How to facilitate hybrid working
- 26 Aug 2021
- Best Practice & Strategies
It’s official: hybrid working is here to stay. We’ve all got used to remote working; now it’s time to tackle the challenge of creating a new workplace culture where a mix of remote and office is the norm.
But how do you give people the flexibility they want and at the same time keep them engaged and maintain productivity, creativity and employee wellbeing?
We’ve collected our top tips.
Talk to your team
Discuss what people found worked well about remote working and what didn’t. What activities do they prefer to do face-to-face? What methods of communication are most effective in different scenarios? What did they miss about working in the office? Build the responses into your plans.
Be as flexible as you can over office hours
You might decide you need one or two days a week when everyone in a team is in the office – or might not. For small teams, you may be able to offer complete flexibility. As far as possible, let people choose office start and finish times. The freer people are to manage their own schedules, the better they can manage work and personal commitments and the happier they will be.
Sort out the tech
As remote working became the norm, many organizations made substantial and rapid investments in technology. Now it’s time to take a step back and evaluate what to do next.
First, look at the hardware. Check that everyone working outside the office has a laptop with the right specification for their needs, alongside a separate larger screen where appropriate. A good quality webcam and microphone are essential for effective online communication.
At the office, make sure you have meeting rooms adequately equipped for hybrid meetings. You’ll need a big screen, a camera positioned in the right place for those at home to see people sitting around the table, a conference-grade microphone and good quality speakers. Train everyone how to use the tech and put clear instructions in the rooms, so the first 10 minutes of each session isn’t wasted.
Review the team collaboration tools you’re using – are they delivering what you need?
And look at your digital processes. Is there scope for moving more into the cloud, so people can access systems wherever they are? Could more workflows be automated and integrated, so there’s less need for manual or stand-alone system tasks that can only be done at the office?
Use shared calendars
Shared calendars make it easy for individuals to schedule their time most effectively. Everyone in the team can see when others are in or out of the office and plan accordingly – whether they want a face-to-face meeting or simply to work alongside colleagues.
Review how you use office space
Typically, people will choose to do tasks requiring focus at home and to come to the office to connect with colleagues. This means you’ll want your office layout to support collaboration and team working.
Ergonomic sitting areas with kitchen facilities encourage the informal conversations and meetings that can so often spark great ideas. Spare chairs in desk areas encourage people to drop by for a quick chat, speeding up problem-solving and boosting information sharing.
Areas where employees can simply plug in their laptops and work alongside each other will be essential. People working on joint projects will benefit from sitting together even for routine activities every now and then. And for many, office days will be an important source of social contact – they’ll want to enjoy the company of colleagues even if they have no particular collaboration objectives.
Consider privacy, too. Not all conversations can take place in an open plan sitting area. Cubicles are ideal for people making long calls or joining video meetings (who wants to be distracted by a colleague’s Teams session?)
Always remember, though, that some people will choose office-based working because home isn’t suitable for work. They’ll need quiet spaces for concentration.
Keep the conversation going
To stay engaged and motivated, people need to feel involved.
When everyone’s office-based, it’s easy to work on projects together, share ideas, and, of course, enjoy office banter. A casual conversation can often turn into an invaluable discussion, with other team members getting involved on the spot. With hybrid working, both collaboration and chat take more effort and it can be hard to keep team bonds strong.
Think about both regular catch-up slots (morning and evening, daily, weekly – whatever is best), and allow time for general chit-chat. Make sure you include people in conversations they would want to be part of, whether they are there in person or not.
Take every opportunity to keep people in the loop so they feel part of the team and the wider organization.
Where you know you’ll want to get people together regularly, schedule regular meetings (the first Tuesday in the month is team meeting day, for example). For more ad hoc meetings, plan as far ahead as possible. It’s good practice even without hybrid working – but even more important when people are working more flexibly.
Make the most of face-to-face time
Make the most of the time you have together: Decide on your objectives for the session and plan appropriate activities. Don’t spend time in the meeting doing anything you could be doing outside it.
Try to make meetings a calendar highlight, rather than a routine chore. One way to achieve this is to use interesting and unusual external venues.
New surroundings put people into a different mindset and can produce fresh perspectives. Include a meal so people can continue the conversations and develop ideas (or simply add on after meeting drinks for team members to catch up and socialize).
Organize social activities
Strengthening relationships and supporting effective team working, social activities are even more important when people don’t see each other at work constantly. And for many employees, work social activities also play a big part in their enjoyment of the job. But where teams might once have headed out for drinks after work on the spur of the moment, any impromptu arrangements will now exclude those who aren’t in the office that day. This makes it even more important to arrange regular activities, and to plan ahead so that everyone can join in.