Together, apart: how to manage the hiccups associated with hybrid working

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Together, apart: how to manage the hiccups associated with hybrid working
Hybrid working has plenty to recommend it.
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Your flexible working model stands a better chance of enjoying long term success if you acknowledge and address the issues a dispersed workforce can throw up.

Swapped your organisation’s traditional nine-to-five working model for more flexible arrangements since Covid-19 upended life as we knew it, just 18 months ago?

If you answered in the affirmative, you’re far from alone. Around Australia, businesses and organisations of all stripes and sizes are persisting with hybrid working set-ups which see staff spending some of the working week in the office and the remainder at home.

Implemented smartly, such arrangements can deliver benefits for employer and employees alike. For businesses, there’s the potential to cut back on their real estate footprint and cast the net wider when looking for talent, given candidates who live an hour or two away may be more willing to countenance the commute if they only have to do it a couple of times a week.

For employees, being able to cut back on travel time and enjoy greater flexibility around how their days are structured can result in increased job satisfaction and improved mental health.

Putting strong foundations in place

Those benefits are more likely to be realised if the hybrid model is well structured, process management is in place, the organisation’s expectations are clearly outlined and employees feel supported, in both the head office and the home office.

Many companies still have work to do on some or all of these fronts. Understandably so, especially for those that were forced to pivot to remote working on the fly last year and have been progressively evolving their arrangements ever since, as cities and states continue to move in and out of lockdown.

Here are some of the hybrid ‘hiccups’ we’ve seen businesses encounter and our tips for managing them.

The never-ending meeting

Remote and hybrid working generally means many more online meetings and, unless leaders are disciplined, those meetings tend to run – and run. The net result, as many employees already know firsthand, can be Zoom or Microsoft Teams fatigue, often accompanied by a decline in motivation and productivity. Setting agendas, sticking strictly to them and finishing sessions on time or early can help your team strike the right balance and stay on track.

Silent struggle

Asking for help is never easy, but it’s easier for team leaders or managers to see that an employee needs a little or a lot of it, when they’re physically present and clearly struggling, or under stress. That’s not the case when staff are working remotely. Vulnerable individuals can easily fly under the radar for long periods of time – which is why it’s essential for leaders and colleagues to listen more actively and reach out more frequently, for both work related chats and general conversation.

A matter of trust

Worrying about what employees would and wouldn’t do once out of their manager’s sight was one of the main reasons why companies were loath to adopt remote working in the pre-Covid era. Following the onset of the pandemic, thousands of business leaders found themselves with little choice but to send their teams home with laptops. Most were pleasantly surprised by what transpired. Trusted to get on with the job, the vast majority of workers did, with many going above and beyond to keep operations ticking over during those early uncertain months.

For hybrid working to keep on working long term, businesses and organisations need to keep fostering that trust, from the top down. It’s vital that leaders trust their direct reports to delegate and manage the work at hand, and that those individuals trust their team members to complete it on time and well.  That becomes easier when leaders are closely connected with their teams, listening to their issues and actively searching for solutions, sticking to their commitments, and being transparent around planning, work allocation and feedback.

The best of both worlds

Hybrid working has plenty to recommend it, not least the resilience and business continuity it can enable during periods of disruption. Investing time and effort to ensure your model is a healthy one, for the organisation and its employees alike, will serve your enterprise well, now and into the future.

James Chedalavada is IT Director at Nintex.

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