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Is hybrid working the future of work?

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Are you one of the mil­lion work­ers that went from being in the office, to going remote overnight? Many of us are in a state of paral­y­sis won­der­ing what the future of work will be like. There’s so much uncer­tain­ty about how we will work in the future and there seems to be no light at the end of the tun­nel. Will we all be work­ing at home for­ev­er? Will we go back to the office soon? Or will it be a mix? These are some of the burn­ing ques­tions on almost every employee’s mind. How­ev­er, hybrid work­ing could mean the best of both worlds — a bit of home work­ing and a bit of going into the office. We recent­ly ran a webi­nar, with our Per­for­mance and Change Man­age­ment expert, Ami­ra Kohler, who talked about hybrid work­ing and how it could work for many orga­ni­za­tions in the future. Some of the areas that were explored in this webi­nar includ­ed, what the future of hybrid work­ing would look like, what the chal­lenges would be for orga­ni­za­tions, how HR and man­agers can help make it work and how per­for­mance man­age­ment will work in a hybrid mod­el. In the webi­nar, we also looked at real exam­ples of what com­pa­nies are doing to their work culture. 

Most orga­ni­za­tions, that didn’t have remote work­ing poli­cies before, were forced into remote work­ing. Now that they have had a taste of it and made it work, many of them are start­ing to see its ben­e­fits and don’t want to return to the old way of work­ing. Research shows that near­ly a quar­ter of the UK work­force will be work­ing at home all the time after the crises and work­ing from home on a reg­u­lar basis is expect­ed to dou­ble in the UK work­force. It seems that hybrid work­ing is here for the long term. Peo­ple have found a way to make it work or make it stay in some form or anoth­er. A recent sur­vey in May showed that 55% of work­ers in the US want a mix­ture of home and office work­ing. In the UK, employ­ers are expect­ing the num­ber of employ­ees work­ing from home to dou­ble, from 18% pre-pan­dem­ic to 37% post-pan­dem­ic. And in Chi­na, it has been pre­dict­ed that in a decade, there will be 6040 split of onsite/​remote work.

The chal­lenges with hybrid working

Hybrid work­ing doesn’t come with­out its own set of chal­lenges. Hybrid work­ing can become a chal­lenge when there are mis­matched expec­ta­tions between employ­ees and man­agers. To make it real­ly work, lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion should be open, oth­er­wise it can be an unstruc­tured and messy envi­ron­ment for HR to get their heads around. Some of the risks with hybrid work­ing cen­tre around con­cerns about inequality. 

One of the biggest con­cerns is about a two-tier sys­tem in the office with child car­ers. Dur­ing the webi­nar, Ami­ra shared some eye-open­ing sta­tis­tics. A poll by the CMI for Guardian revealed that 42% of peo­ple believe that female employ­ees will be affect­ed and only 20% believe it will be affect­ed for men which could be wor­ry­ing. The con­cern here is that there could be less plu­ral­i­ty in deci­sion mak­ing where some peo­ple may be left out of deci­sions such as peo­ple with chil­dren. There is a fear that it will be the white male that will be the ones left to make deci­sions with­out con­sid­er­a­tion from the oth­er viewpoints. 

There are also con­cerns about socioe­co­nom­ic inequal­i­ty between who is able to work from home and not. For those work­ing remote­ly, these con­cerns stem from a num­ber of things such as the qual­i­ty of inter­net access where they are, the lux­u­ry of big roomy homes and out­door space to make work­ing from home com­fort­able ver­sus those who may live in small­er over­crowd­ed flats, who may not enjoy work­ing from home most of the week. 

There are per­son­al­i­ty fac­tors that also need to be tak­en into account. Some peo­ple work bet­ter with a fixed rou­tine and may find it cum­ber­some and inef­fi­cient to switch rou­tines between remote and office. Hybrid work­ing may also have a dif­fer­ent effect on peo­ple that are intro­verts vs extro­verts. Extro­verts tend to thrive around oth­er peo­ple and that’s where they get their ener­gy. Hybrid work­ing may become more chal­leng­ing if they have to work from home some days of the week. 

For hybrid work­ing to be tru­ly suc­cess­ful, orga­ni­za­tions need to be mind­ful of this and work towards build­ing a cul­ture and process where all voic­es are heard — whether they are in an office or remote. Employ­ees must also be treat­ed like adults who have a vest­ed inter­est in their workplace.

What are the ben­e­fits of hybrid working?

Organ­i­sa­tions have been forced to embrace flex­i­ble work­ing and many have seen the light and seen that this has enabled them to make changes they have been fight­ing for years. The tal­ent pool has been widened by the new world we live in now. Remote work­ing gives you the free­dom to work any­where with an inter­net connection. 

