The "new normal" is here... and for many companies, it involves hybrid work in which some team members work remotely at least part of the time. Many fast-growth companies, in particular, are shifting to a permanent hybrid model; Fortune cites the statistic that 63% of high-growth companies have hybrid work models. As reported by Forbes, the last year has disproven the myth that remote workers are not as productive; "The Accenture survey finds that 40% of individuals feel they can be productive and healthy anywhere — either fully remote or onsite or a combination of the two — as the hybrid workplace emerges."
Hybrid work presents workers and businesses with many challenges and opportunities. The number one mistake you can make as a leader is to treat this new model as business as usual. You can't say, "come into the office whenever you feel like it," and leave it at that. You have to design your hybrid work experience with intention. Here are some considerations:
Ensure you are providing resources and empowering people to do their best work from anywhere. Make sure team members who are working from home part of the week have everything they need to be successful in both the home and work environments. You may have to invest in laptops, extra monitors, etc. to ensure workers can be productive in either place. You may also have to reorganize workspaces in the office to ensure everyone has a place to sit when they come into the office, particularly if you've downsized your space or rearranged for more separation between workspaces.
Provide flexibility and clarity. Work with team leaders to determine the right structure for each department. Different roles may require more time in the office than others, and personal preferences, childcare concerns, or health issues could require others to spend more time at home. It may not make sense to issue blanket rules that apply across the board, but you do need to set some parameters and clarify what to expect; give people time to plan their return to work by letting them know if and when they are expected to be in the office and why. Ensure you are being as equitable as possible with the flexible arrangements. If you aren't able to be flexible for individuals, let them know why and be sure you are willing to accept that some people may leave for a different job that does allow more flexibility.
Be intentional about building trust and creating space for connection. After a year of lock-downs and remote work, your team may be feeling disconnected or isolated. Be sure you are building trust with team members by talking openly about concerns, asking directly about needs, and modeling safety and sensitivity in the workplace. In addition to helping people feel safe physically and emotionally, plan to help them connect socially and create time and space for collaboration. If some of your team is fully remote, don't exclude them from the connection and collaboration. You have to find ways to nurture and engage both remote and in-person employees.
Provide the technology tools to make it work. In addition to the hardware to be able to work from anywhere, you also need the software to manage a hybrid team. Typically this includes a virtual meeting platform, some kind of chat app, and asynchronous collaboration tools. The best companies use a strategy execution platform to keep aligned to the company's long-term goals and provide visibility into progress on key strategic priorities. Rhythm is a great tool to manage a hybrid work model. It levels the playing field so everyone has access to the same data and insights no matter where you are working. You can pick your projects up from anywhere and drill in to see how your team members are progressing on their priorities as well.
Embrace the perks. If you are shifting to a hybrid model, celebrate the benefits. Encourage team members to walk their dogs during lunch, or spend some extra time with their spouse during breaks at home, and when it's time to recruit, widen your scope to bring in the best talent from anywhere. When you are all together in the office, make it special; share a meal, offer free snacks or longer coffee breaks, maximize the time to collaborate, and build relationships in person. Build your hybrid culture by celebrating the benefits of both being home and in the office.
Having a structure for meetings and collaboration and keeping the organization aligned to strategic goals will help your company excel in the hybrid work world. At Rhythm Systems, we've had a hybrid work model since we started 14 years ago, and using our own tools and habits to stay on track and keep progress visible has been one of the keys to our success. If you're new to hybrid work or just looking for ways to do it better, I hope you'll check out what we can do for your team.
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