By Surendra Thapaliya , Business Support Specialist at Culture Intelligence
Work from home was not a widespread practice before the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, hundreds of millions of people around the globe confined themselves within their homes, which left the remote work environment the only viable option for many organizations. Despite the restrictions that began easing around the world, the attention does not seem to be shifted to bringing people back into the office full-time. In the recent survey conducted by BCG, 60% of respondents indicated they want some flexibility in where and/or when they work in the future. Yes, the pandemic has changed the way we work and there might not be any turning back – this has forced the organizations to pave the way for the hybrid workplace.
What is a Hybrid Workplace?
The hybrid workplace is a form of flexible working environment that allows employees to split their time between attending the workplace and working remotely (typically from home). In a typical hybrid workplace, employees have the freedom to split their time between working from home and working from the office. Depending on organizations, there can be several ways to operate in a hybrid environment. It can be entirely remote, where employees turn up only to attend face-to-face meetings, or split to 3-2 with employees working three days remote, two days in the office, or vice versa. According to a report published by McKinsey & Company
Nine out of ten companies are planning to move to a hybrid workplace, but it comes with a challenge to manage two fundamentally different employee experiences.
How do organizations build a hybrid workplace that is flexible yet effective?
- 1. Implement remote work at all levels
When a certain group of employees continues to benefit from in-person collaboration and others do not, remote workers can soon lose the sense of belonging and shared identity. This elevates the risk of emerging two organizational cultures. To reduce the risk, it is vitally important to make sure that remote workers are found at every level of the organization, including senior leadership.
- 2. Empower employees with digital tools
One of the downsides of a hybrid workplace is that you cannot simply pop into the office and have a conversation with your colleague. The opportunity to collaborate in person is minimal to zero. However, this should not prevent the employees from having an impromptu conversation with their co-workers. To reduce the communication gap among employees, organizations should embrace technology and equip everyone in the organization with digital communication tools. This will not only reduce the communication gap but also will make remote employees feel included to others in their every-day work
- 3. Allow the employee to change their preference, but not too frequently
When employees are provided with different options such as office-based work, remote-based work, and hybrid; it is necessary to ensure that they do not change their preferences frequently. By knowing the preferences, it will let the manager (at any level) plan different office activities to be in-person, remote or hybrid attendance. On the other hand, it also helps to minimize the rental cost if you know the number of employees who will be at the office and the number of days they will be at the office.
- 4. Maintain your company’s culture
A major challenge of implementing the hybrid workplace is to be able to have a unified culture across the organization. As mentioned earlier, there is always a risk of two organizational cultures emerging because of the two different ways of working. For example, a culture made of efficiency and accountability is well suited to remote working environments, whereas a culture made of creativity and visionary thinking is well suited to on-site working environments.
If leaders try to build both without knowing the difference, neither may be very effective. The best outcome for a hybrid workplace setting can be achieved if the leader can do the culture assessment that identify its barriers and strengths while building the right strategic culture code in both settings (on-site and remote). It may sound complex when you lack the scientific data and standard framework for culture assessment. Using the Culture Intelligence SaaS platform, leaders can build the Hybrid Culture Code combining distinct sets of values such as Openness, Learning and Collaboration that were proven to be influential in hybrid workplace. With the Hybrid Culture Code in place, leaders can now identify the overall values in their team, improve the underperforming values and eventually build the culture that fits best for each specific team or company in general.
The pandemic has forced businesses and organizations to cope with change and make decisions more quickly than ever before. Research from Mckinsey has shown that companies embracing agile working have outperformed others in adapting to the COVID-19 reality. So, what does agile working mean? Is it the same as flexible working? Flexibility is an influential factor, but it does not, by itself, reflect the scope of agile working that elicits responsiveness.
“Agile working is about bringing people, process, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).”- The Agile Organization
Agile organizations are better at responding to swift changes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and are more likely to succeed in implementing the hybrid workplace compared to non-agile organizations.