Remote work­ing democ­ra­tis­es the work­place that no one real­ly antic­i­pat­ed. If no one is phys­i­cal­ly in the room and lead­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, then every­one is in the room, every­one has a voice, and every­one is mak­ing deci­sions col­lec­tive­ly. Although there are con­cerns that vir­tu­al meet­ings could mean peo­ple feel left out because of the dif­fi­cul­ty in nat­ur­al turn tak­ing, ini­tial research has shown that in some cas­es, vir­tu­al meet­ings have helped encour­age peo­ple to delib­er­ate­ly speak up more to avoid being left out. For exam­ple, research by East Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty has shown that as a result of vir­tu­al meet­ings, per­son­al­i­ty traits are chang­ing. The researchers looked at the expe­ri­ence of 58 busi­ness stu­dents com­par­ing their per­son­al­i­ty trait scores before and after vir­tu­al work­ing. The study revealed that stu­dents grew more extro­vert­ed and open mind­ed and were able to be more vocal and to ver­bal­ly express them­selves so that the team can reach its over­ar­ch­ing objectives. 

How per­for­mance man­age­ment can sup­port hybrid working

We can’t have all the answers, espe­cial­ly when there is a lot of uncer­tain­ty. But as HR, you can help organ­i­sa­tions nav­i­gate this new way of work­ing as well as you can. Con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance man­age­ment can help you do this. Gallup sug­gests that per­for­mance man­age­ment needs to evolve in light of COVID, and mov­ing for­ward, there needs to be a more col­lab­o­ra­tive and adap­tive approach. Gallup’s re-engi­neered per­for­mance man­age­ment encour­ages agile and col­lab­o­ra­tive adapt­able goals, ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tions with time­ly recog­ni­tion and reg­u­lar infor­mal dia­logue, and quar­ter­ly progress reviews. In our webi­nar on hybrid work­ing, we take this a step fur­ther and shine a spot­light on the 5 dif­fer­ent aspects of per­for­mance man­age­ment and how it can ensure the suc­cess of a hybrid work culture. 

Per­for­mance man­age­ment in the hybrid mod­el should focus on:

Objec­tives and goal align­ment in a hybrid environment:

In a hybrid work envi­ron­ment, goals should be strate­gi­cal­ly aligned with near term objec­tives. As teams are no longer present in the office, there should be shift in focus to out­put rather than input. Man­agers should be empow­ered to tai­lor goal set­ting and encour­age an agile mind­set so that employ­ees can expect change and are able to pivot. 

Col­lab­o­ra­tion and account­abil­i­ty in dis­ag­gre­gat­ed teams:

The key here is to main­tain trust and a con­nec­tion with­in dis­ag­gre­gat­ed teams. Two-way con­ver­sa­tions are at the core of effec­tive per­for­mance and well­be­ing. Some ways in which you can make this a nat­ur­al part of your work­ing lives is by train­ing man­agers to become coach­es by encour­ag­ing them to use prompts for dis­cus­sion. Employ­ees should also be made more account­able and you could do this by expect­ing them to make an action plan and record agree­ments dis­cussed in one-to-ones. Col­lab­o­ra­tive goal set­ting can cre­ate a sense of account­abil­i­ty because indi­vid­u­als come togeth­er and rely on each oth­er to achieve a com­mon goal. 

Engage­ment and well­be­ing — the psy­chol­o­gy of remote working:

Man­agers need to under­stand their employ­ees as indi­vid­u­als with spe­cif­ic and per­son­al needs, and dif­fer­ent work styles. This will help max­imise per­for­mance as well as solve and address well­be­ing issues. 

Reward and recog­ni­tion — con­tri­bu­tion in chal­leng­ing times:

Although things are con­tin­u­al­ly chang­ing in these chal­leng­ing times, con­ver­sa­tions on per­for­mance, progress and pay should not be avoid­ed. When peo­ple have these dis­cus­sions with their man­ag­er, they feel more engaged and bet­ter about the pay and reward they receive. The key here is being transparent. 

Per­for­mance data to build insight and stay connected:

Per­for­mance data is cru­cial in under­stand­ing per­for­mance across the orga­ni­za­tion. This will give you a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of the state of play. Data can help you mea­sure per­for­mance lev­els across the orga­ni­za­tion as well as engage­ment and well­be­ing lev­els to spot ear­ly warn­ing signs. 

Learn more about hybrid working

To find out more on how you can man­age per­for­mance in a hybrid work­ing envi­ron­ment, watch our webi­nar where Ami­ra Kohler, Head of Per­for­mance and Change Man­age­ment exper­tise at Clear Review, dis­cuss­es these key areas in more detail. Ami­ra also shares real-life exam­ples of what orga­ni­za­tions are doing and how some of them are mak­ing the hybrid mod­el work. 

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