Organisation Development Consultant
Talking to people about their experiences of the pandemic and working from home has yielded interesting data and polarities. Businesses that employ remote workers and have offices with workers present daily represent a hybrid workforce. The vital data will shape hybrid working models as people re-imagine physical ‘offices’
Some people cannot contemplate work resembling a 9 to 5 approach in a physical building away from home. Conversely, people dream of the day that they can re-enter their company offices to immerse themselves in all the social and identity benefits of being co-located. Google and Facebook have extended their mandated work-from-home timelines to a future end date and Twitter, for example, is allowing remote working indefinitely.
Returning to the ‘office’ will never be the same and hybrid workforces are emerging, with no templates or models setting any precedence. Companies that choose to return to a 2019 working model will simply fail in the short term and fast-adapting organisations will lead out of the pandemic.
The positives of working from home cannot negate the impact on people and their ability to self-manage and be accountable for output versus physical office time. We proved the business case to work from any location: We were able to integrate our home and work lives (albeit there with a rough start); our productivity increased with focus; we adopted a plethora of new technologies in record time; we collaborated inclusively; we lowered our carbon footprint and costs; and we tapped our human potential with greater depth.
There were inevitable downsides, too: Isolation took a toll on our mental health; we missed the ability to get things done with minimal effort in the face-to-face environment; we had to expend more energy to build our relationships and keep connected with colleagues; we spent money investing in new tech to obviate the risks of cybersecurity; we worried about being out of sight and redundancies; and we had to face the loss of our power in our social work hierarchies.
And we (mostly) came through this with flying colours and a greater appreciation for what we may seek for ourselves now and in the future in relation to our work, life and organisations.
Armed with this data − from both the lived experience and captured learning − we are better placed to create models of hybridity as we move forward in a post-pandemic world. The wish for us in relation to our work is not to forget the courage and vulnerability that propelled us quantum leaps ahead, to harness these extraordinary abilities, and to bring this untapped energy (and a sense of continual experimentation) to the discussion on how we shape our hybrid business models. Let us not slip back into old ways.
Leading hybrid organisations
- Engage your team on their mandated work experience from the home model, as well as the resultant preferences.
- Relinquish your leadership control mindset in favour of a trust-based approach.
- Co-create and design your hybrid workplace model.
- Redesign social spaces in the ‘physical’ office to promote relationship strengthening and designate time specifically to human connection.
- Where power imbalances emerge, intervene in the human system to ensure inclusion and equality.