Hybrid working is looks set to be the new normal for many organizations, but the COVID-19-induced conversion into remote working seems impossible to maintain long-term. Currently, companies are being propelled by the momentum of this remote working boom, but cracks are beginning to show.
So what steps should businesses take to help maintain and improve the success they’ve had from remote working?
1.Synchronize your tools
Now that companies have been given some breathing room, they’ve started to review their remote working tools. In doing so, many have discovered a tangle of tool stacks. A standard example of this is one department using a video call system such as Skype and the other using Zoom. This one difference may not seem like a huge issue, but when applied company-wide, it can lead to dozens of different tools being used for the same end goal.
In the case of video calls, this causes a lack of cohesion across an individual team, the department and between leadership and other employees. A lack of synchronicity can cause knowledge isolation within a company; company-wide tools must be enforced. This not only prevents essential information from getting lost and links employees together, but it also makes troubleshooting more manageable. Find tools that fill the needs of every employee and apply them to the entire organization.
2.Pare back the tools stack
Troubleshooting, IT issues and general misinformation runs rampant in hybrid models. Relying so heavily on technology forces people to try and understand their everyday IT more than before. With the added barriers of physical distance, fixing employees' tech issues has become trickier than ever, putting a lot of strain and stress on everyone involved. Combat this by using a streamlined set of tools; this will mean you only have to educate your staff on a small set of tools and inevitably have to know the 'ins and outs' of a small set of tools when they go wrong. This will allow your company to continue operating smoothly even when something goes wrong.
3.Ensure the essentials are in place
Companies launched all sorts of tools at their employees last year, adding Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and others to accommodate diverse needs and maximize connectivity. But after a year, many employees feel like they lack the essentials, the following questions need to be answered.
- Are the appropriate security features in place for permanent remote work?
- How is intellectual property protected in areas where physical security isn’t controlled?
- Does it suit the company to mandate what is used and when?
- Does our current enterprise agreement still apply?
- What capabilities would increase engagement among our hybrid teams? (For example, many companies are considering AI)
4.Be clear in the expectations set for both employees and the company as a whole
Employees can’t be expected to fulfil expectations that haven't been set. In hybrid models, especially in changing times, it’s critical to effectively communicate how performance expectations, workflows, communication schedules and accommodations team members must make. Invest time into your team and pay attention to the requirements you set for them and how they respond. Two-way communication is something that’s taken for granted in a central location-based model; ensure that any goals that aren’t met are addressed and solutions to these problems are found.
5.Avoid burnout and eliminate presenteeism
In the workplace, presenteeism occurs when employees show up for work without being productive. This is usually down to ill-health, be it mental or physical. On the surface, some of these behaviors may not seem problematic, but presenteeism has been exacerbated by the pandemic and remote working, where office day and home life have begun to run alongside each other.
People have been seen frequently to continue working when unwell, work through breaks and put in longer hours while remote working, and without being able to interact with your employees in person, this can be harder to identify and manage. This makes presenteeism an issue that can be just as damaging for a business as absenteeism, due to staff stress and burnout. Ultimately, presenteeism can actually be the cause of further sickness and absenteeism issues later down the line.
Increased unpaid overtime is common, and there must be restrictions in place to help prevent it, such as 'downtime' notifications on desktops or monitoring staff's computer activity, remote or otherwise.
Another emerging issue is employees refusing to take holiday. With minimal options for taking a holiday for the foreseeable future, employees are tempted to save their holiday days for brighter days. Unfortunately, this is also counterproductive if they have no time to recharge and again leads to burnout. Employers can reduce this risk by encouraging their teams to take holidays within a particular time window. Taking a firmer stance on promoting physical and mental health in the workplace will ultimately help reduce this issue, avoid burnout and make your companies remote work solutions sustainable in the long term.
6.Keep leadership empathetic before anything else
The extensive shift to remote working has given leaders a new appreciation for the context in which their people are working. Likewise, employees now expect more from their employers, including more in-depth support for their wellbeing, development and personal circumstances. Employees will always do their best work when they believe in the company's mission, feel supported by a flexible and inclusive work environment and are empowered to make decisions. Allowing them to do so will demonstrate flexibility and compassion, something employees want more of. Doing this will keep your team stable and mean less staff leave, benefitting you as a company overall.
The hybrid model is an exciting open door for businesses, and this opportunity must not be missed. This model requires an entire rethink regarding office culture, work hours, employee benefits and leadership techniques. By utilizing the correct IT infrastructure and remaining flexible, companies will be able to make the best out of this challenging scenario and make remote working work for them.