Workplace – Planning for a hybrid way of working
As businesses return to the workplace this week, the business pages seem to be full of news stories about either; companies giving their staff paid time off to avoid burn out after what has been described as a ‘tough’ year; or great debate around how companies are going to bring their employees back into the workplace using a variety of hybrid or flexible models. Over the last 18-months we have been asked to stay at home and for many this new approach to working has provided a better work/ life balance. What is clear from reading these articles, is that one size does not fit all and there are many things to consider.
What do we mean by a hybrid way of working?
A hybrid model way of working has perhaps been expedited as a result of the pandemic, it has been described as providing individuals with the flexibility to choose both the hours they work and the location. This can work to the advantage of both the employee and the organisation. For the employee, it can demonstrate a feeling of trust from the employer and enable them to work when they are at their most productive. For the organisation they get the best out of their teams by offering a little flexibility. For many, having had time over recent months to reflect on what is important to them, being able to work around other home and family commitments will be important and many are showing this by seeking new roles which offer this flexibility.
One thing is for sure that in September, there is likely to be a lot of change and transition. As we all know “Change is the only constant.” Now some people thrive on change, for others it creates anxiety or stress, which we need to respect and remember.
Something I’ve spoken a lot about in recent workshops and coaching sessions is that whilst we might all be in the same storm or taking the same journey, we are all in very different boats. The things which sit in our boat could be having a real impact on how we feel about returning to the office, positively or negatively, and it will be different for everyone. For parents, whilst they aren’t juggling home schooling anymore, they are now having to think about work vs wraparound care, school clubs and the inevitable taxi service which comes with school life. For people with vulnerable family, friends or neighbours, they are thinking about how they juggle office life whilst continuing to provide the support they have been giving over the last 18-months.
On top of this, there are other factors to consider such as: the new financial impact of commuting to the office – no cheaper railcard options with a hybrid model (it is not worth purchasing a yearly, monthly or weekly pass); COVID is still a real risk for people with different levels of anxiety about wearing masks, on public transport, in crowded places, etc; and the office or teams will look different from when people left it.
Change and transition of any kind requires thought, planning and consideration. Companies and managers alike need to recognise that different people will have different views and worries which need to be recognised and accommodated.
Top 6 tips for ensuring a successful transition to a new hybrid model:
- Investigate what it is your teams want moving forward, how do they want to work? Speak to them individually about their situation and listen to their concerns. Adapt the company guidelines to accommodate where you can – a rigid policy won’t work.
- Put in place simple company-wide guidelines but make clear they are a framework which can be adapted for each team.
- Have a transition period to allow staff to adjust to the new ways of working and encourage feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.
- Lead by example.
- Make coming back to work fun! Organise some social activities, team meetings and reasons for being in the office.
- Encourage your teams to prioritise self-care by making sure they take that walk, take time out to read a book, meditate, see a friend whatever gives you energy. Achieving a work/ life balance will be key.
Resilience will also be critical skill as we head into an uncertain autumn, the ability to be flexible and adapt as circumstances change will be an important one. Encourage your teams to have open conversations about how they are feeling, build strong, supportive networks of people around them and focus on the team strengths to support each other.
If you would like some support in reviewing your hybrid way of working framework or provide individual team members with some support in returning to the workplace through coaching, please get in touch to arrange your no obligation discovery call.
Sources: BBC.com “Why the future of work might be a hybrid”.