Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Four Key Considerations for a Successful Hybrid Work Model

Juliette Connolly, Assistant Vice President, Strategy and Experience APAC
Strategy / Innovation

One thing that the past year has shown us is that remote and hybrid work approaches are here to stay.

While the start of the pandemic meant that organizations had to rapidly scale and deploy digital tools to allow their employees to work from home within days, the return to office approaches can and must be considered more thoroughly.

Is Hybrid Work the Future of Work?

More than 70% of workers have said that they want remote work options to continue, and that this level of flexibility is an absolute “must have” expectation amongst high performing talent. This means that every company will need to find the right combination of work, workers, and workplaces to suit their culture.

How are Hybrid Work Models Implemented?

Unfortunately, many organizations are approaching the return to office and hybrid work offering as a one-time event — or worse, a policy issue.

The move to a combination of in-person and remote ways of working is a change on the scale of the industrial revolution. However, this transformation is being undertaken at the speed of light.

When we consider the never-before-experienced upheaval of the past year, it’s not surprising that many employees and their leaders are feeling exhausted and disengaged. Never has it been more crucial to consider what implications hybrid work will have on the overall employee experience — both for those who choose to work remotely, and those who return to the office.

Hybrid work, its implications, sponsorship, leadership — it all needs to be managed and, more importantly, measured like the transformational change it is.

Key Considerations for Hybrid Office Workplace Transformation

  1. Who returns to the office and when should they return?
  2. How will executives reestablish or reimagine their organizational culture?
  3. How will front line leaders manage, communicate, and connect with employees who have individual flexibility?
  4. What level of personalization will each employee be able to have for flexible work?

Additionally, this new approach to working will come with a wealth of previously unconsidered challenges across Reward & Recognition, Diversity & Inclusion, Leadership, and Innovation. Each of these considerations must be mapped across the change strategy to be effectively managed and measured.

How to Manage a Hybrid Team

The change management framework:
  • Defines what success looks like
  • Assesses areas of organizational risk
  • Defines the change impact
  • Creates the approach
  • Manages every affected group throughout the implementation until the desired end state is achieved

Most importantly, change approaches continuously measure where people and teams are in the journey to successfully accepting and working in the transformation. Without this level of rigor in adapting to the impact of hybrid work, companies will be challenged to align their efforts across their organization and will, therefore, achieve varying levels of success.

The Hybrid Work Model is not a Policy Issue

There is real risk involved if hybrid work approaches are approached as a policy issue.

For example, frontline leaders could be left to interpret and negotiate the terms of remote and hybrid work individually with each individual employee. That will leave some teams more advantaged than others. The reason is simply because they were able to negotiate better or had a manager who was more willing to adjust.

That lack of rigor in managing this change could lead companies open to the possibility of legal or reputational risk as some already disadvantaged groups could be adversely impacted.

To effectively mitigate this risk, implementation a formal change process should:
  • Include active and vocal executive sponsorship 
  • Equip front line leaders with the tools and support they need

Overcoming the Challenges of Hybrid Remote Work Models

It’s certain that the return to office and the commencement of hybrid work approaches will be met with resistance. Furthermore, the new hybrid work model may also be met with uncertainty amongst leaders and employees.

Change aware organizations will leverage communications and messaging that drive awareness and support for the change. It will be crucial to carefully craft and layer the conversations with consideration for both frequency and tone of voice prior to the commencement of the physical return to office by any employees.

By effectively understanding where concerns exist in advance, your organization will be better able to tailor the change, communication, and leadership approach appropriately. In turn, it will be significantly easier to build momentum and gain individual buy-in.

By investing in the planning and change communication up front (as well as relentlessly measuring the shifts in support and engagement from their employees) organizations will be able to rapidly understand where pockets of uncertainty or confusion exist to apply solutions.

Your Successful Hybrid Office

Formalizing your return to office or hybrid work models as a change issue will allow your organization to:
  • Deeply consider the needs of all your employee groups 
  • Lay the groundwork for successful integration of this new way of working

For 14 years, we have been navigating change and putting the employee at the centerReady to create a positive employee experience in a virtual world? Let’s get started.