The impact of the pandemic on a global scale has been enormous and its legacy will continue to be felt well into the future as the world adapts to new ways of doing things. One of the big changes in the working world is the rise of the hybrid working environment – the blend of an at home and in-office workforce.

Although not a new thing – flexible working arrangements have been around for a while now – the pendulum has certainly swung away from the traditional view that the physical workplace is central to an organisation. Top CEOs have been quoted as backing a hybrid working model, citing numerous benefits such as:

  • increased flexibility,
  • reduced carbon footprint,
  • labour-cost optimization, and
  • increased employee satisfaction

Of course, there are also those who disagree and see the office as critical to collaboration and building culture; who prefer the control of having teams where they can be seen; and who benefit from the ability to be directive and wield influence from proximity to those they lead. This appears to be in direct contrast to many employees who prefer the autonomy and flexibility of the home-based office and improved work-life balance in the time that previously was spent on commuting.

From these divergent positions, a key element arises: how can leaders set up a hybrid working environment to ensure it is fair and equitable both to those who choose to work from home and across genders?

Choosing the Home Office
Whilst it’s easy to default to ‘how it was before’ and condemn hybridity to the ‘it just won’t work’ mindset, this is a lazy approach. Workplaces suffered from inefficiencies when everyone was in the office and they will continue to do so in a hybrid setting unless leaders ensure no-one is negatively impacted. This is achieved through intentional effort, discipline, and behavioural etiquette.

Using a face-to-face methodology in a partly virtual world won’t work and leaders and their teams will need to turn up differently by;

  • respecting that some team members are remote but must still be included in discussion and conversation,
  • bringing meetings to a close when remote workers log off and deferring any follow-on conversations that usually happen on the walk back to desks until remote workers are again present,
  • being prepared to have intentional conversations,
  • communicating well with everyone whether they are in office or not.

The Gender Question
Leaders must ensure a hybrid working environment doesn’t impact one gender more than another. Anecdotally women are more likely to opt for the home-office option to better manage home and family lives – it is no secret that the majority of domestic duties continue to fall to females.

What leaders must ensure is that reduced ‘in-person’ visibility does not translate to reduced visibility across the board for regular communication and feedback, acknowledgement of performance and as contenders for promotion and advancement. As with all other aspects of a hybrid working environment, this will require discipline and an intentional approach to developing relationships within teams, wherever they may be located.

The benefits of hybridity extend to engagement and productivity; the retention (and attraction) of talented people who may not be local to an office and yet perfect for an organisation; a loyal and motivated workforce and much more – all of which impact positively on the bottom line. The key is to establish hybrid methods that leave no one behind, and to build an organisational culture that recognises and encourages the freedom of choosing where to work that enables everyone to be at their best each day.

We’ll bring more insights on this topic over the coming weeks as we learn more from our clients about what works and what doesn’t.