green success criteria to make the desired outcome explicit. Leave nothing up to interpretation - ensure each person has clear goals, understands what success looks like, and can articulate how those goals ladder up to the company's strategy.
2. WELL-DESIGNED MEETING RHYTHMS
When you are not in the same office, some leaders tend to over-compensate by scheduling lots of meetings to "check-in," but this can be disastrous for team health and productivity. If your team spends all day on back-to-back Zoom calls, squeezing a couple of email responses in between, there is little time left to accomplish day-job tasks much less strategic or creative work that requires focused thinking time. Forgoing meetings altogether is also a mistake; if you aren't in a regular cadence, it's easy to get misaligned, miss opportunities for collaboration, and sacrifice team cohesiveness and health.
We've developed a rhythm of work that most companies find extremely effective. This includes an annual meeting for strategic planning, quarterly execution planning meetings to map out the next 90 days, weekly team meetings to align and adjust as needed throughout the quarter, and daily huddles to sync up quickly. But, each team is different and hybrid work presents unique challenges. The right cadence for your team will vary - the important thing is to ensure you are intentional about the right rhythm. At least once a year, conduct a "meeting audit" to avoid slipping into patterns that no longer serve a purpose.
3. STRONG COMPANY CULTURE
For a hybrid work setting to be effective, the foundation of trust and mutual respect must be in place. If your workplace culture is highly competitive and secretive, hybrid work could lead to more anxiety and burnout with everyone working all hours trying to outdo one another. If you haven't established trust and modeled good boundaries, people could be fearful and guarded. If the leaders say one thing and do another - telling people not to check in after hours but answering emails late into the evening themselves or encouraging others to take time off while never actually using any vacation time, for example - people will not believe they are sincere and will be reluctant to take time to recharge, leaving themselves vulnerable to burnout. Without trust and mutual respect, team members may not accurately report results or leaders may be tempted to micromanage.
Each company is different, but trust and respect are table stakes for being able to have happy, productive flexible workers. Whatever your company's unique values and traditions, you will need to be very intentional to create ways for those to come to life in hybrid work culture. You may value having fun together - don't focus all your energy on having fun with people in the office. How can you create experiences for remote workers to have fun, too?
4. THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY
Invest in the right tools to make your team successful. Team members who work from home (or switch between home and office) should have an optimized workspace just like full-time office workers. Ensure their laptops, internet connections, etc. are just as good at home. Outfit your office conference room with high-quality videoconferencing technology so your remote team members dialing in have a good experience with team meetings. Invest in the right tech stack - don't go overboard with too many software tools that confuse people, focus on the essentials. In my opinion, those include a remote meeting platform, cloud-based file sharing, collaboration tools, goal management, and any function-specific tools. Remote workers should be able to access information and each other as easily as team members in the office.
If you've got these four essentials in place, you have the necessary ingredients for successful hybrid work. If you've experimented with hybrid work and it didn't work out the way you expected, which of these elements may have been missing?
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