Are organisations ready for the reality of hybrid workforces? On the surface, the answer is yes.
It’s clear that many Australian employers accept that hybrid work schedules are becoming the new norm; however, what that looks like for long-term sustainability is not yet clear. For long-term hybrid success, new business models need to be built that are designed for new ways of working. It’s not about working from home a few days a week; hybrid working is an entire shift in how we work.
Employers need to think about how they define flexibility, what employees want from modern workplaces, and where friction exists in the organisation that will prevent real change. A successful hybrid work culture is about much more than just establishing a model around hours and location. It’s about the combination of workplace systems, behaviours, and values that cut across in-person and remote teams, impacting overall employee experience and bringing the different ways people work together.
To succeed, a hybrid workplace must equally consider the needs of in-person employees and remote employees and set up an arrangement that benefits all. More importantly, companies that successfully implement hybrid workplaces will also be willing to transition from a control style of leadership to a more modern, people-centric style that trusts employees to get the job done from anywhere and gives them the tools to do exactly that.
Start from scratch
Businesses today have a unique opportunity to reimagine workflows. Organisations that are interested in a true hybrid anywhere, anytime model need to begin by identifying key jobs and tasks. Once these have been determined, it’s possible to outline drivers of productivity and performance for each and design how these can be successfully delivered.
This exercise also allows companies to reimagine a new purpose for their place of work, with existing office space reconfigured in ways that will encourage cooperation and creativity. This will require an investment in tools that enable people to work collaboratively and effectively at home.
Listen to employees and co-create ways of working
Communication throughout the process of building a hybrid system is critical.
There are two sides to communication. First, leaders must be transparent and able to outline clearly what is required from employees. Hybrid work is outcomes-based, and employees can’t meet key objectives if they don’t know, in detail, exactly what is expected of them.
However, communication is also about listening. Businesses already on the hybrid journey are engaging their employees and taking their perspectives, including asking their teams about their personal preferences, key tasks, and work contexts. By asking the right questions, leaders are discovering where team members feel most energised, how they can best be supported to ensure collaboration and productivity, and whether they have a well-functioning home office.
Leaders should work with employees to codesign what their new workspace looks like. The more transparent leaders are about the process, the better. Employees must feel comfortable sharing what is and is not working, and in return, they will feel accountable for the new systems and processes.
Delivering true flexibility
People’s ability to operate at peak performance and productivity vary dramatically according to personal preferences. So, in designing hybrid work, leaders should consider the preferences of their employees and enable others to understand and accommodate those preferences. The key is to design workflows that ensure there are no bottlenecks and to highlight clear ways of collaborating.
Businesses can begin by outlining how work gets done, including how workdays are scheduled, how meetings should run, and how to collaborate in a way that keeps everyone connected.
However, there are a few issues that leadership teams should be aware of as well. Fault lines can emerge when there is a mix of in-person and hybrid work. There is extra effort required to coordinate with remote teammates, so if other team members are meeting in person, they could leave remote members out of small exchanges and minor decisions. Over time, as people get accustomed to who’s looped in and who’s not, they can get left out of bigger conversations and more important decisions.
It’s also important to consider those employees whose roles don’t permit them to work from anywhere. To combat this, successful leaders ensure on-site workers are given flexibility comparable to their remote counterparts. Hybrid working isn’t saying, ‘if you are in the office, you work 9 to 5, and if you’re not you work from home.’ It’s rethinking work hours for everyone, letting people design their schedules and offering flexibility that allows better work-life balance.
One of the biggest benefits of hybrid working is that it has the potential to make all employees feel included, like they are treated fairly, and as though they have control over their work-life balance. Hybrid arrangements that accentuate a company’s values, support its culture and promote fairness drive an engaged, productive, and inspired workforce.