Six considerations for the transition to permanent hybrid working
| Sandar Henke | Article | Leadership Flexible and hybrid working Workforce Management Workforce planning
Hybrid and remote working have been normalised in recent years, but has your organisation truly adapted to the new era of work? Here’s what all HR leaders should consider to ensure their teams are best prepared for this permanent change.
Adjustment to permanent hybrid working: Key insights
Most businesses operating remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic never fully returned to the office even after it was allowed. These organisations are now largely operating in a hybrid working model and need to make permanent adjustments for this long-term change.
There are six considerations every HR leader needs to think about whilst completing the transition to hybrid teams in this new era of work:
- Building and maintaining the culture of your business
- Importance of inclusion
- Prioritising employee wellbeing
- Promoting a collective ownership of workplace safety
- Increasing the focus on learning and development
- Preparing for future change
Keep reading for more detail on the different considerations for a longer-term transition to hybrid working.
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Adjustment to permanent hybrid working: Background
As the Covid-19 restrictions plunged the world of work into a new era, many organisations are still in an adjustment period, figuring out what works for them. So, what do HR departments need to consider as they make the new hybrid working arrangements a permanent part of company culture and policy? Businesses will need to find solutions to ensure their people remain happy and productive. This transition presents HR leaders with multiple challenges but offers the perfect opportunity to improve dated processes.
What HR leaders need to consider when switching to a hybrid work model permanently?
Although hybrid working has been the reality for many of us for a while now, operating in this way full-time is still fairly new to many businesses. So, what should HR teams be considering now that hybrid teams are here to stay?
The questions and considerations appear to be endless:
- When you operate a hybrid workplace, what role do physical space and technology play?
- How do you then build and maintain a culture, one that sustains trust and builds on fun and productivity?
- How do you consider the principle of inclusion when most of the workforce isn’t physically in an office and how do you ensure their voice is still heard?
- How do you manage performance effectively?
- How do you celebrate key milestones and successes?
These are just some of the questions and considerations my team and I have asked ourselves recently.
1. How can you build and maintain the culture of your business?
Many organisations spend years building the culture of their company. The culture is the foundation of any business, exhibiting who they are and why they do what they do. So, how do you not only reinforce that culture, but build on it too in a hybrid working arrangement?
The way we engage with one another is absolutely central to any consideration of organisational culture and how we work together moving forward. Ensure you have regular weekly team catch-ups, everybody should be accustomed to video conference calls by now. Make sure they’re not all strictly work-related either, having fun and sharing success should be a key aspect of any organisation’s culture.
So, continue to use technology to keep in contact and make sure there is a sharing of good news stories from across the team and business.
2. Inclusion becomes even more important
When the majority or some of your workforce isn’t present in the office, inclusion becomes more important than ever. Just because you can’t see someone, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there and an equal part of the team.
Make sure you have the necessary open channels of communication, so employees are able to voice their concerns or provide feedback. Ensure all employees, no matter where they are based, are taking part in company and team activities, so they don’t feel left out. Remind your team that you are all in it together whether they are in the office or at home. Every employee has a role to play in sustaining the company’s culture in this hybrid era of work.
3. Making employee wellbeing a priority
Consider the frequency with which you stay in touch with people and ensure you are providing them with the opportunity to be vulnerable. These types of chats are increasingly difficult when you aren’t seeing your employees in person on a regular basis. In this situation, you can’t just assume that someone’s doing fine because they’re getting on with their work.
At a time when we understandably are talking about mental health and anxiety a lot, we need to be incredibly mindful and careful. We need to exercise our duty of care around caring for people who are struggling or who have had a hard time.
4. Promoting a collective ownership of workplace safety
Ultimately, the employer has a responsibility to make sure that the workplace is a safe place for everyone. However, it requires every single person in your organisation to collectively work toward the common goal of safety.
We are stronger together, so all employees have roles to play in creating a safe work environment through their own behaviour. It’s far less top-down than trying to enforce other behaviours. Collective ownership highlights that every individual has their part to play in creating an environment that brings everyone together safely, whether that’s remotely or physically.
5. Should you increase your focus on learning and development?
Another key area is considering how you can structurally ensure that your leaders, and managers of people in particular, are equipped to deal with the hybrid way of working. Your training programmes must prepare them with the necessary tools to manage a hybrid workforce. You will also have to consider whether your existing training is sufficient for your employees and the skills they will need in the new era of work.
So, what does training look like when you can’t bring everyone physically together? You have to treat hybrid or remote training completely differently from training that is delivered onsite in a single room. You will have to work harder to keep people’s attention, so consider making it easier to digest by breaking the training up into segments. Adapt the training you already have to complement this new era of work and ensure you are focusing on the necessary skills which may be currently lacking.
6. How important is preparing for change?
At Hays, we have spent a lot of time and energy looking at how we manage change effectively and what the future of work might look like. We even built a leadership programme predominantly focusing on building collaboration, innovation and encouraging change confidence. Because of this focus on equipping our leaders to feel confident in managing change, we were able to adapt quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 crisis really demonstrated how important preparing for change is. It equipped us as a business really well and I would encourage other businesses and leaders to do the same. After all, you never know what changes your business may have to go through in the future.
HR leaders should relish this unique opportunity to question what worked for their organisation before and what they want to take into the new working model.
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Adjustment to permanent hybrid working: Next steps
For more advice for employers adjusting to the new world of work, find out more about our work transition tool kit.
About this author
Sandra Henke is the Group Head of People and Culture at Hays. She is a member of the Management Board with responsibility for leading People and Culture strategy and best practice. Her key area of focus is to continue to evolve our culture and people practices, with a specific focus on Diversity and Inclusion, Change Management, Leadership and Talent Development, Succession, Management Skills and Employee Engagement.
She has a long-standing passion for the role that leadership and cultural development play in shaping organisational and human success.
Born and bred in New Zealand, Sandra has worked for Hays for the past 20 years, originally in Australia where her last role was as HR Director for the Asia Pacific region. She moved to London in 2012 to take up a role in the UK&I and was promoted to the Group Management Board in 2017.