Culture Nov, 2021

Hybrid working: A brief guide for business owners

By Michael Bowden | Share:

Microsoft are doing it, so are Citigroup. Facebook have been doing it for years and even ‘office-first’ stalwarts like Netflix are coming round to the idea.

Love it or loathe it, hybrid working has transformed the world of work and is here to stay. The UK Recruitment Index 2021 states that 66% of recruiters have experienced a “positive impact” on their businesses from remote working. While companies like Google stoke their virtual campfire, the companies failing to keep up are finding themselves at the brunt of a recruitment crisis as staff leave in their droves.

The reasons causing ‘the great resignation’, a global trend that’s sent the volume of vacant job opportunities into record numbers, are varied, but pursuit of work life balance ranks highly among them.

The benefits of adopting a hybrid working model include:

  • Retaining your current workforce
  • Being able to recruit from a wider geographical area, giving you a more diverse choice of candidates
  • Attracting exceptional candidates unable to apply for office-based jobs due to childcare or other caring commitments
  • The creation of an agile, digital-first team who can work from any location
    A potential saving in office running costs

However, even if you’re lucky enough to own a business that doesn’t require an in-office team, there are still many considerations beyond furnishing your staff with laptops and a fibre optic broadband connection.

Here are just some of the important factors to consider when preparing to go hybrid.

Invite staff to feedback on their working preferences.

Clear parameters around working remotely are vital, so begin by ensuring your team are canvassed for their preferred approach to hybrid working. Also if possible, before implementing any new working processes, offer a consultation period, to allow time for colleagues to adapt.

Get your tech in order.

From shared virtual documents to VPNs, there’s a wide variety of software to ensure teams can work effectively and collaboratively from anywhere. One important thing to consider is to ensure teams don’t immediately rely on emails to replace in-person communication.

Consider switching all internal comms to a business messaging system like Microsoft Teams or Slack, to salvage everyone’s inboxes. Don’t forget to ensure there is a dedicated digital channel for all non work related conversation, which can offer a great substitute for ‘water cooler conversation.

Get up to speed on proximity bias and how to prevent it

Delegating a task or a project to the keenest colleague in closest proximity to you is easily done. However, staff having to be in the right place to get involved in specific projects means there will be members of a team who aren’t being given the opportunity to demonstrate or achieve their full potential.

It’s vital to be aware of the impact of proximity bias and to educate managers in how to ensure hybrid workers aren’t excluded when it comes to sharing intel or allocating important tasks.

How to foster teamwork in a hybrid working environment.

The beauty of hybrid working is, unlike completely remote teams, you can still ensure everyone has regular office time, as well as in-person meetings.

However, do give careful consideration to the experience of new recruits joining the company working on a hybrid basis. Think about how your induction process can be adapted so new team members still have the opportunity to meet everyone in the company and, most importantly, can really feel part of the team.

What about staff working flexible hours?

Thankfully, gone are the days of not being aware of your colleague’s work output because they weren’t sitting opposite you. However, if you’re offering a flexible working model it’s important to set clear parameters around tasks and how colleagues communicate their working timetables so everyone is clear who is online and available at any specific time.

Adapting your workspace.

If you’re downsizing your office (nearly half of recruiters have done this as a result of the pandemic) make sure your organisation is making your new space as efficient as possible. There’s lots of methods currently being adopted by businesses, like allocating each department a specific working day in the office, or setting up a hot desk rota. Remember if you have managers bringing their teams together for a day in the office, which may end up being dominated by meetings, ensure they’ve thought about what space they’ll need for this and have planned accordingly.

How to accommodate colleagues who cannot work remotely?

Don’t forget about colleagues who, due to the nature of their work, are unable to work remotely. Think about what alternative opportunities could be offered to them. One solution here is to offer remote training days where they can complete online courses from home.

Adapting to a hybrid model undoubtedly requires a significant shift in mindset but rewards like the positive wellbeing of your workforce, as well as staff retention and attracting talent, demonstrate that, hands down, it’s well worth the investment.

If you’d like to conduct a hybrid working deep-dive then there are some fantastic resources out there, a good starting point is to take a look at CIPD and also ACAS.

How successful has your firm been with moving to hybrid working? I’d love to hear your experiences and any lessons learned you’d be willing to share.

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