Your employees are conflicted about hybrid work. According to our recent survey on connected workforces, 60% of workers say increasing digitalisation has been a resounding positive. Yet, 48% of hybrid workers feel isolated in their jobs.
On the other hand, 69% of hybrid workers have seen an improvement in their work/life balance. But 30% of all employees feel overwhelmed by how much new technology is sweeping through the organisation. The positives and negatives cancel each other out. And instead of getting the best of both worlds, employers are getting a mediocre middle – where neither office-based work nor part-time remote working is truly working.
Effective hybrid working is tough, but it’s not impossible. Leaders can only make the hybrid model work if they understand remote working.
In this guide, we’ll explore the fundamental principles for a fully functioning connected workplace. So you can hone in on the positives, and defeat the negatives once and for all.
If your whole team couldn’t function remotely, you sure as heck shouldn’t be doing hybrid. Unless you’re designing with a remote-first mindset, your remote workers will always be on the back foot. Structure, policy, and standardisation are imperative if you want all workers to feel equal and supported, regardless of where they work.
Every effective remote work model combines three things: communication, documentation, and democratisation. Let’s start there.
Most companies have their favoured platforms for communicating. I bet you can name a few channels you use every single day. But it might be time to revisit these channels if you’re embracing a hybrid model. Water cooler conversations aren’t a viable communication method if no one hangs out at the water cooler anymore. Without the water cooler conversations, you need to be intentional about knowledge sharing. Standardising your communication platforms means everyone can get access to information at the same time and at the right time.
With a combination of in-house and remote workers, you need to embrace asynchronous communication. This kind of communication is heavily dependent on the quality of your writing skills. If your business was office-based before the pandemic, your people might not have developed the asynchronous communication skills needed to thrive remotely. So you’ll need to invest in a little training and education and permit your people to play around with new tools.
It’s also essential that you give agency to your people over how they communicate. Can they set working hours on your instant messaging platform? And what’s your guidance for scheduling meetings; who needs to be included, and how do you decide whether meetings are necessary? Assume nothing, communicate everything.
Now that companies can operate with their teams distributed around the world, it’s really important to document your processes and record how your business operates. Primarily because this helps business continuity. It’s all too easy for employees to slip into siloed working; quietly getting on with their specific tasks without ever documenting how or what is being done.
Seniors and other teams might get to see the deliverables, but they may lack oversight of the approach. This becomes a problem when employees eventually leave the workplace or take time off because work can’t be delegated as easily when no one is sure quite how it happens. But documentation also makes it much easier for your people to hit the ground running with their tasks. There’s nothing more demotivating than being ready to get started, but having to clarify specific details with other team members. It can ruin momentum, especially if other team members are located in different timezones and people need to wait on replies.
Whether you’re recording things in a shared doc or your favourite workspace app, make sure you’re documenting all the ins and outs of your business.
Don’t panic, this has nothing to do with office politics. In this context, democratisation refers to how you share knowledge.
People working outside of the office should feel like they’re on an equal footing with those working inside the office. To achieve this, you need to democratise information and create a system that doesn’t rely on employees manually requesting access to stuff. Many organisations refer to this system as their knowledge hub.
The good news is, that if you’re already embracing digital tools and cloud-based software, you probably have some of this infrastructure in place. Don’t be afraid to lean heavily on your tech stack – our survey also showed that those who responded positively to software adoption said that it reduced admin (58%), improved communication (56%), and enabled greater autonomy (43%) by helping them manage their working hours more effectively.
Your knowledge hub is the collective brain of your company. It might contain multiple levels of access, but every single person should have access to the stuff required for their day-to-day role.
Just like the different parts of your brain are responsible for different functions, your knowledge hub should have different segments for each department. Separate locations for culture, operations, policy, and company benefits are also useful. If the company brain lives across locations in your employees’ heads, miscommunications, misunderstandings, and disruption are inevitable. Get it out of their minds, and into your knowledge hub.
Picture this: you pass your boss in the corridor and strike up a chat. They seem a little distracted, so you ask them if something’s wrong. They confess that they like the hybrid culture isn’t working. They need some kind of handbook, a guide to the company’s culture and operations that will standardise employee experience. You casually mention that you read Gitlab’s Remote Playbook, and would love to pull something together yourself. Your boss is delighted and asks you to form a task group to build a hybrid work handbook.
Now answer this: would you have received that opportunity if you worked remotely? For hybrid to work for your people, they can’t receive different opportunities based on where they work. If this scene unfolded at your company, team members who happened to be in the office would have an unfair advantage. Those who weren’t in the office would feel overlooked, disregarded, and probably bitter.
Eventually, this eats away at coworker relationships and in time, organisational culture. Chance meetings lead to chance opportunities, but they ostracise the people who aren’t present. And when it comes to remote, nothing can’t be left to chance.