Staying connected within a hybrid working model

As we inch our way out of full lockdown, many businesses, such as Barclays, Lloyds and HSBC have been open about their desire to get people back on site. Having chatted with many of you over the past few days, we know that planning for the next phase has well and truly begun. A hybrid model is popular, with some colleagues coming into the office for part of the week, and others staying remote for the longer-term.

In the early days of lockdown, there was a comfort in knowing we were all in the same boat, so for many, this will feel like another major hurdle to overcome. Our clients have been asking us, ‘how can we maintain and build on our existing culture when it feels as though the workforce is more fragmented than ever?’

Here are five things to think about if your goal is to ensure a hybrid working model contributes to, rather than saps, your company’s culture:

  1. Who’s in the Zoom? The success of hybrid working can’t just belong to HR, IT and Facilities, it’s a strategic imperative. So, make sure you also include stakeholders with a strategic and commercial focus when setting up your working group. Alongside logistical arrangements, both people and business goals need to be supported to make sure that performance is optimised in this new environment.
  2. Consider social health. As a society, we’re slowly getting better at talking about mental health alongside physical health. But we need to consider social health too, because as human beings we’re wired for connection with others. The last thing any leader wants is for team members to suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation. Interestingly, in many cases employee engagement scores rose significantly during the immediate crisis as people embraced a sense of purpose and community that may have been missing before. However, as we move into this next phase of adaptation, there’s a risk this new uncertainty will unbalance some if the working model means that not everyone in the team is getting physical facetime.
  3. Let leaders lead. From the micro-managers, to the hands-off and easy-going, within any group of leaders, there’s a diversity of styles – and this probably isn’t the time to impose lots of restrictions on what they can and can’t do. Each leader needs to find their own way of making hybrid working a success for their teams and the business. But achieving a connected and high-performing team can be hard if there’s a sense of inequality. The first step is for leaders to make the time for honest, one-to-one conversations to understand individual team members’ needs, so they can plan accordingly. Organisations can support by working with their leadership teams to create some common agreed principles which will support employees to feel connected, engaged and therefore, productive.
  4. Be prepared to tear up the rule book. Just as the ‘crisis mode’ of enforced working from home helped people to think differently, this new phase will also take some imagination and flexibility – for example when thinking about travel plans, office layout and when the workday begins and ends. Allow people to adapt and accept that returning to any kind of ‘normal’ is a one-step-at-a-time kind of game.
  5. Celebrate every small victory. Some colleagues will have high levels of anxiety about travelling and working anywhere but home, and that’s okay. However, cheerleading and positive reinforcement will become crucial. Photos, videos and interviews with those leading the charge will all help to provide reassurance, and eventually normalise this new, hybrid way of working.

If you’d like to talk to us more about how to create an effective hybrid working culture, get in touch at hello@the-thread.com.



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