It was great wasn’t it? No more commute, relaxed dress code, home comforts…
And then it started getting boring, once the novelty wore away, and away and away. Interminable video calls, sat at the desk all day, lack of spontaneous chat with colleagues. Sound familiar?
But while these may be the downsides to home working – there are other more deep-seated and fundamental ones that businesses and publishers still need to address in my opinion.
I attended a “conference” – a virtual one of course – the other week about the collaboration culture in driving creative transformation in 2022 organised by Salesforce.com. The panel session quickly focused on the issues around Hybrid Working – how to accommodate the balance between those working from home and those with access to offices.
It is what has prompted me to write some thoughts about the challenges we face. My caveat to this is I am no expert. However, I did listen to quite a few experts which has fed my thinking.
The big issue is the imbalance we now have in many workplaces because of hastily put-together home working practices. Now it is becoming permanent, the need to readdress so many working practices is becoming more evident. There is a need for a “levelling up” in the hybridity of home working.
Let me give a couple of examples.
Do we have meeting equity?
How often are meetings now held where some people are in the room and others are tuning in from home. It used to happen a fair bit with people dialling in from offices and that was hard enough – but now it is the norm. What are the issues?
1) Those in the room have far more say in the meeting.
2) Those at home struggle to get their say, struggle to be heard, and find it hard to put their point across.
3) Body language is difficult to read and to interrupt to have your say means you must alter your normal style and behaviour to be heard.
Equality of access
Do companies with hybrid working give equality of access for those at home and those with access to the office?
1) Are you less visible to managers and those who can progress your career if you are not in sight?
2) Do you have the same opportunity as someone who is sat in the office when your manager wants a volunteer quickly or wants to get something done?
3) Do you have the same access to the leadership who may be walking the office floor?
4) And do you have the same access to spontaneous coaching, mentoring or just plain help.
We are also seeing a shift in the balance of power. Now employees are more “portable” – they can move jobs without moving location – and that gives them more bargaining power and companies more of a retention problem.
This has had me thinking. Have we really designed our working cultures for a remote working environment?
We had some big company brands at the conference, and it would be reasonable to say none could really hand on heart say they had got this right.
One thing is for sure, there is no one-size fits all solution to the future of where and how we work. The pandemic has certainly revolutionised the model and the way we need to think about offices, remote working, and employees’ workplace needs. All this means there is no standard way of working.
But maybe there are some norms that are common to all businesses.
Leadership and management
Do we need to see a new kind of leadership? We need to bring more humility and humanity to leadership – as opposed to a relentless focus on results. We will need to train our leaders and managers to be more empathetic. Do they know how to ask the right questions? And if someone says they’re not alright, do they know how to deal with that?
One of my editors told me only today that their job seems to be nearly 60% about counselling – but have we equipped them to safely take on that role?
There is a need for a changing style of leadership and an obligation for leaders to demonstrate where there are inequalities that they can tackle them.
Why? Because talent is now more mobile – and if you don’t create a level playing field there are more opportunities available.
Have we tackled how to do performance management in a hybrid environment? We all have the tools to manage performance and underperformance in an office environment. But how do you deal with it in a hybrid world? How do you know – when you terminate the video call – that your employee is ok?
And who does the employee have to talk to? If they go back to their desk at work, they have the spontaneity of a chat with a colleague. But the inequality of not having that choice could be mentally disastrous.
How do we tackle training: How do we encourage people to be creative, have we thought about psychological safety.
My point is that we need to be intentional in designing remote working practices – rather than assuming we will establish the right norms by a process of osmosis – gradually assimilating ideas and practices.
If we leave it to chance we will build in inequality and a lack of inclusiveness and a set of values that we would never have dreamed of having if we had intentionally designed them.
Global companies are wrestling with this and there are solutions. It is now a duty and a necessity for us as business leaders to consciously review our hybrid working practices.
This blog is my personal opinion: If you have an opinion about this, please feel free to email me email@example.com