Top tips for a healthy hybrid working environment

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Top tips for a healthy hybrid working environment
Flexibility is a powerful business advantage, in all sorts of times.
Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash

Putting good practices and processes in place can make hybrid working arrangements a win-win for employers and employees alike.

Has remote working become an entirely unremarkable phenomenon in your organisation? If the answer is yes, then you’ve joined a large and growing club.

Eighteen months after the onset of the COVID crisis, thousands of Australian businesses have tried and succeeded at the practice. At the height of last year’s lockdowns, around a third of working Australians were logging on from home, according to Roy Morgan research conducted in April and May, 2020.

As the economy continues to re-open – and close again, most notably in NSW – many enterprises are electing to persist with hybrid models. Ostensibly, they offer the best of both worlds, to employers and employees alike. For the former, there’s the potential to reduce overheads and broaden the hiring pool to include quality candidates who, for a range of reasons, may not be able to work nine to five in a central location. And for the latter, there’s the enduring allure of work life balance; something that can be tough to achieve when a long commute is tacked onto both ends of the working day.

Concentrating on culture

But creating and maintaining a positive and productive workplace culture takes work, regardless of whether your employees are all present in the office, or tapping away at their kitchen tables, or doing a mixture of both.

The processes and practices that served your enterprise well when it was a highly centralised operation may be less suitable for a hybrid set-up.

At 8x8, we’re seeing scores of business leaders tackling this issue and working out what works and what doesn’t. These are our top tips for a healthy hybrid workplace.

Teach remote management skills

Directing and monitoring a team of people effectively when they’re not under your eye all of the time can be a daunting proposition for some managers. Typically, those who are relatively new to leadership roles will find setting tasks and trusting their teams to get on with them more of a challenge than experienced operators. Providing individuals in the former category with training, peer support from similarly situated colleagues and tools they can use to connect with and coordinate their teams can help them strike a balance between micromanagement and inadequate oversight.

Introduce outcomes-based accountability

Unless you’re prepared to invest in heavy duty surveillance technologies, you probably won’t be able to tell how long or how hard an employee works, when they’re on the tools at home. Neither matters, if you start judging their performance on outcomes, rather than speed and effort. That means providing each employee with tasks, expectations and a timeline, and, ideally, deploying a digital workflow solution to manage and monitor their progress.

Use technology to bridge the home-office gap

Hybrid and remote working are only possible on a mass scale because digital communication technologies have made them so. But having access to high tech tools and using them to optimum effect are two different things. After seeing their teams contend with video meetings fatigue and collaboration platform overload, a growing number of enterprises are opting to keep things seamless and simple. That’s why they’re investing in unified communication-as-a-service and video-conferencing solutions to help out-of-the-office employees stay in the loop. These solutions include dedicated video calling systems that put paid to the pain of juggling multiple windows on laptops, tablets employees can use to review documents while they’re on calls, and online white boards that make it easier for far flung colleagues to kick ideas around together.

Together apart: making your hybrid model a long term success

If the events of the past 18 months have taught Australian businesses one lesson, it’s surely this: that flexibility is a powerful business advantage, in all sorts of times.

Maintaining a blend of remote and office-based working can enhance your organisation’s resilience and keep your employees engaged and satisfied, provided you ensure your hybrid model is set up for success. Time and resources invested to this end are likely to pay healthy dividends, now and long into the future.

Brendan Maree is Vice President Asia Pacific of 8x8.

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