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The simplest answer to the question ‘what is hybrid working?’ is working with flexibility. Consider how people worked ten, even five years ago. Most people had a ‘place’ they uniquely went to in order to work. People operated to defined parameters, based on the type of company they worked for.

A retail business most likely had people working in stores, a warehouse or an office. A food production business, at a manufacturing plant or distribution centre. Employee contracts stipulated times people needed to show up, whether they worked shift patterns or needed to wear a uniform.

Hybrid working is challenging these traditional ways of working, giving employees more say in what works for them, as well as what works for the employer.

Hybrid working is:

  1. The place work gets done
  2. The time work gets done
  3. The way people come together to wor
  4. How processes and workflows operate
  5. How individual needs are balanced with the needs of the organisation
  6. The nature of the employment contract

Your organisation may, of course, have its own definition, but considering these six elements is a good place to start to get to the nub of what hybrid working is all about.

 

The place work gets done

The desire to work flexibly isn’t new. Companies have been grappling with the concept for decades. While the idea of working from home was appealing to many, letting go of traditional presenteeism (the need to see people in the office) was something that often got in the way of flexibility.

woman working from home with her dog

The global pandemic changed where work got done almost overnight. Offices closed their doors, forcing employees to work from home. Interactions with customers moved online. Very quickly new patterns emerged, creating not just a change in work routines but changes in work-life.

Hybrid working is, in part, having more flexibility in where you work.

 

The time work gets done

Over the last two years, we have accelerated to hybrid working at breakneck speed. Employers have not only been forced to consider where people show up to work, but also how people use their time.

Traditionally, people working in offices turned up to work at the same time. Meeting routines started at 9am. People came together at a similar time to have lunch.

teaching child whilst working from home

Hybrid working challenges this notion. Someone working from home might get up early and work for a few hours, taking a break from 8-9am to take their children to school. Others may work late into the night because that suits their domestic arrangements. People find themselves on Zoom or Teams calls, working their traditional lunch hour.

As an employer, you might need to dictate start and finish times – especially if you are running a call centre that requires shift work. However, many managers are waking up to the fact that people can be just as productive (perhaps even more so) when they have greater flexibility.

Hybrid working is also a re-think of when people are available to work.

 

The way people come together to work

Having greater where and when flexibility is far from straightforward because it impacts how people come together collaboratively. A team’s ability to work on a project is no longer dictated by getting together in one room (and staying locked there until the work is finished!). Instead, tasks may need to be broken down and attended to by subsets of people at different times of the day. Getting everyone working on the same topic, at the same time, may just not work if certain employees have flexible start and finish times.

woman having a video conference

People who collaborate across borders and time zones grabble with this dilemma all the time. Hybrid working equally relies on people effectively communicating whilst working from home and coming together in ways other than face to face. This has meant connecting over technology. But it’s not just connecting live on a video call – it might be sharing knowledge in real-time, through cloud-based shared drives, or layering ideas and answers to something already worked on.

For hybrid working to work, you need to re-think how people collaborate to reach shared goals.

 

How processes and workflows operate

Performance management historically relied on a manager being present to monitor and measure work. Even if people were present only some of the time, the manager had in-person opportunities to question and generally sense-check an employee’s performance.

Hybrid working asks us to fundamentally question whether our core processes can work as they have done previously. Can you really performance manage someone the same way if you never meet them face to face? Would it be fair to judge someone’s character or personal development needs if you only ever talk remotely? Can you assess which person deserves more of the pay pot, if you’ve spent little time seeing them work in a team?

woman hybrid working

These are real questions and dilemmas for HR professionals, managers, and leaders, highlighting that hybrid working is a re-think of traditional processes and workflows.

 

How individual needs are balanced with the needs of the organisation

Anticipating personal preferences and work styles have been important to employee satisfaction and productivity, long before hybrid working. To get the best out of people, managers need to understand what makes individuals more or less motivated and productive.

Working at home may suit an employee with a long commute, a strong network and an independently minded team. For someone sharing a small apartment where interruptions are frequent and space is of a premium, office-based work may be preferred. The key is not to assume that everyone will have the same needs.

woman hybrid working

Of course, organisations also have needs. It isn’t always possible to fully accommodate working flexibly. People still need to feel connected to the purpose, values and challenges faced by the organisation. Work must get done. Targets must be achieved. Leaders and managers, even if working remotely themselves, must be visible, communicating, and reassuring team members. They must set the tone for the organisation.

With this in mind, hybrid working becomes the personalisation of work for every employee, balanced with meeting the needs of the organisation.

 

The nature of the employment contract

One thing is clear. Since people started working differently – remotely or in a hybrid model, expectations of employers have changed. People are less afraid to ask for individual needs to be considered in how they work. Employers wanting to attract top talent are mindful of ensuring they offer fully flexible work arrangements. But as we at Notebook Mentor recently reported in HR.com flexible, hybrid working on its own is not enough to retain top talent.

These changes are shifting the very nature of the employment contract. Employees are looking to employers to be their psychological safety net and to put their health, safety, and wellness at the top of the agenda. Hybrid working is an opportunity to reinvent traditional relationships between employer and employee – sharing power and decision making in how the overall organism works.

 

Hybrid working may not be an option for some service industries or those who rely on face to face interaction, but even these sectors are being affected by a desire to change. There is no one blueprint for the perfect hybrid working model. Conversation and collaboration are key, as is flexibility.

Managing and leading a hybrid team isn’t always easy. Want to improve and tap into your leadership skills? Check out our career journaling notebook, ‘What kind of leader am I?

not-getting-on-with-someone-at-work-book-cover

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