Many global companies have already announced new policies to accommodate the new working culture starting from Autumn 2021. A recent study shows, 97% of companies are planning for hybrid working of some kind. This means if you are planning on creating a more permanent hybrid working model for your team, you are not alone. So, how should it be designed?
A one-size-fits-all solution does not exist
First of all, it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to how it should be organised. It is because the needs and wants of employees and employers differ and it also varies across different companies. People are also motivated and engaged in different ways, and the tasks they carry out are all different. So, HOW should you guide and lead your team? Do you let your employees choose which days they would like to work from home? or Do you come up with something that will apply to the whole team?
Step 1. Find out what your employees want
If you are leading a team of employees, you have to acknowledge that the needs and wants of people might have shifted due to the pandemic. The study done by pwc shows there is a gap between employees and employers when it comes to the topic of optimal schedule for remote work; employees expect more remote work in the future, whereas a higher percentage of employers prefer to go back to pre-corona ‘back in the office work’ as soon as feasible.
It is important that managers and leaders work with employees to build new working policies because whatever policy you come up with, it is only effective when employees are on board.
Step 2. Find out what the company needs
While involving people in creating a solution together is important, you shouldn’t forget that it is as important for the leaders to discuss and face the truth about what the company needs. Hybrid working models will not work if it is left for employees to decide and come into the office whenever they feel like it.
Also, it shouldn’t only depend on the possibility of the task being done remotely either, which means you cannot structure your company’s hybrid working policy ONLY based on whether or not the job can be done remotely in theory. It is a straightforward decision for many activities that require physical labour or the use of fixed equipment to be done on-site. However, although some tasks can be done remotely theoretically, they might be much more effectively done with higher quality in person. Activities such as coaching, teaching & training, employee onboarding, building colleague and customer relationships, and those that require collaborations are good examples.
Step 3. Explore different approaches
Well, it is clear that the desires and needs vary across companies, but also across employees within the same company. So, what are the options? What are some of the examples we see already from global companies? Here are a few:
- Set 2-3 office weekdays: This is the most common policy at the moment: companies choose a set number of days (40-60% of the week) for people to be in the office. For instance, most of Apple’s employees will work three days a week at the office from September 2021 onwards: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Flexible 2-3 office weekdays: Similar to the previous but more flexible. This one allows employees to pick the days they prefer, such as 3-2-2 model.
- Once a week, office day: BOE staff will work one day a week at the office from September onwards, which is a contrast to other banks in the UK and around the world.
- Leave it to employees to choose: Some, such as Deloitte, are implementing a more flexible measure “work where it works” will not be required to attend a specific location for a set number of days per week.
Step 4. Review the role and responsibilities of employees
Although your team’s hybrid working policy shouldn’t be based on whether or not the job can be done remotely in theory, it is a valuable exercise to review the tasks and activities to understand the requirements and inter dependability of the task with others.
these 5 categories can be your starting point:
- Heads-down work: tasks such as writing, analysing, research work which often can be done individually and do not require specific equipment, or space
- Collaborating tasks: activities such as brainstorming, business development, problem-solving with a team, strategy day, often benefit from being physically in one place with others
- Communication: tasks such as sharing and updating information, making announcements, regular status updates, giving feedback or answering inquiries from customers often can be done effectively virtually
- Decision making: events such as executive meetings, board meetings, which involve discussions about multiple topics are often more productive done in person. It could also be a follow-up task from the collaboration work which will also involve committing to a decision together (e.g. in a project)
- Relationship and culture building: we are all human beings, which means building genuine relationships requires some human touch and social interaction.
(adopted from pwc’s 6Cs)
Step 5. Set out a clear purpose of your office
What is your office primarily for? As the hybrid working model becomes a norm for many, the role of a corporate office is being carefully re-examined. Since many studies also show that a very small percentage of employees wish to work remotely all the time, it is important to redefine the purpose of the office.
Which ones among all the tasks will benefit from being done in person? Review the tasks as described in Step 4 above. For example, collaborating with colleagues was one of the top reasons why people have gone to the office during the past 18months. Building relationships with others such as clients was another example that could benefit from being together in person. So, if your office space is primarily for collaborative works and building relationships and culture, make sure it is communicated, and taken into consideration when creating a working hybrid working policy for your team.
Nobody has it perfect
We’re still very much in the experimentation phase when it comes to a hybrid working model. Our guess is that we will hear, read and talk about the topic for quite some time. So, it is okay to not get it perfect for your team on the first try. Remember to communication is the key when there’s uncertainty ahead. One thing we know for sure is that it might be riskier to cover your ears and imagine things will go back to how it was.