It shouldn’t be a surprise that after a year of remote working – more than 75% of employees don’t want to go back to full-time office life (ref: 2021 Microsoft work trend index). Interestingly, more than 66% of them desire more face-to-face time with their teams and colleagues and over 40% of the workforce is considering making a job switch in within the next 12 months as they seek better work-life balance cultures offered by more progressive organizations.

Research across leading global organizations indicates there’s a lot of strategy involved in orchestrating a high-functioning hybridized workplace that offers a healthy, productive and engaging culture. According to McKinsey, 90% of organizations plan to go hybrid, yet very few have even begun crafting or communicating a plan. As a result, employee anxiety is increasing and if left unmanaged, the result will be a recipe for dysfunction or disaster.

Companies can’t afford to wait on the sidelines any longer. It is incumbent upon leaders to assemble a clear strategy that incorporates HR, technology upgrades and relevant processes for training employees on how to successfully operate and collaborate within a hybrid setting. We have broken these down into 7 core focus areas:

  • What is your future of work vision?

Clarity of vision and purpose is the first step in going hybrid by design. Define what needs to change and why; what are your top challenges and what is your re-imagined vision for your hybrid workforce. Then align your actions to your values and this vision and put together a detailed roadmap. Effective leadership requires inspiring and trusting your team and setting a clear North Star.

  • How will you foster virtual leadership?

If your leadership style has depended on frequent face-to-face time, it can be difficult to transition this to the virtual world. Some re-training may be required, especially in the soft skills around relationship-building – such as empathy and active listening.

Relationship building happens naturally in an office but takes extra effort from both parties when remote. The key is to always be intentional. Leaders need to ask employees what are working on, what inspires them, and how they’re feeling. They should carve out time for non-work conversations and encourage employees to do the same with one another. Think of this as your virtual water-cooler.

 

  • What work can effectively be done remotely?

Some companies will have little need to gather physically, while others may have to get together in person regularly. Core to understanding this is the following question – How critical is face-to-face interaction for the optimal customer experience in 2021 and going into 2022? Critical here is being open-minded and to be able to ask yourself “Who Moved my Cheese”? Anyone who has yet to read this powerful book by Spencer Johnson should do so.

  • What are your real estate needs?

Shifting to a hybrid model changes the physical amount and type of real estate you need. Once you have an idea of who will be working in the office, how often, and what work they will be accomplishing there, as well as any new COVID specific layouts, you can determine your new real estate requirements.

Establish more collaboration-focused work spaces in your office and save heads-down, deep-thinking work for home. Think of this as having “we” spaces in your office and saving “me” spaces for when at home.

  • What are your technology requirements?

The most successful hybrid workplaces give team members flexibility to work from anywhere, which requires leaders to invest in the proper business tools and digitize as many processes and procedures as possible. Companies therefore must invest in productivity, collaborative and connective applications to enable this.

Collaboration applications such as Hubspot, Asana and Slack are becoming mission critical and should be top of mind. Virtualized whiteboards, product/video virtual walkthroughs extend the interactions and combat zoom fatigue.

  • How will your team work asynchronously?

In a hybrid model, employees won’t always be working simultaneously – nor should they. To allow for asynchronous work, leaders must modernize day-to-day operations. Digitizing and decentralizing work processes as much possible and ensuring team members can easily access the information they need when they need it results in tremendous flexibility and productivity gains.

This is not just a question of Cloud, but more so of supporting a culture of “permission” and “trust” where leaders must inspire more independent work and productivity on an increasingly non 9-5 typical work day.

  • How will you translate your culture to the virtual world?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently stated “Work is no longer just a place.” In other words, we need to rethink our corporate culture and identity.

How do your cultural norms exist in a virtual setting and how do you communicate your culture at every stage of the talent lifecycle?  This starts with new employee onboarding, M&A integration of new teams and also to leadership development and mentoring plans.

______

In summary, the most successful hybrid workplaces give employees flexibility to work from anywhere, engage with leaders who are capable of virtually building relationships and inspiring great work, and who invest in the proper business tools to digitize as many processes and procedures as possible. Above all, a great hybrid workplace offers a great culture for employees, whether they log in from home, from the office or a mix.