A hybrid future of work

1-12-2022 | News

Making the organization work best in a mix of face-to-face and remote work will require bulletproof relationships of trust and the ability to be highly flexible.

by Gabriela Mauch

As everyone knows, the three years of the pandemic and the long periods of lockdown and social distancing have caused an earthquake in the world of work. According to a recent survey of more than 32,000 workers in 17 countries, nearly two-thirds of today's workforce would go as far as looking for a new job if they were to return to the office full-time. And, in fact, many do, looking at the numbers of Great Resignation.

In response to the growing demand for flexible working, often referred to as "hybrid", many organizations are adopting new ways of workingBut it's not always clear how to give people the flexibility they want and need, while ensuring that business goals are met.

Flexible working arrangements in particular can be a challenge when it comes to measuring and tracking performance, as traditional approaches often rely on the assumption that most of the work is done in person, during normal business hours. To make flexible working work, leaders may need to rethink the kind of vision skills their organizations need.

With ours Productivity Lab We analyzed data about application usage, context switching, and other factors that can affect productivity for more than 50,000 employees for more than two years. These analyzes have helped us better understand how teams address and respond to the challenges of hybrid working, and identify best practices that can benefit all.

Flexibility at 360%

The first factor to take into consideration is certainly that of flexibility. Ensuring productivity, meeting business goals and meeting workforce needs all require good vision into the organization which, in turn, depends on the type of flexibility you intend to implement. Therefore, the first step in developing effective practices is to determine what type of flexible working is best suited to your organisation. Research has identified a few common types:

  • Universal flexibility: In-office and remote days are fixed across your organization.
  • Flexibility variable- Scheduling decisions are made at a team level and can be different across the organization.
  • Flexibility case for case: People set their own schedules and stick to them consistently.
  • Flexibility fluid: people work where and when they want, without constraints of location.

Once leaders have clearly established the type of flexibility they intend to offer, they can shift the focus to understanding how employees work within this paradigm and what needs to be done to effectively support them in this new environment flexible.

Availability and open-mindedness

This effort must begin by acknowledging that i executives, managers and individual collaborators all need good vision skills on the day-to-day work to do their job effectively, but that this varies significantly. It is crucial to avoid generalized solutions that could be perceived as excessive or unaccommodating to people, thus eroding trust. Specific requirements vary from organization to organization, but overall, research has identified the following common needs:

Executives need high vision skills to ensure strategic alignment,effective cross-collaboration and coordination within the organization. In addition to managing business operations, these leaders are also responsible for ensuring healthy (and sustainable) levels of employee engagement and well-being, so they typically need access to data such as burnout indicators, distractions and distribution of workload across teams. For example, when a leader hears about fatigue, it can be difficult to tell if it's an issue affecting the entire organization, specific functions, or just certain employees, such as new hires or tenured managers. Data can help leaders identify who needs help, how fast the problem is spreading, and priorities for immediate action.

At an intermediate level, however, one needs one more granular view. These leaders are in a unique position to support the productivity of teams and collaborators by helping them solve problems such as distractions, collaboration fatigue, daily routines and break practices. They are also responsible for identifying training opportunities, tailoring employee skills and competencies to optimal jobs and roles, and managing bandwidth and usage levels. To bring out the most pressing needs, managers must do all of this on an ongoing basis (rather than relying solely on bi-weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings) and this requires a deeper level of insight into the work of employees.

Individual employees also have needs which can be called into question by the transition to flexible working. In traditional offices, for example, employees rely on personal cues to tell if someone is busy or can be interrupted. But remote employees don't have these cues, which makes people much more likely to unintentionally disturb each other and miss opportunities to collaborate. THE data on attention spans and time preferences of colleagues they can help employees communicate and work together more effectively.

Once you've identified the type of insight capabilities that different stakeholders in your organization need, you can then work backwards to determine the types of data to collect. This approach ensures that you collect only the information you need to help identify impediments to working effectively and make meaningful improvements, without corroding trust, invading privacy or hindering productivity.

Trust first

As with any major transition, developing and maintaining mutual trust is critical to ensuring the successful launch of a new approach to visibility. In particular, there are three components needed to build trust during this shift:

  • Communication transparent: In both the planning and implementation phases, leaders need to clearly communicate the data they intend to collect, the expectations for using this data, and any changes to strategy along the way.
  • Access to data and insightsOnce you have determined how to collect information, it is important to create processes that ensure information is shared with all intended stakeholders in a timely manner and in a way that is relevant and supportive of the work at hand.
  • Real-time action and adjustmentsFinally, leaders need to act on the data they collect. This also includes collaborating with managers and employees to identify opportunities for continuous improvement and building feedback loops that integrate employee reactions, business results, and suggestions from other leaders and experts.

Of course, there are more or less effective ways to implement each of these elements. Without a minimum level of transparency, access and data-driven action, employers risk exploiting employees and completely losing their trust. But the most effective leaders go beyond this minimum level and empower all stakeholders to play a role in addressing new challenges. 

Gabriela Mauch directs the ActivTrak Productivity Lab.

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