— By Lorraine Wrafter
Hybrid working will bring complexity. 100% remote working or 100% in the office is easier to manage than 50/50 hybrid work. Planning the return to work.
No one imagined that we would end up working from home for over a year. The forced experience has had mix results for people as well as businesses. We know some would love to continue to work remote forever, others can’t wait to get back to the office and many want to go back to the office a few days and work from home the rest (hybrid/blended work).
Planning the return to work.
Big name global companies are announcing daily the future work patterns. Many are announcing hybrid/ blended working and others it is back to full time in
the office. Whatever you decide as a business it needs to be thought through and makes sense for your business rather than join the bandwagon. Hybrid will bring complexity. 100% remote working or 100% in the office is easier to manage than 50/50 hybrid work.
First you need to review the last year and ask your leaders, teams and customers:
- What worked well during forced working from home?
- What did not work well?
- Productivity – did it go up, stay the same or go down? Look at any data you have captured and share
- What worked well that you want to continue when you go back to the office?
- What would they like to change when they return to the office?
- Review your strategy, does it change anything? Map out from Product/Service to the customer and the process, and identify people contact points. How will they work going forward? What works best in the office and what can be done well remotely?
- Get feedback from the customer. How will they work going forward, any changes that will have an impact on the way you work? What are their expectations?
- Ask employees what is their preferred working pattern making no promises. If you have employees that must be in the office everyday what flexibility/benefits can they be given. Make sure you avoid the unintended consequences of first and second class employees.
- Model the different working patterns and work processes. Identify the positives and negatives of each and decide which will work best for the business.
- If the decision is made to do hybrid/blended work, who will make the decisions on days in the office/ home? The individual, leader, team or customer? How often will it be reviewed to check how well or not it is working?
- Review and adapt communications, performance management, development, succession planning and rewards to align with new work patterns.
- If you have a Union or Work Council, make sure they are involved throughout the whole process.
The idea of hybrid/blended working has a lot of positives however there are concerns to think how to manage. Feedback and surveys say the areas that have been impacted negatively by remote working has been training of new hires (graduates & trainees), informal chats that inspire ideas/solutions as well as spontaneous brainstorming and innovation. There is also a concern those that work remotely may be overlooked for promotion, “out of sight out of mind” particularly women as there is an expectation that women may take up remote/hybrid working more than men.
Whatever you decide to do manage expectations, there will be trials and errors, highs and lows. Be prepared that as much as people may be looking forward to return to work they may mourn ‘the good old days. Going back to the office is change and manage it like a change project.
Author: Lorraine Wrafter
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