It’s clear that the global pandemic will continue to evolve and mutate into our collective futures. While the business community quickly adopted the work from home models in 2020, the path forward, whether post or mid-pandemic, will be as challenging ever. Employees have grown accustomed to the natural benefits of working remotely from home and as referenced in a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, 9,000 workers surveyed by Accenture found that 83% of respondents viewed the hybrid workplace as optimal. The immediate challenge for business leaders is to manage a hybrid work model that is undoubtedly here to stay.
The Challenges And Solutions To Help Hybrid Work Models
Below, Kamaria Rutland, senior L+D Learning and Development Manager for one of the world’s largest global travel and hospitality corporations discusses some of the challenges and solutions to help mid and large firm corporate managers optimize hybrid work models now and in the near future to reach bottom line goals.
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What are some of the challenges presented when managing a growing hybrid workforce and what tools have helped with the adoption of the hybrid office model?
The pre-pandemic workforce had yet to experience widespread adoption of remote work. This left a significant number of managers and senior leaders across industries unsure if they could trust their workforce to perform and maintain productivity in the same way if not "seen" in the office every day. The global pandemic has forced many organizations into an unintentional "pilot" test, thrusting workers into a remote environment. Once virtual tools and platforms were adequately adopted workers overwhelmingly proved that they were able to effectively connect, collaborate and perform in a remote capacity.
How are managers being challenged as they navigate through this new era?
The remaining obstacle to the permanent adoption of hybrid offices is manager sentiment. Employees have done their part to prove they can maintain performance levels but management buy-in to remote work still varies from office to industry.
Employees already know what they want for the future of work; and that is greater flexibility and balance for home and work life. The onus is on the manager to research effective ways to manage a remote work team and authentically create a virtual work culture. Frankly, some managers are not up to the task, resistant to change and unable to see the possibilities remote work may provide for their team and the organization. Managers can create an environment where all employees, both in-office and remote, can feel connected to the team's goal, but it will take a very swift and intentional evolution of management tactics.
What are some of the technologies and processes that managers can use to ensure good communication and productivity when the workforce is dispersed between in-office and remote?
Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom have quickly become common platforms to support a virtual work environment. Effective communication across any platform among a dispersed work team requires the establishment of norms; such as what platforms are best used for what types of communications and consensus around times of day or days to schedule collaborative work.
The most important aspect to ensure effective collaboration is designated central, digital hub for documents and resources to be filed, stored and shared within the platform or on a cloud server. This will ensure that both in-office and remote employees have equal access to the tools and resources they will need to perform their job functions. A great best practice is for organizations to conduct training on the technology platforms to ensure that all employees are comfortable using the technology daily. It is also important to re-visit training on the platforms when there are updates or enhancements. These technology platforms have introduced several enhancements in recent months in response to user requests for improvements and functionality.
What are some examples of hybrid workplaces that are working well and what lessons can other companies incorporate to improve their hybrid workplace?
Work teams that have developed a team charter generally consisting of the team's mission, scope of operation, objectives, consequences, and, if applicable, specific time frames for completion of projects are working well to maintain team cohesion. Team charters are key to establishing norms, commitments and instructions on how to work effectively together regardless of workstyle preference, personality or workplace location. Team charters have proven to be successful because they outline in advance how to work together as a team. Team charters should be revisited when new team members are introduced or when established norms are no longer contributing to the team's success.
Is hybrid work model the wave of the future or just a fad? Will the option of working from home now be a standard requirement or expectation for workers?
Current industry surveys and research increasingly show that remote work options are top of mind for workers, with recruiters indicating that this is the number one questions asked among job candidates.
We’re in a highly competitive job market and employers can't afford to ignore the growing majority preference for remote work opportunities. Workers increasingly express their preference for fully remote or hybrid work allowance; above pay increases and health benefits. A recent workinstitute.com study found that "1 in 3 millennial workers plan to quit their jobs after the pandemic, in large part due to unhappiness over corporate culture, and their company's handling of the pandemic's remote-working challenges." These strong employee sentiments should inform employers' decisions to create flexible work environments that can attract and retain top talent.
What are some of the major pitfalls hybrid workforces fall into, and how can you avoid them?
One of the major pitfalls to implementing a successful hybrid work force occurs when organizations adopt inconsistent hybrid work policies for their employees. This can happen in instances where managers are split on their support for remote work in general within one company.
A company can have one manager overseeing a department where remote worker contributions are fully supported and valued while a manager from a different department within the same organization may not like managing remote workers and prefers dealing with employees in person; hence does not allow remote work on his team or gives preferential treatment to those workers who opt in to working in the office full time. It’s key for companies and senior leaders to adopt universal remote work policies to avoid widespread resentment and employee dissatisfaction.
I personally have interviewed several workers in the past who were the sole remote worker on their team, (often living in another part of the country), and they’ve expressed a feeling of isolation from team collaboration and lost opportunities to work on assignments because they choose remote work.
How do you instill and foster company culture when managing a large workforce, one that is spread out across the country rather than under one roof?
Companies should explore ways to create employee to employee engagement through shared experiences that in-office and remote workers can do simultaneously to build connectivity and enhance cohesion. The optimal projects and programs to accomplish connectivity goals will vary and should be tailored to fit company culture. A broad range of activities can be utilized such as coordinated,
hands-on community service projects that align with the company’s mission, projects that can be easily accessed by remote and in-office workers for participation. Virtual engagement across company message boards and platforms can also be used effectively to keep employees in contact through shared stories, recipes, vacation pictures, hobbies and popular news and lifestyle discussion. If managers are struggling with finding creative options, they can create a team of individuals who can brainstorm and plan culture-centric activities regularly.
Any other tips or advice for managers aiming to make their hybrid offices function seamlessly?
My advice for companies and managers is to Meet this Moment. If an organization is unwilling to recognize employee preferences for hybrid work schedules or full-time remote work requests they risk their ability to retain top talent, while increasing employee dissatisfaction. This factor alone is enough to stifle the creativity, performance and innovation that is the beating heart of any successful business;
This is where stakeholders would agree the true value lies when it comes meeting and exceeding their bottom line goals.
Employees will need management tactics to evolve to embrace a variety of proven work arrangements that enable works to perform and sustain their job function regardless of geography, and we have the technology now that makes all of this possible.
Company culture and policies will have to remain nimble to keep up with an ever-evolving health, social and political global climate. There is definitely a management skills gap we have to bridge to successfully collaborate with remote workers. This will require a reinvestment in training and development for senior management and corporate leaders to adapt and thrive within this current work environment. It will be costly, yet well worth the ROI to retrain and retain talent in an increasingly competitive job market.
About Kamaria Rutland and OTM Coaching Group:
Source material submitted by Kamaria Rutland. She is an L+D Learning and Development Manager for one of the world’s largest global travel and hospitality corporations and has over 20 years of experience in senior management and corporate leadership. Kamaria is the Founder OTM Coaching Group, a consulting and corporate training firm training programs aim to build meaningful human connections in the workplace to drive greater business results. Kamaria holds an Executive Master of Business Administration from San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA. See more at: www.otmcoachinggroup.com.