Monday, May 27, 2024

WFH Revolution: How managers can be prepared to navigate a hybrid work model

You no doubt know about hybrid-working, the model allowing employees to split their time between remote work and the office. Insider reported that more than 60% of businesses are planning to adopt it post-pandemic to enable staff to continue experiencing the benefits of working from home. “The flexibility of remote working has improved work-life balance for employees and cut down commuting expenses — in many cases it has also boosted inclusivity and hiring from different parts of the country,” says Joe Fitzsimons, IoD senior policy advisor to Insider.

That said, working from home has come with its challenges, particularly around  communication, collaboration and working hours, and for many businesses managing a team virtually hasn’t been easy. But considering it’s set to stay (even just for a few days a week),  management teams need to be equipped to deal with employees working in the office and at home simultaneously. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so businesses must assess individual circumstances and identify best practices. Here we look at some of the ways managers can be prepared for hybrid-working.

1.    Take part in management training

It’s essential that managers are taught the correct tools, techniques and strategies to manage the hybrid-work challenges and ensure business success. For example, remote staff may experience isolation, technology difficulties and productivity issues. Managers also need to have a strong awareness of the psychological barriers employees might face, such as social isolation, mental health issues and an inability to switch off outside of working hours.

A new approach to leadership is necessary if all team members are to work to the best of their ability, regardless of location. It’s not as simple as it once was, but with some training, managers will be able to navigate the hybrid-working world. Take MTD Training’s management courses, for instance, which provide comprehensive content covering all the essentials. Accredited with the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) certified, some of these classes can even be attended virtually, meaning you can train your staff wherever they are.

2.    Agree upon a hybrid-work model policy

There’s no right or wrong way to implement hybrid-working. What works for one company might not for the other. However, it’s essential for senior management to agree upon a policy that suits their business best. This should cover things like how hybrid-work is to be scheduled, the number of staff who can safely work in the office at one time, equipment accessibility, and cybersecurity measures.

Your first step is to assess your business needs. Is it possible for all roles to work remotely for some of the time? For construction workers and medical professionals, for instance, this isn’t doable in most cases. If your office is small, you might need to implement a rota system to ensure the building doesn’t reach full capacity. Then, lay down the ground rules. Is there a certain number of days everyone should be in the office or is it entirely flexible? Are there set days? Is anyone exempt? For example, those with health conditions might not feel comfortable being in the office too often. Clear boundaries need to be set to ensure everyone is on the same page. Other things to consider are communication, meetings, and collaboration. It’s a good idea to send a questionnaire to all staff that covers key components of hybrid-work, as you can use their input to finalise your policy.

3.    Refine your lines of communication

Good communication is the key to business success. For the hybrid-work model to be effective, managers must therefore be clear in refining lines of communication to increase productivity, finish projects on time, and ensure employees collaborate successfully. However, this can be hard to achieve in this model. For example, teams might be impacted by fewer opportunities to collaborate, weak internet connection or a lack of support. The new working landscape must foster alternative ways of communicating in order to survive, such as positive feedback, transparency and a learning mindset.

It’s also important for businesses to implement the right remote working tools, such as Slack, Hypercontext and Troop Messenger so that staff can keep in contact wherever they are. Such apps allow employees to discuss ideas, concepts and problems at work, and help everyone stay on the same page. For this to function though, managers should provide equipment to ensure the physical aspect of communication runs smoothly. High-quality microphones and headphones are essential, as is ironing out internet issues.

4.    Help staff find the perfect balance

Some employees will want to be back in the office more than others, so it’s vital that managers check in with everyone individually to learn their references. PwC research suggests that 68% of executives believe that staff must work in the office at least three days a week to retain company culture, but over 55% of employees prefer remote work for three days —suggesting there needs to be a balance between the two. If you’re wondering what this looks like for your business, getting your staff’s input is a great place to start. It might be that some are apprehensive about returning due to safety, childcare responsibilities or other health conditions.

By having one-to-ones with every employee, you can identify what their ideal working week looks like and support them. Not only do managers need to consider what is best for everyone’s lifestyles, but also for productivity levels. Every staff member is different. Some may prefer to work from home in silence, free from distractions to concentrate, while others thrive in the office atmosphere. This is naturally going to influence how many days people want to come into the office.

Claire James
Claire James
Claire is an accounts manager at Fire Digital UK, an online publishing and content marketing company based in the North West.

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