Elisabet Hearn and I wrote this article for 2020visionleader.com
Ideas for doing hybrid right with culture at the heart
A year ago, us and many others started talking about hybrid working and going back to the office following the covid pandemic. It was a useful conversation to have but in reality the return to the office has not really happened to any greater extent yet. And different countries are at different stages of return or plans for return. But it’s definitely starting to happen.
SOME REALISATIONS; OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
- The way work gets done has changed over the last 18 months, bringing both pros and cons.
- People and organisations have come to the realisation that a lot of roles can be performed either from work or from home.
- And those that have been able to work comfortably from home have reported experiencing a greater quality of life, not needing to spend time on long daily commutes and having more personal time available for family and friends and personal interests.
- Various studies show that people work more when working from home, hence risking burnout. People are “on” more, blurring the lines between work and home life.
- More and more people are making more conscious choices about how and where they want to work. increasing the war for talent.
- There have been many reports about people’s mental health being impacted by the pandemic. The need for empathy and care for each other is greater than before.
- If an organisation decides to have some onsite team members and some offsite team members, it can create two disparate groups, where those offsite can feel particularly left outside the perceived ‘main circle’. Neuroscience also shows us “proximity bias” exists, which means we pay more attention to those who are located closest to us.
Here are some ides on how to make the new hybrid setup a success:
Think about PEOPLE first
The last 18 months have been challenging for most people, so focus on people, the individuals, the team. Everything else can take second place. Listen, care, empathise, connect.
You are a role model
How you behave, how you show up will impact people around you. Take the time to center yourself, putting yourself in a good state of mind. Leadership is contagious so lead yourself first.
Make diversity & inclusion a priority
Include everyone equally, regardless of where they are based or any other differentiator. This is the time to show through actions and behaviours that you are serious about having an inclusive workplace and culture where people connect and engage and can be creative together. Value differences as diverse teams are also the most successful ones.
Create an environment of psychological safety
It’s always been important, but even more so now. The challenges are not over and everyone will need to be able to communicate and collaborate with each other, respectfully challenge each other in dialogue to identify issues and create solutions. And for people to want to do that, they need to feel safe to speak up, to share their thoughts, to try, fail and learn (fast) and move on. How you respond when people have the courage to speak their mind makes all the difference.
Create a Team Charter
Build the team intentionally by creating a Team Charter together. A Team Charter is a document that describes the purpose, framework and agreements of the team. Creating a Team Charter is a shared process (not just a leadership task), hence making it a powerful and visual shared commitment.
A Team Charter that is created by everyone, is owned by everyone and therefore is carried out by everyone. Read more about how to do it here.
Involve your team in creating the practicalities of hybrid working
Build your team charter further by discussing and agreeing how to work together and how to support each other in the new setup. Be proactive about it. Focus on output, not input. When you have people working remotely, you must trust them to deliver without micro-managing.
Design the hybrid setup carefully
Some job tasks can easily be done remotely and some can not. This article from Harvard Business Review provides good food for thought on how to assess tasks, handovers and other practicalities that indicates how and where the work is best done.
Allow people to talk about their concerns, recognising that these
disruptive times can be very stressful and that not everyone will react the same way. Just talking about a problem or concern, expressing how someone feels helps to ease said concern is a good first step.
And you can then support them in building strength and resilience to find the solutions they need. You need to make time and space for this in a virtual and office mixed world. So, ensure you have regular informal check-in points.
Build and work on Team Trust
The team dinners, chats and water cooler conversations are harder in this mixed virtual/office world, so recreate that by doing things like having stand up meetings with people in the office together (safely socially distanced as relevant) and include those working virtually by linking them in using technology. Get the office and virtual world mixed. Have some team meetings that are ‘just’ social check-ins too.
Focus on a healthy work/life integration
When working from home, the lines between work and home life get blurred. Help people overcome that by not sending emails around the clock. Be a role model for a healthy work/life integration, minimising the risk of burnout and turnover.
Prioritise 1-to-1 time
To pick up on the office/work ‘vibe’ you will need to carry out and put into the calendar more informal 1-to-1 time to fill in the gaps and the void that the virtual /office mixed environment creates. Use the informal check-ins to pick up on how people feel, what they think and what they need.
Empower with digital tools
Make sure you all have the digital tools that will allow you to collaborate and communicate across the hybrid (remote and office) workplace.
OUR NUMBER 1 ADVICE: CULTURE
As you can see from what we’ve covered here, culture and behaviours are at the heart of success.
We recently did a poll on LinkedIn on this topic which you can read about here.
Focus on culture. Culture is “how things get done around here”, it’s how people behave, it’s the habits that become the norm.
Like with everything else, this new way of working, the hybrid setup will not be plain sailing. And that’s OK.
Be decisive about it, don’t wait until you have all the answers – nobody does. This new reality is here to stay and we need to work with it now. Adjust and adapt to that.
Be intentional in your leadership of it, allow enough time in your busy schedule to manage the ‘new normal’.
It’s inevitable that you and your team will try things out (how to work) and realise that it didn’t turn out exactly the way you wanted it to. And keep in mind that the ‘new normal’ will keep changing. Be agile and open minded. Listen and learn and move forward.
We don’t know what it will look like in a year’s time and beyond. The power lies in exploring that together and learning together. Your role is to lead your team through that.
No one can have all the answers, no one is an expert in this global pandemic. The power and the answers are in all of us, sharing and working on this together, and that needs to be led by a powerful leader who involves, enables and trusts their team. That’s you.