27 September 2023

Navigating the shift to hybrid working

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Dan Schawbel believes that hybrid will be the dominant form of working in the future — but managing the transition won’t be without its challenges.

With the end of the pandemic drawing closer, more organisations are looking to what comes next.

Research shows that eight out of 10 will move to a hybrid work model of some kind.

However, while hybrid working is popular with many employers and employees, the transition to it can be far from smooth.

There will be scheduling questions, issues of fairness, and conundrums about the best use of physical office space.

Some research suggests that employees may want to work remotely more days per week than their employers would wish.

In addition, the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome sometimes crops up where employees working from home feel they are missing out on the in-office experience.

Then those in the office feel they are missing the flexibility and autonomy that comes from working remotely.

How do you navigate this brave new corporate world? Is it possible to accelerate your team to today’s new hybrid reality? I believe it is.

Over the past decade, I’ve conducted research with dozens of organisations on every workplace topic imaginable.

I’ve also written extensively about workplace issues — and truly, I maintain that going hybrid is one of the most important trends of our time.

Get it right, and your organisation will save money and benefit from having more satisfied and productive workers.

In a work context, there are many different versions of hybrid — one size definitely does not fit all.

Depending on the size of the organisation and the work involved, the version of hybrid may even vary from team to team.

Some employers are allowing their people to work whenever or wherever they’d like.

Others require a specific number of days in the office each week.

Some have stated that they’ll base their arrangements on a person-by-person, team-by-team basis.

Amazon, for example, recently confirmed that it will leave the return-to-work decisions to its individual team leaders.

Done right, hybrid brings together the best of both the remote and in-person experience while increasing employee happiness.

This, in turn, leads to higher retention and productivity.

Hybrid can also save a fortune on real-estate costs, it enables you to compete for the best talent, and it allows you to be more agile.

With all of these benefits, it’s imperative to get it right, yet few organisations feel confident they will.

In fact, right now two out of three lack a detailed strategy for handling the shift to hybrid.

The pandemic provided us all with a grand experiment in remote work, and most organisations discovered this set-up worked far better than they ever imagined.

I believe hybrid will be the way most employers of the future operate, and those who embrace it will enjoy a clear advantage in tomorrow’s workplace.

One crucial action is the creation of the right technology.

You may need to upgrade your tech so that all members of the team have an easy, stress-free way to communicate with each other no matter where they are located.

Whether you’re convening a meeting, brainstorming using white boards, or working together on a shared document, the correct technology choices can help make the experience more seamless for all.

So, achieving a best-in-class hybrid approach will require some trial and error and you should anticipate you might not get it perfect at first.

There will be a learning curve that your organisation faces along with individual learning curves that can vary greatly.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to review your hybrid model every few months and make any needed adjustments accordingly.

There’s no question that the modern hybrid workplace requires new skills.

You will need to learn how to manage its complexities while honing remote and in-person strategies to bolster connection, collaboration, and engagement.

Once you get up to speed, you will need to train and develop your team members, and then provide a way to on-board new employees remotely.

However, if you’re up for the challenge getting hybrid right improves engagement, productivity, and retention.

*Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future.

This article is part of his Workplace Intelligence Weekly series.

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