Hybrid working

The third of our ‘In conversation with…’ series looked at leadership challenges as a result of hybrid working. We were delighted to welcome our guest speaker Geraldine Haley, CEO and founder of GH Consulting. Geraldine has been advising an international company about how to create an effective hybrid working culture and has completed research around hybrid working which included interviewing three other major financial institutions.

The challenges of hybrid working

There are a number of challenges leaders must think through as we enter a new era of leadership with hybrid working. 

  1. Your mindset needs to have a global principle. By gently phasing employees back into the office, and enticing them in so that they feel in control, all will feel increased engagement.
  2. Think about what hybrid means. It is mainly about two things – 1. Flexible about location and 2. Flexible hours. 
  3. Hybrid working needs to look at what the role requires.
  4. Senior managers need to act as role models and early adopters of the new ways of working.
  5. The company really needs to think about the office space employees will be going back to – how can you create more space for each other and build collaborative working spaces?

Enticing people back to the office

You want people to feel comfortable and happy when they return to the office. But how do you entice people back when they may be feeling apprehensive. One way to do this is to think of it as a journey, where you are all transitioning to a new working framework over time. Make sure people are involved and can share how they feel; and understand that this will probably change over time as people’s perceptions of what they want may change due to external factors. It’s also a good idea to come up with a collective goal or challenge, such as raising money together for a charity, to bring everyone together and provide a collective focus.

The importance of looking at the role when making decisions on hybrid working

Research by Microsoft, who analysed the usage of 30,000 users of their Microsoft Teams product, showed that people extended their working boundaries during the pandemic and this led to an increase in productivity. This increase though, was at the expense of people feeling on call all the time and wasn’t sustainable.

Most roles need some interaction. Even though many of us have been working from home for over a year if we step back and think about how to do the job really well, we will need some interaction. It’s important to recognise that organisations will become more siloed if they don’t look at the interactions that are needed between teams. The pandemic has taught us that we need ‘synchronised time’ and that it needs to be planned so that it includes the right people. As a team leader you need to work out when you need synchronised time and this means planning time with people, and thinking through ad hoc interactions. Both of these are easier to do when people are in the office.

Factors to ensure effective hybrid working

There are a number of things you can do to ensure that hybrid working is as effective as possible.

  1. Make sure all team members can contribute equally to the conversation, irrespective of whether they are attending in person or virtually. A good way to do this is to give everyone the same amount of time to contribute.
  2. Have a ‘no interruptions’ policy so that everyone listens to others’ opinions without interrupting.
  3. Promote the use of other forms of communication, not just video calls.
  4. Think about synchronised time and how and when it would work for the team.
  5. Make sure you still think about wellbeing.
  6. Regularly review the workload and priorities within the team.
  7. Think about sub-groups within your office and try to manage these so that they do not exclude or disrupt.
  8. One of the benefits of remote working has been that we have seen the ‘whole person' – we know who has a dog/cat/goldfish, who loves exercise, the ages of the children of the people we work with etc… It’s important to carry forward the ability to know the ‘whole person’ when we move to hybrid working.
  9. Have the difficult conversations that we may have put off while working remotely. It’s important for the team's dynamic and for the individual's growth.

Initiatives to help your working environment

There are a few initiatives that we can adopt now to help us in our working environment. These include:

  • Have quiet times, when no one schedules meetings in – for example, on Monday mornings
  • Ensure there is equality when you have some people attending in person, and some virtually. You can do this by ensuring that everyone has a screen so everyone’s face is on camera
  • Use a meeting table, where everyone knows where they would be sitting (albeit they are all facing a screen) so that people know when to speak
  • Reduce meeting times to 50 minutes instead of an hour. This will give you a break in between meetings and ensure you feel more in control as you won’t be late for your next meeting
  • When meeting people virtually it can be helpful to turn off your self-view on zoom – that way others can see you but you don’t see yourself so can concentrate on listening (information on how to do this can be found here).

Three things for leaders to build into their routine to help with hybrid working

  1. Take a bit of time for yourself. Recognise the pressure you have been under with home working. Re-set yourself and think through how hybrid working will work for you. 
  2. Keep wellbeing on the agenda and make sure your team don’t feel overloaded.
  3. Role model that you listen, value and care for your employees. 

Thank you to Geraldine Haley and Caroline Stockmann, ACT Chief Executive, for sharing their insights. The Career Hub, accessible to ACT members by signing in to the ACT website, has some information on remote and hybrid working and team working – the full site can be accessed here.

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