6 tips to make hybrid work work

Workplace culture expert outlines the most important factors for business leaders to consider

6 tips to make hybrid work work

Effective hybrid work isn’t just about giving your employees laptops and having daily Zoom meets. MPA spoke with workplace culture specialist and author of Culture Fix and The Project Book Colin D Ellis about his top six tips to make hybrid work, work.

  1. Know who can and can’t do their job on a hybrid basis

Not all types of staff can work on a hybrid basis. While some staff could do their job just as well at home as they could in the office, there are others that simply couldn’t. Aside from personality type or home environment, there are some roles that require a physical presence. For mortgage brokers with a shopfront, a front desk receptionist is likely to be crucial, making this role more challenging to transition to a hybrid model.

“If you’re still expecting people to walk through the door, receptionists and office staff may still be required to meet and greet customers,” said Ellis.

On the other hand, it could be possible to organise this physical presence in shifts if you have more than one receptionist on the books.

  1. Make sure staff stay connected

While staff may be getting sick of Zoom catchups after 18 months of a pandemic, it’s important to find a way for the team to remain connected as part of a hybrid work model. A big part of this is culture.

“Culture is something lots of organisations talk about but very few put the time and effort into defining what it means for that organisation,” said Ellis.

He said it doesn’t matter how many staff you have, it’s important they are united by a common understanding of what it means to work for the company.

“It’s less about the targets you have got and more about how it feels to work, so regardless of where you are based, you always feel connected to something,” he said.

When staff are their happiest and feel trusted to do their job, it promotes positive behaviour, effective collaboration, empathy with one another and better performance.

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  1. Managers should up their game

Managing staff remotely is not necessarily something that the majority of leaders had trained in before the pandemic. In fact, research has shown that most lack confidence and expertise in managing a hybrid workforce.

“There was some research done earlier this year that found only 20% of managers felt they had the skills to lead remote or virtual teams,” said Ellis.

He said that it was important that business leaders improve their skill sets if they intend to retain a hybrid work model moving forward. Soft skills are a major part of this and include having good emotional intelligence, practicing active listening, showing empathy and engaging in multiple modes of communication.

“Hybrid models won’t work if you’re just sending emails back and forward, it really does require a mix of communication,” he said.

Having a human focus was key, he added.

“Sometimes people just want to talk about how they feel and have someone listening,” he said.

  1. Build a good workplace

This involves both the office or shopfront and the employee’s home working environment. While it may be easy for those running the business to escape into their wood panelled home office for focused work, staff fresh out of uni are less likely to have the same luxury. As a manager, it’s important you help staff set up their home work environments to be as ideal as possible within the limits of their financial circumstances.

This doesn’t mean hybrid should be abandoned though. Even many established offices aren’t ideal for effective, focused work, said Ellis. Not only are modern day offices uninspiring, but their open nature ironically creates barriers between staff.

“In reality open plan is only good for one type of personality,” he said. “This is why you see things like headphones in offices. People don’t feel like they are able to do quiet, considered work because organisations haven’t set offices up in the right way.”

  1. Utilise technology

It’s one thing to have the best technology in place to maximise hybrid work, but if staff don’t know how to use it effectively, then it’s nothing more than a lost opportunity.

“Think about the different ways you can use technology to enhance hybrid working,” said Ellis.

Once you have the best systems in place, make sure you invest in training staff. Otherwise, they won’t know how to leverage the potential for greater efficiency that the technology could provide.

  1. Be clear on salary

While some organisations have agreed to pay hybrid workers the same salary as what they would have for a face-to-face model, others have told their staff they would be earning less if they chose to work remotely.

Read next: How to get paid the same amount for doing less work

Whether or not you chose to do this should be based on a range of factors, but if you do go down this path, it is essential to communicate this clearly and early on in the piece to allow staff to decide if they want to stay with the organisation.

Keep in mind though, the age of “the great resignation” has resulted in around 41% of staff globally considering whether to change jobs, according to a recent Microsoft survey. Elli said one of his clients recently lost four staff members, one of whom was offered a remote position with an interstate company for $40,000 more a year.

As the possibility for remote or hybrid work takes border restrictions out of the equation, more and more opportunities have presented themselves for staff who are unhappy with the culture or pay at their existing workplace.