In early 2020, the world embarked on the largest Work from Home (WFH) experiment ever seen. At first, things were difficult, although some adapted more easily than others, there is still much to be done.
Simply selecting reverse gear and going back to how we worked in 2019 represents a missed opportunity. Now is the time to think less about WHERE we work and focus on HOW we work.
Every company is different and ChangeWorq can help you to develop the right strategy to reshape your future. If you would like to explore these ideas, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.
Hybrid Work isn’t new, but we should consider it to be normal!
A proportion of Knowledge Workers e.g. sales executives and consultants, have been working remotely for many years, but for most of the working population however, the pandemic proved that that working away from the office was not only possible, but often more productive and enjoyable.
This isn’t universally true. Some roles or activities can only be performed from a purpose-built location, as you may need specialised equipment.
A Hybrid future isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. While some tasks can easily be conducted outside the office, other activities are more effective when we are face-to-face (problem solving, idea generation etc.)
We need to factor in the human dimension. Some people want to separate work and life and for others, even if they can work from home, they prefer to be in the office. By examining these cultural, management and human perspectives we can create a fascinating future of work.
A cautionary note on what is called Proximity Bias. This happens when managers or colleagues unconsciously prioritise their attention on those who are in the room, leaving remote attendees feeling left out. This bias leads to worries that Presence will lead to Promotion. We need to be careful with our Digital Etiquette to avoid this happening.
Modes of Working
When government restrictions are lifted, from time to time some team members may work at home while others will work in the office. We need think about WHY we need to work in a particular location and create reasons to be together when necessary.
It’s important to work out which interactions/meetings should be conducted face-to-face vs. those which can be run virtually. We recommend analysing your meeting types, defining how and when each style of meeting is conducted.
Technology is the prime enabler for effective Hybrid working. Virtual working has been viable for many years, but adoption has been slow. A point of inflexion has been passed and we think that virtual meetings will remain an ongoing part of our work landscape.
Successfully adoption isn’t simply an IT problem, our recent experience points towards a gap in training and behavioural guidelines. Technology often appears to be overly complex whereas it should enable our work, without dominating our attention.
This period has highlighted the inadequacy of our home setups. Few of us are fortunate enough to have a dedicated space. Most of us struggle to find space, which leads to challenges attending video calls or being able to focus without interruption. Nowhere is this more true than in Asia, where our homes tend to be smaller and many live with extended family members.
Even if you have the space, it is the ergonomics that are the greatest concern. If you have the space and the means, you can buy office furniture (perhaps via a procurement programme run by your organisation). If this isn’t possible try and avoid working in a hunched position on a sofa. Instead, use an upright chair (you can add a small cushion for lumbar support if you need to), and stand from time to time and take breaks.
If possible, use an external monitor, keyboard and mouse with your laptop and during a video call, make sure the camera is at eye height. Use a headset and if you conduct talks or seminars, invest in a microphone and think about the lighting (adding a 30cm ring light in front of you makes all the difference).
Traditional offices should not escape critique. Much has been written about workplace design in recent years, with too much focus on ‘how it looks’ rather than investing the time to examine ‘how it works’.
We need to work out the real-world problems that need solving and develop spatial and behavioural solutions. Most workplaces resemble a shallow ‘work swamp’, with endless emails, pointless meetings, and continual interruptions by colleagues.
How we work is a balance of solo and group tasks. Our data shows that knowledge workers spend around 30-40% of their time on solo work and 60-70% on group or collaborative work and yet we design spaces with around 80% of space for solo work.
Now we have a chance to recalibrate. By understanding why people are coming into their office and knowing the balance between of solo : group work we can change office design to meet the needs of individuals and teams when they come together. This does not mean that the office should be focussed entirely on collaboration. A mix of thoughtfully designed spaces for uninterrupted focus work, adhoc interaction, idea generation, problem solving and information exchange, will deliver a new office landscape that matched supply to demand.
You may have opportunities for space saving. If your workforce spends part of their working week at home, this is effectively a ‘discount’ on building peak occupancy. Pre pandemic it was very common for peak occupancy to average ~75% and with a reduction of 20% (i.e. 1 day WFH per week), it’s easy to see that savings may be possible.
The ability to achieve savings does depends on lease timing, sub-divisibility of floors etc. Any savings shouldn’t be at the expense of effective working, but at the very least, redistributing the work-setting mix as described above will deliver a more productive environment for your staff.
Coping with Hybrid, places additional pressures on staff and their managers. We hear feedback from workers who say their days are longer and filled with even more back to back virtual meetings. Others feel guilty about the freedom of WFH and overcompensate by working more hours.
We have been told that some managers are ‘crossing the line’ by making requests or sending messages out of normal working hours. While genuinely important matters have always required attention at unusual times, we think it’s important not to behave differently simply because you are in a different location.
In Hybrid mode, managers need to engage team members differently. While planning work coordination and scheduling, inevitably we learn more about a team member's personal circumstances; subjects that manager and staff have rarely talked about. We need to help staff find the right balance between work imperatives and personal circumstances. These are new conversations and we need psychologically safe environments to have these important discussions.
These conversations should be framed as a joint conversation. As mentioned earlier; engagement rather than mandate is the key. Well Being is a complex topic, including diet, fitness, time management, psychology, engagement, handling pressure and prioritisation etc. Come and talk to us about your needs as they apply to your business and your people.
With change of this magnitude, we need to think carefully about the process of change. As we stated earlier, reverting to how things were in 2019 represents a missed opportunity. Employers run the risk of staff switching employers to those who offer greater flexibility of work patterns.
Delivering effective change requires engagement and not top down mandate. While staff are looking for clarity, our experience shows us that they want to play their part in determining the future or work.
With any change process, an open conversation will help team members to understand their personal responsibilities as well as the inter-dependencies between teams. This is vital, as organisational effectiveness arises from good alignment of mutual expectations and deliverables.
Codifying how we work together prioritises team outputs and while personal flexibility is important, implementing Hybrid must achieve organisational balance with clarity of messaging and consistency of roll out.
If you would like to learn more, we will be happy to talk to you about your situation and help you to maximise the opportunities for your organisation.