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 a 60⁄40 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.