How Teams Across The World Are Transitioning To The Hybrid Work Model
The hybrid working model that allows employees to work remotely as well as from the office has garnered a number of corporate giants as its novel advocates. Prominent among them are Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Post the advent of the pandemic, companies are voluntarily embracing the fact that the future of work is complex and ever-evolving.
Such an admission apropos the future of work necessarily leads to the conclusion that there is likely to be a dilution of corporate culture because of remote work practices. A Gartner poll stands as evidence of the same. In its poll, the research and advisory company found that a whopping 82% of company leaders were inclined towards permitting work from home partly. the emphasis here is on ‘partly’ because the leadership was concerned about a weakening corporate culture.
The pandemic has distorted our definition and boundaries of what is ‘normal’. In the era of the new normal, companies have lost their ability to dictate the terms of work unilaterally, and have to remodel themselves to work scenarios where employees have a major say. Whichever way you look at it, there is a creative unraveling and a reconstruction of the new workspace.
What’s your go-to hybrid working model?
For now, there are no hard-and-fast rules in the hybrid work playfield, and companies are designing rules as they go along based on their cumulative experiences. Smaller companies are cherry-picking work norms from a host of bigger companies and testing if those models are a good fit for them. Many leaders are also sharing their trials with the hybrid work model which is helping other companies calibrate their norms. At such a juncture, apart from interacting with their employees on the new work model, companies should also collect data and envision future models that will help boost productivity further without burnt-out employees. The new mantra is to assess, analyze and evolve with the times.
The Microsoft model
Microsoft has been walking the middle path as far as the hybrid work mode is involved. In late March this year, it decided to mandate office work for a select few employees as the US economy opened up incrementally and the number of infections reduced. In a LinkedIn post, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shed light on the “hybrid work paradox”. According to Microsoft’s research, employees are looking for more flexible work options in the wake of the pandemic, however, a sizable portion of the workers are insisting on in-person collaboration. As of May this year, 81% of Microsoft’s employees in China attend office three-plus days a week while only 19% of the employees in Australia give in-person attendance.
Microsoft’s model is premised on three pillars: social capital, continuous learning and human capital, and wellness. On the first front, Microsoft is focusing on communication channels as a medium for sustaining its culture in the organization. Meeting recordings are available as and when needed by employees, and the company is focusing on strengthening the web of everyday inter-connections between employees, managers, and the company.
To address the second front, the company is helping employees expand their knowledge to enable others to help build on the basis of their expertise. They are also providing personalized and centralized training to employees.
On the third front, Microsoft is helping employees deal with the spectre of burnout and is using software that hews small breaks between meetings to foster employee well-being. Managers have been asked to prioritize employee wellness and to integrate it with the idea of productivity at large.
The Google model
Google has been setting an example by providing Carer’s leave, work from home allowance, and the extra reset days to its employees to get used to the grueling demands that have been made of employees during the pandemic.
In May this year, it moved to a three-day office and two-days remote working arrangement. Office time has been marked out for collaboration and employees have to come to the office depending on the product areas they are in and their work profile. Because of the nature of their work, a few employees have been asked to report to the office for more than three days a week.
Its hybrid model, as per the Google CEO Sundar Pichai, is being tailored in a manner that will lead to 60% of the Google employees coming together in an office setting for few days a week, while 20% will be working from new office locations and the remaining 20% will be permitted to work remotely on a permanent basis.
What effective steps can you bring in?
1. Devise a clear transitioning policy and publicize it down to the last employee
Whether a company succeeds in transitioning to a hybrid model depends largely on the segment in which it operates. Before it arrives at an answer, there are several questions that the senior leadership will have to introspect on. Given its operational history, has the company permitted work from home as part of its regular operations even before the pandemic? Has the workflow efficiency been disproportionately damaged because of remote work? Has productivity bumped up because of working from home or has it gone down considerably?
Once they have the answers to all of these questions, it is easier to zero in on the obstacles that stand in the way of transitioning to a remote work policy and strategically eliminate them. Additional homework for the company’s managerial team comes in the form of segregation of the workforce in two silos. The first silo is made up of those who can be permitted to work remotely for long spells and the second silo of those whose work would require them to be on site. This job is best left to individual team leaders, who have a better grip on their team dynamics when it comes to dividing up the team members into categories. Forcibly pushing a one-size-fits-all solution will not help.
In case remote work doesn’t really agree with the ethos of the corporate culture or the work profile of the industry, then a policy must be drawn up by the senior management to gradually phase out the remote working option.
2. Emphasize modalities of collaboration between departments irrespective of where they work
Communication is integral to a smooth workflow. Without the right technological tools, the work put in by your employees will most likely suffer from inconsistencies and frequent derailments thanks to a communication gap and the “lost in translation“ effect. To remedy this, it is important for the team to operate on a tech platform where communication is seamless and mirrors the effect of working in close proximity.
An app that tracks assigned tasks, time taken for completion of those tasks, and offers productivity statistics at the end of a timeframe serves not just the interest of the team leader but that of the employee as well. It ushers in greater accountability and transparency. Looking at the bigger picture, it helps the company strategically reassign highly productive human resources to key projects.
3. Cultivate strong relations between in-office and remotely working members
It isn’t rocket science to figure out that a happier employee is a more productive employee. Ensuring the well-being and happiness of an employee pays rich dividends to the company in the form of better work output. For employees, a company that cares about their growth and mental health will always be placed on a higher pedestal than one that pays highly but does not make the employee or his work feel valued.
Team leaders will have to figure out new ways of connecting remotely working employees with those working from the office and making them feel like part of the culture and camaraderie. Working from home might record a spike in productivity in the short run but in the long-term, it could dispirit and demoralize the employee. In such a situation, hosting weekly team events could help in building familiarity and rapport. Going forward, emotionally intelligent leadership will be a key component for managers to master and extract the best possible performance out of their team members.
The hybrid work model poses its own peculiar set of work-life and administrative challenges which can be overcome with concerted efforts on part of the corporates, HRs as well as team leaders. The corporates that embrace this phenomenon diligently without dissing or dismissing it are most likely to reap rich dividends from it. From higher employee satisfaction and loyalty rates to improved levels of productivity, hybrid work could signal a revolution in the way the traditional workplace is viewed.