The New Normal
Hybrid is definitely part of the new normal, whatever that may look like.
Working practises that were so off the radar as to be in outer outer space are now part of the plans of many organisations going forward. This has been driven by a variety of factors. Obviously, lockdowns have meant that the vast majority of people had to work from home and companies had to adapt to this new way of working.
Out of that, many organisations have realised that they don't need the same size offices they had in the past; they also realised that not everybody needs to be in the office and not only that, many employees have now discovered they are as, if not more, productive, working from home. Plus they don't have to struggle with a daily commute.
The Future is Hybrid
So if hybrid is the way of the future, how do you manage it so that things work smoothly and people feel taken care of?
The one constant, however, in study after study, is that most people do miss the interaction with their colleagues and those little moments that build a foundation of trust and good communication.
First, let's just step back here a minute and remind everyone that even when people were working face to face, it wasn't always plain sailing. Communication issues often were at the forefront of top employee complaints; squabbles between people happened and personality clashes occurred. So it isn't as though we're all transitioning from Paradise to some hybrid between heaven and hell.
If you weren't great at handling 'people' issues before the pandemic, you're most likely not going to be great handling a hybrid format either. Rather than looking at this new development solely from the hybrid angle, we need to look at this from a 'how do we improve communication no matter where we are' angle.
One final factor to point out before we look at solutions is that in many organisations teams are different. People were furloughed or made redundant, teams have been restructured, roles redefined, new roles created. This means that companies now have to manage getting these new teams working well together on top of everything else.
Now let's look at what you can do to manage in a hybrid world.
One thing we've definitely noticed in a hybrid world is that there is a blurring of boundaries between work life and personal life to a far greater degree than ever before. People seem to need to talk about what's going on in their lives, how the pandemic is affecting them, additional challenges and difficulties.
This is a good thing. Allow space and time for people to talk about anything from their hair to the tribulations of home schooling and, of course, if they have been directly impacted by COVID. Sharing day to day stories is a way for people to connect and support each other.
It Takes More Effort
Managing people in the office and those working at home is harder, no doubt about that. So put aside any thoughts that it will be like it was before. You do have to pay much closer attention to how people are getting on, whether they need more, or less, support. The dynamics of the office will be very different.
This is all about how you manage change, rather than trying to replicate what was before. Every single person in your organisation will be impacted by the changes that have and will be taking place. Because it takes more effort, we always suggest getting as many people involved in your plans as possible. The more people are involved, the more they will 'own' the changes and feel responsible for them. Stuff that only comes from 'on high' is often either ignored or resented, especially in times of stress.
Keep People in the Loop
We cannot stress enough how important it is that people are kept up to date about what's going on. Working from home may have its benefits, but it is essential that employees don't feel isolated and left out. And as in the item above, it takes more effort to ensure people are kept informed and engaged with what's happening, but you will be well-rewarded because the more informed people are, the more positive they feel about their place in the scheme of things. This is true even when it's bad news.
Choose Your Medium Wisely
There is no one right medium through which to communicate. If you are aware that people are spending a lot of time on Zoom or Teams, then pick up the phone, rather than scheduling yet another virtual meeting.
Or, if you're aware that the team hasn't met for a while, book in a Zoom.
Finally, beware the dangers of email, as true before the hybrid world as now. Miscommunication through email is the norm and everyone, but everyone gets misunderstood or misunderstands at some point when sending or receiving email. We rely on it and yet it can cause more damage, hurt feelings and noses out of joint than just about anything else.
Most of us are relatively careless when it comes to email and it's really worth it to spend that extra bit of time crafting your emails rather than dashing them off and hoping for the best.
Do the Silly Stuff
We had a goat come to one of our company meetings recently. Lola the goat. Totally unexpected (one of the team organised it on the sly). We're a pretty silly bunch at the best of times, but since the pandemic, some of our team meetings have gotten rather raucous and even more silly (or we could say, they have gotten more lively and creative).
People need the fun stuff, the giggles and laughter and nonsense. This doesn't mean indulging to the detriment of the serious stuff, but we know the benefit of games and quizzes and trying out new things without any consequences. After a good laugh it's easier to tackle the day to day piles clogging up our inboxes and to-do lists.
Do it Regularly
Finally, we suggest setting aside the same day and time each week for a company-wide meet up. At Impact Factory we do it every week and though not everyone is able to come to every session, it's in the diary and everyone knows the two Directors and CEO will be there to answer questions, give information, play, practise new stuff for the training room.
It's a lovely stabilising habit for all involved.
It's most likely that hybrid is here to stay at least for the short and medium-term and perhaps for the long term as well.
The more you see it as a positive, the better you will be able to make it work.
You might even get a goat to join the team!