Hybrid working is a flexible approach that allows team members to choose whether they work in the office or remotely. Doing so successfully requires changes to the approach to leadership as well as individual workflow, team processes and technology.
If you have decided that you would like to go ahead with implementing hybrid working, these are the key considerations to help you set up for success.
1. Leadership and communication
Allowing people to remain in control of the flexibility they desire has become the required norm. Ensuring your company is in a position to do this will be necessary to retain your people and keep them feeling valued.
Focus and clear direction
The first step in supporting hybrid teams is to establish how this will work in practice and then to communicate what is expected throughout the organisation.
The ideal scenario for most employees is to choose when they come into the office (or don’t). However, this may not be practical due to office size or the cost of maintaining a space if no one is there. So as a leader, in consultation with employees, you need to decide:
- Will people be able to choose whether they are in the office on any day?
- Do you need people to commit to certain days due to space limitations?
- Will there be certain days when everyone is expected to be in, for example for social events or all-of-company meetings, or will it be truly autonomous?
The removal of any impediments
Understand what the impediments to successful hybrid working might be, through a survey or through talking to people. Do teams have the tools and technology in place? Are they trained in these? Are they comfortable with remote meeting facilitation?
Prevent burn out
One of the risks identified by many people working from home is the blurring of boundaries between work and home life. Leaders need to help create an environment where impediments can be raised safely, where people are able to speak up when they have too much work on, and there is clear and aligned direction and boundaries across the leadership team so that all teams are following the same direction.
Leaders can help set up a positive culture in practical ways such as avoiding messaging or emailing outside of normal work hours to encourage employees to create boundaries around their working days too.
Having access to the right technology and tools will simplify the transition to hybrid working and remove the friction. Review your technology across the following four categories, ensuring that all tools are equally accessible remotely and in the office.
Management and reporting
Ensure the tools you use to plan, manage, track and report on the work you do. For example: Kanban boards in tools like Trello, project plans, gantt charts, Excel documents.
Communication and collaboration
The tools you use to interact and ideate with each other. For example: email, video conferencing, Slack, Microsoft Teams, instant messaging, digital whiteboards, Yammer, Miro, Mural.
The tools you use to store information, data and documentation. For example: Sharepoint, Microsoft Teams, Confluence, Intranet, paper records.
Business as usual
The tools we use to get our work done. For example: Microsoft Office suite, Google Docs, developer tools, the custom tools built just for your function, department or organisation.
Complete an audit of these tools asking:
- If you’re not in the office, are there gaps, or limits to the tools you currently use and do these limits prohibit you from working effectively?
- Does everyone know how to access each and use it as well as they need to?
- Is there any training required?
- Are tools standardised and communicated as part of a set of guidelines? For example, you may have one team using Slack for messaging and another using Teams. When they need to collaborate together, are they missing each other?
- Are you effectively filing and archiving your work in a way that will make life easier in the future?
- Do the tools take into account any accessibility requirements?
- Are tools fit for purpose whether working remotely, co-located or hybrid (a mix of both)?
3. Team dynamics
Hybrid teams who are efficient at communicating and collaborating are in a good place to achieve their outcomes, especially if they have a safe environment to continually learn.
One way that teams can ensure they have aligned purpose, deep connection to their stakeholders and a shared understanding of their norms and values is to use a tool such as a Hybrid Working Social Contract. This allows a team to agree what they’re working on, who they are working for, why they’re doing it, and how they best work together and support each other.
Access more information on the Hybrid Working Social Contract, including a template and information on running a session.
4. Hybrid meeting facilitation
For the organisation:
- Set up meeting rooms for success
Being 100% onsite is an exception, so all meetings need to work as well for the people at home as for the people who are in the same room. That means making it “remote first”. Do a trial with different types of meetings in different meeting rooms and create a plan for improvements for each room, for example you might need to invest in Polycom audio units.
- Ensure office bandwidth is adequate
It should enable video and audio to function without delays and glitches.
- Communicate about the technology available
Assign champions for each of the commonly used tools. Is someone a Miro whiz? Does someone else know how to do breakout rooms in Zoom? They might run training sessions or create simple how-to videos.
- Listen to the common complaints
Consider asking people to note issues they’ve experienced in a shared document and have someone in charge of collating and actioning these.
- Provide information or roadmaps on changes and improvements
Employees need to know that their experience may change, or that people are working on improvements behind-the-scenes.
For individuals or the meeting organiser:
- Ask yourself – is this meeting really needed or could it be an email?
- Strive for parity to make everything equally accessible for all.
- Keep interactions remote-first.
- Assign a ‘buddy’ to anyone working remotely.
- Ensure your invite has agenda, purpose and desired outcomes.
- Encourage cameras and lead by example.
- Shorten the meeting, or allow ‘in between’ time if it’s longer than an hour.
- Practice - trial and error will make it better in the long-term, so don’t be afraid to learn and be vulnerable to those who are attending your meeting; just let them know what’s going on.
- Being 100% onsite is an exception.
- Allow flexibility to be the new norm.
- Be consistent with the tools chosen.
- Involve employees in the planning; provide ways to give/receive feedback.
- Make practices, norms and expectations explicit.
- Understand micro-communications become the key mode of interaction.
- Be a leader in communicating what is expected.
- Continue remote practices, such as recording meetings.
- Recognise verbal communication takes precedence over non-verbal.
- Know that everything is not in your control.
After reading this, it’s likely you have some gaps that need addressing to enable employees to work more efficiently. See our case study that describes how Oxfam is tackling hybrid working for more tips.
Not all companies have the luxury of buying the new software they might need so we have a catalogue of free or discounted software to help you transition to a more effective hybrid work environment.