The rules of hybrid work are on the rise as many companies worldwide are now implementing this work model. But what does it mean to work in a hybrid environment? Is it all about the location or rather output and logic? The statistics are quite clear as over 70% of employees claim that they want flexibility. Google has recently published a statement that employees will be able to work two days remotely and three days from the office. HSBC has cut their workspace in London by 40%. But… what is hybrid work all about? Let’s deep dive into this topic by taking a look at several, crucial hybrid work rules that I have prepared based on my cooperation with companies from all around the world.
The role of the office
As much as it’s being said that hybrid companies should act as remote first ones in terms of organising work, then we should also think about redesigning the role of our office space. We must determine its function so that we can embrace what it offers to our team. Office spaces will be great for building real connections, socialising, feeling company culture and just adding the so called “personal touch”. Additionally, in terms of teamwork we may want to distinguish when the office is going to add the most value and when we can use remote work the most. The whole idea of hybrid work in its concept is supposed to be a win win solution, connecting the best elements of a remote first model with an office based approach. So if you are now implementing a hybrid work model, ask yourself the question why you need the office in the first place, what are you willing to do with it, what role is it going to play within your team?
Hybrid work rules
Let’s focus on major rules that are absolutely crucial in order to make the hybrid work model transparent, efficient and enjoyable. Below, I have distinguished several aspects that I’ve observed in successful remote-first and hybrid companies that I’ve worked with.
At this stage your company is probably using different applications that allow you to perform remote project management. No wonder – the majority of your team has been working remotely for the past year. The question here is: do you know where you can find crucial information in order to do your job? Or do you sometimes use emails, sometimes software, sometimes you’re on the phone and then again you’re sending text messages to people? Which tools are you using in order to have a centralised database as well as a knowledge base that allows you to perform your initial task just once (and then it intelligently jumps into other tools, as they are all connected)? Do you have everything in the right place knowing exactly what needs to be done, who is responsible and by when?
Transparent communication guidelines
I always say that communication is the glue towards top performance.
That’s the reason why it is always important to stress the role of proper communication in order to ensure a smooth workflow. How do you communicate now? Do you know which apps you use for what type of communication? Do you use different channels and can you distinguish their roles? Or do you just send messages randomly to team members literally 24/7 without any rules? Does your team work in a structured time frame? How do you perform feedback? How do you write messages? Are they being easily understood or you need to repeat yourself? Obviously, it is very important to introduce asynchronous communication as soon as possible in order to structure your daily tasks. This way you will be able to focus on work according to your own pace in a hybrid work environment.
An equal level of technological knowledge
For some tech savvy people all the tools and applications that are being used seem to be a no brainer. But if you’re a leader and you are managing a team, keep asking questions whether everybody is on the same page. If you’re a master in terms of tools and automation, make sure to ask your team if they feel the same way. While working with global, distributed companies and hybrid teams, I often come across the very same issue – we assume instead of asking. It seems like many tools that are available on the market are not even used to the full so make sure to get to know what they offer. What you want to achieve here is facilitation of your daily task but at the same time you should remember that tools are supposed to serve us – not the other way round.
You should determine rules of what it means to be at work. If your team works in different time zones, the rules are mainly going to be based on asynchronous workflows. However, if you all work in the same time zone you want to make sure that the exact time of being at work is defined properly. Your team must know how to disconnect. It’s really important to talk about work life balance and foster an environment where switching off notifications on your applications and closing your laptops becomes a good habit in your hybrid work environment. If you don’t talk about creating this kind of awareness then it will lead to massive burnout among your team members. In the past it was easy as we used to spend usually 8 hours in the office and could just leave the building. Now we need to create healthy habits on how we’re going to disconnect when we work remotely and how this can be combined with in-office practices.
The less meetings, the better
Meetings tend to eat our time. If we’re talking about remote meetings, we are additionally dealing with the so-called Zoom fatigue syndrome because the majority of meetings are too long and in the end we sometimes don’t know why we’re even participating. Yeah, on average that’s the sad truth. So now try to limit your remote meetings as much as you can and perform them in the office to allow people to socialise (that’s how you can truly embrace hybrid work!). However, if you can’t completely cut out remote meetings then make sure that they are as short and efficient as possible. I have come across this opinion that due to the huge number of remote meetings, people were sometimes stuck in front of their laptops for four 5-6 hours without a break. Consequently, they didn’t even have time to go to the bathroom! How crazy is that? We certainly don’t want to be prisoners in our own homes!
Measure the output
Hybrid work is not about the location. It is about the goals, the output, the results that we are willing to achieve. That’s the reason why you should evaluate the in office environment vs. the remote setup in order to make the best out of both. There is this huge discussion now going on globally about where teams should work from. I know this is absolutely important from the legal, health and safety as well as the security perspective. However, in terms of the methodology we should strongly stress that it’s not about the place but the “how” and “why” when we are choosing a certain working environment these days.
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