The remote -hybrid working model was thrust upon us during the pandemic and organizations and their staff made it work – because they had to.
As a range of factors including the Great Resignation and the rise in volume of Tech Jobs contributed to the vast tech talent gap, remote working is no longer a temporary fix; for some organizations it has become the preferred model to help them to gain an advantage in the industry-wide fight for talent. And even for the most reluctant companies, remote working is not something that they can choose to offer if they want to be a competitive employer; it is a necessity.
This shift toward remote and hybrid working has had an inevitable impact on the office and how managers oversee their employees. Organizations have to be open to hybrid models and ensure that they support both in-office and at-home staff equally. Getting the balance right can be a challenge, but there are some things that organizations can do to aid the transition.
1. Get a head of remote
The formal move to remote/hybrid is not without its challenges. While the shift during the pandemic was a reaction to an unavoidable situation, it is important that hybrid/remote in this climate is recognized as a clear strategic maneuver designed to optimize output and bolster the workforce.
Juggling the requirements of individual team members can be challenging enough, without further diversifying needs by throwing in remote working, too. Staff members who are used to working in the office may need some targeted management in the early days in order to create good work practice.
By hiring a head or remote, you are demonstrating strategic commitment to your hybrid model and workforce, as well as ensuring that productivity remains high and remote workers’ needs are met, without diverting resources from the office.
2. Promote flexibility
The switch between office, home and hybrid is determined by necessity first and preference second. You may prefer to have their staff in the office for all, or most, of the time. So, if you want to encourage hybrid workers to make the most of their office time, you need to make their office environment flexible.
This means ensuring that hybrid workers are well accommodated on their workdays in the office, whatever day that may be – no squeezing onto someone else’s desk or working whilst being stared down by a coworker’s framed picture of their pet.
Your head of remote can help to encourage flexibility without any desk clashes through light-touch supervision and great communications. Innovative desk setups, including soundproof booths, long, communal workstations and less formal meeting areas also remove some of the territorial complications associated with hotdesking.
3. Evaluate your review and monitoring processes – and ensure complete transparency of expectations
All employees are different, and they all thrive in different environments. The key to being a great employer is to understand what those environments are, and help your employee to access them. Some organizations are fixated on hours on the screen or at the desk, regardless of how much work is actually done. A seasoned home worker will argue that one hour homeworking is equal to two in the office; no distractions, no chatting at the coffee machine, no popping out during the lunch hour. On the flipside, a committed office worker will assert that there are too many distractions at home and will struggle to get motivated.
The optimal environment for a person to work depends on their level of discipline and self-motivation, as well as their introversion or extroversion. Most offices have that one person who works brilliantly, but just can’t help getting sucked into an hour-long conversation at the water cooler. They get paid the same hourly rate whether they are at work chatting, or at work working. It is, therefore, essential that employees and employers alike know what is expected of them both in the office and at home.
For both remote and office workers, most complications can be avoided via the clear communication of targets and expectations, as well as clarity on how these will be evaluated and reviewed. Instead of making sure that a home worker clicks, types or scrolls every thirty seconds, you are likely to gain far more value by evaluating the quantity and quality of their work. Plus, by implementing clear expectations you are promoting a transparent, healthy work environment which will in turn lead to a happier, more productive workforce.
4. Think before you meet
The pandemic had a huge impact on in-person meetings, and the effect remains to an extent. Trans-global organizations who thought nothing of flying overseas employees in for relatively brief meetings have transformed the way that they work, saving large sums on travel expenses and time, as well as significantly reducing their carbon footprint.
There is a time and a place for meetings and they can be incredibly valuable, but before you meet, it can help to conduct a brief triage:
- Is the meeting for a purpose other than management/team leadership? Meetings can be a valuable team resource, but they are no substitute for constant management oversight. In fact, regular team meetings can promote a less than thorough management approach, as they tick the oversight box, while in fact potentially letting performance issues go unnoticed.
- Does the meeting have a clear agenda and outcomes? If the organizer isn’t clear on what they want to get out of the meeting, then objectives are unlikely to be achieved, and valuable meeting time will be wasted. If the only objective is to get the team together, it is better framed as team building or a workshop activity.
- Does the meeting HAVE to be in person? Some meetings, such as workshops, are much more productive when held in person. However, some meetings can be conducted just as well online.
- This triage process means that when you do have an in-person meeting, your team will know that it is important and targeted, resulting in a better turn out and higher impact. It will also ensure that those working off site are not included and are given plenty of time to plan to be in the office.
- Ensure open channels of communication
Communication is central to all good management, and is the best path to ensure outstanding performance from your team. Make sure that the managers’ communication with remote and office staff is: frequent but not overbearing -touch base at least once a day, even if it is just to say “good morning”; consistent – make sure that all managers are aware of the level of communication required to oversee staff, and that all staff know what to expect in terms of reporting and communications, as well as what is expected of them; two-way – give employees clear guidelines of how and when they are expected to communicate with their manager, how they can feed back concerns or questions, and what their chain of command is.
With multiple media channels, from group chats to instant messages and emails, it can be easy for communications to be missed. By ensuring that communication channels are clear and open, you can effectively supervise your hybrid workforce.
People may have thought that remote working was a temporary, albeit not ideal, solution to a global problem. However, to a certain extent it worked. For some employees, working from home was more productive, and the spare time in each day that would have been spent commuting helped contribute to work/life balance. For employers, remote working helped to reduce office overheads and meant that they could recruit talent from further afield, a valuable opportunity in a competitive time. Now the onus is on employers and employees alike to make sure that they make hybrid/remote work for them, now and in the future.