Rules For Making Hybrid Work A Success

The Great Experiment

All over the world, businesses from single owners to large corporations have experienced hybrid work for the first time. COVID-19 forced us to experiment with solutions for millions of workers who needed to find an alternative to working from the corporate office. And just like experiments in a laboratory, the results produced varied widely.

Now that the unwanted experiment of dealing with a pandemic is (hopefully) behind us, we learned that hybrid work is here to stay. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. A recent study finds that 71% of companies are making remote or hybrid work a permanent mode of operation.

After initial apprehension about how a permanent hybrid/remote work model would impact employee productivity, many organizations agree that the change has been beneficial in many ways. As it turns out, 72% of IT decision-makers agree that the change in attitudes about remote and hybrid work has been positive.

Time To Move Forward

So, what’s next? With the shift to a hybrid work model, there is a need for updating technology infrastructure. IT decision-makers anticipate higher spending on both equipment and security to be a part of doing business in the future. Those same technology professionals point to the need for newer and more efficient ways to accommodate the rise in hybrid/remote workers.

The solution to how businesses move forward successfully depends on how they approach adapting. With remote and hybrid work here to stay, the strategy of determining the best technology and procedures needed to guarantee growth and success in the new normal is critical. Simply put, if you are not moving forward and upgrading your infrastructure, your business will be left in the past.

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Rules For Success

So, what makes hybrid work a productive and profitable asset in some organizations, yet a costly and risky liability in others? It boils down to following three essential rules for getting hybrid work right:

Rule #1 to get hybrid work right: empower and enable hybrid workers with the technology.

The first and most important rule is to empower and enable workers with the proper technology. While each organization is different, generally speaking, the tech stack should include the following fundamental tools:

  • A reliable and easy-to-use video conferencing platform that connects all workers (hybrid and non-hybrid) so they can brainstorm, collaborate, strategize, and have “virtual happy hours” to foster team building and engagement.
  • Fast home office internet. Working from home has enough challenges, you don’t want employees worrying about bandwidth issues.
  • Project and task management software to keep everyone organized and in the loop.
  • A feature-rich cloud-based phone system that allows hybrid workers to seamlessly and efficiently continue their work journey regardless of where they are: at home, in the office, at a customer, or on the road.
  • Suitable home office IT hardware (PC/laptop, monitor, etc.).
  • Anti-virus, anti-malware, and backup software. Most systems in the corporate office are configured for security and automatic backups, but this is not necessarily the case for remote workers who are using personally-owned devices.

Rule #2 to get hybrid work right: communicate and check in — but don’t micromanage!

If Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is your style, it’s not going to be as easy in the world of hybrid work. Remote workers need to be given more autonomy to make decisions.

Making the transition in style may be difficult, at first, for some managers. Nonetheless, managers will have to decide whether to embrace the opportunity to evolve or find themselves getting left behind. This is not to imply that managers will simply stop checking in with subordinates, but rather that they will communicate differently. They will not so much “manage” as they will “facilitate.” Their focus will be on WHAT people do, and not on WHEN they do it (provided of course that standards/deadlines are met and that all compliance expectations are adhered to).

Rule #3 to get hybrid work right: prevent hybrid worker vs in-office worker conflicts.

Like any workplace, different roles have different pros and cons. While workers who spend 100% of their in the office may feel slighted that their hybrid co-workers seemingly can work whenever they wish and have more freedom. On the other hand, while those employees working remotely may not have a long commute, they must deal with the isolation of coworking alone. Not to mention that working from home isn’t a picnic. You need to give up part of your home to accommodate work. Plus, telecommuting brings with it a whole host of interruptions like noisy neighbors, pets, and other distractions.

What makes this issue so complex and difficult, is that each group requires a different approach. For example, as discussed in rule #2 hybrid workers typically require more frequent check-ins than their in-office colleagues. Alternatively, in-office workers often learn about news, issues, and events before their hybrid worker colleagues, which can potentially create confusion, conflict, and chaos.

Without question, the most effective method to preserve peace is through effective communication. When policies or practices (including the unwritten kind) affect one group differently than another, managers need to help everyone grasp the rationale. They may not all agree with it, but they should see that decisions are based on objective logic instead of subjective preference.

At the same time, managers must listen to all of their subordinates — remote and in-office — to understand their perceptions and feelings and identify opportunities to make adjustments. For example, if in-office workers feel frustrated because they have to deal with a tedious commute each day, then giving them an afternoon off every couple of weeks can help balance the scales (if giving everyone the same afternoon off isn’t possible, then staggering this perk across the team may be a practical solution).

The Bottom Line

Hybrid work is here to stay, and is likely only going to become more prevalent in the months and years ahead — hopefully not because we are in store for more pandemics, but because hybrid work can be a massive win for both employees and employers alike. Organizations that follow these essential rules will surge ahead and lead the way. Those that don’t will struggle to compete, and eventually, survive.

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