Following on from part 1 where I covered: definitions, gaps, the employee voice, proximity bias and technology. Here comes a part 2 brief summary, of just why Hybrid isn’t working.
Issue 6: The post-pandemic hangover
Yes the c-word. Individuals, leaders, and organisations are in a strange place right now. I’m not sure any of us realise just how much the pandemic has effected us. From getting out of our everyday routines and fighting to get them back, squeezing into the pre-lockdown shirts, struggling with conversation and eye contact, the dislike of crowded spaces and noise to all the uncertainty that continues. The feedback I constantly receive is that the world feels like a bumpy ride and we’re not feeling as resilient as we once did.
This hangover is effecting hybrid in a few ways:
- We don’t want to go back to normal, but we don’t know what our new normal is. So we’re leading with what we want (avoiding the old normal), and not with what we need (a new normal in which we create based on our needs).
- We were never a fan of the commute, but with all the travel disruption and winter weather too, we really don’t “want” to go to the office, we want ‘easy’, as that’s what our brains can cope with right now.
- For those who started a new role during covid, or for those working at an organisation who have suffered from high turnover, the personal connections, and friends, is not behaving as a push to go back to the office. We need to rebuild our friendship and social circles at work, but the thing is, we have other friends and don’t really want to make the effort to make new ones just for the sake of making the office a more attractive place.
Issue 7: Power grabs, siloes, or simply not knowing what they don’t know?
HR vs FM vs IT. Yes the battle continues and it’s severely effecting the employee experience and the finances of the business. Now, are these truly the power grabs we’ve previously seen, is it siloed working or is it a lack of role clarity or strategic direction? – maybe a mix?!
But here are some examples I’ve come across recently:
- HR surveyed for employee engagement, the same week that Facilities surveyed for employee experience… why? Because they didn’t talk to each other. 2 survey costs + 2 sets of siloed information + a confused and miffed workforce. We need to do better than this.
- IT procured a space booking app without talking to Facilities, who were researching tools, or HR who had a live RFP out for an employee experience tool. The excuse was that IT were wanting to know what equipment to provide at each desk and HR hadn’t discussed the RFP with IT/FM because space booking was only a small component of the functionality. I just find this shocking on so many levels.
- Facilities moved to a 4 day operating week re: the on-site gym, wellbeing classes, catering and creche, because of low utilisation. At the same time, HR were fighting to remove the Monday/Friday ‘lull’.
- One organisation, who still talks about their current workplace strategy as ‘return to office’ and insisted people returned, got out of the leases for a significant amount of space and changed their ratios from 1:1 desking to 1:4….and publicly spoke about both situations, without connecting the implication dots!
Issue 8: Space Planning
How much, who, when and why? – now, unless I’ve missed something, these questions existed pre-pandemic.
We also had engagement levels of only 14% and offices utilised 40-60% of the time. So it’s not like our spaces were right before, and this is suddenly now an issue is it?
Stop trying to squeeze the juice and focus on the purpose and the value of the space, and how to manage it sustainably and consciously.
Issue 9: Conviction
Stop looking left and right, look internally. Unfreeze and PLEASE, for the sake of us all, make a decision.
Leaders, it’s time to step up. Hybrid isn’t working because we’re expecting this to work with no margins for learning. Take the risks, learn, iterate, move forward. Make data informed decisions, believe in those decisions, and keep measuring!
Issue 10: Knowledge and Understanding Gaps
The people making the decisions are very disconnected from how and why people work. Example:
- CEO spends most of their time in meetings and checking-in with people.
- Middle Management spend most of their time managing upwards, fire fighting between the meetings, checking-in on people they lead, and doing things which they don’t have time, resources and/or the desire to delegate.
- The average person / worker, has less meetings and more time working alone, trying to get stuff done.
This organisation, is implementing a 4:1, in favour of the office. Not because they have the data to show how it makes business sense or because they believe in the conviction, but because their CEO and managers find it easier to ‘manage’ people face-to-face.
Now ok, I just want to set the tone here. This (like most things I write about!) is based off my own experiences consulting + my own experiences as an employee + the conversations I have daily + the everything I read about across academia, the mainstream and the niche workplace world. Yes it’s based off the average office based worker, and yes, there is a world outside of this.
Like in part 1, I think the theme of the tips continues and threads through the issues highlighted:
- Proximity Bias: Acknowledge and accept it, the awareness will allow you to be conscious and to question your decision making. Noticing when you might be falling into proximity bias allows you to redirect your focus to include those who contribute remotely. Collectively, practice valuing deliverables, collaboration and innovation — as opposed to employee location. Instil the culture and mindset that you are all in this together, working to achieve shared business goals.
- Technology: Avoid the gimmicks and focus on understanding what people need to do their roles and connect with people effectively, whilst maintaining spaces which limit the detrimental affect on the planet.
- With colleagues in the pattern on receiving timed feedback (weekly/monthly/quarterly) from their line manager, and the day-to-day chats or smiles across the coffee machine, the lack of face time becomes an issue so leaders need to initiate more frequent 1-2-1’s.
- Decentralise decision-making around hybrid and remote work and adopt a team-led culture for determining work arrangements. As a leader who has access to the room where decisions are made, push back against rigid, top-down policies and advocate for employees to determine autonomously where they will work — with the support of their managers.
- Boundaries – We all need to know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Guiding principles / team operating goals will aid structure and familiarity.
- Focus on output and outcomes by reviewing what has been achieved and those who contributed to that work.
- Meeting Etiquette: Make sure the invite enables people to contribute. Are screens needed or can they be walking outside? Is in-person attendance required? What is the agenda? Is any prep required? Book the right space/tech and communicate that to avoid people sitting in the office with a headset on and pissing everybody else off. Then chair the meeting! – ensure the remote worker has a say, adopt etiquette such as the hand raise and only one person talking at a time. It may seem obvious but there’s nothing more irritating than being on a remote call and hearing multiple side chats!
- Focus on “the why” of the office and communicate the value. Don’t assume that people only go to the office to collaborate or learn. Listen to your employees.
- Feedback is a gift.
- Determine success measures, collect data and continue to iterate.
…I’ll add one more tip, and that tip is, talk to your colleagues, understand what they do, how they do it, what they are accountable and responsible for, and share the same information about yourself. Start rebuilding your knowledge and connections, we will get further forward if we do it together.
Be a good human,
Leave a Reply