When virtual working became the norm for a huge proportion of the workforce overnight, many of us just muddled through until we could get back to normal. Now, it is becoming clear that for countless organizations, things have changed forever. What we saw as a temporary disruption has in fact accelerated a change that has been coming for some time.
There seems to be a growing consensus that the future world of work is a hybrid, comprising both remote and office-based work. So muddling through is no longer an option – and in any case, the cracks are already showing with virtual working. Some people are struggling with balance, being unable to switch off. Many of us find the ongoing uncertainty unsettling. Others feel isolated and miss the informal ‘watercooler’ conversations with colleagues. And fatigue from back-to-back online meetings is an almost universal experience. Some managers, unsure of how to adapt to the new environment, have begun micromanaging their remote teams resulting in an erosion of trust, and numerous organizations who experienced an initial increase in engagement scores have seen this reversed.
In addition to this, at least during lockdown, for those teams unable to work from the office, we were all in a similar situation. In the hybrid world, this will not be the case – which adds another layer of complexity. Perhaps you are wrestling with some of these questions:
- How can you ensure some team members do not feel excluded from informal, yet important, conversations in the office?
- How can you reconcile different expectations of what constitutes the right balance between remote and office-based working, perhaps even within individual teams?
- What is the best way to run hybrid meetings, especially if you do not have the latest videoconferencing technology?
- How can you facilitate genuine collaboration that draws on the strengths of all team members, regardless of their location?
- How can you make sure the benefits from increased levels of autonomy and self-management become part of the culture?
- What does leading with authenticity look like in a distributed setting, if it requires such different styles for different team members?
Even the most accomplished leaders and managers may be struggling to adapt to this rapid change in working patterns. Now that we know a hybrid future is here to stay, support is needed to help ease the transition.
There are no easy answers to these questions, and one size will not fit all. Nevertheless, perhaps the most important first step towards defining the future world of work is to encourage these conversations with your teams and to support managers to adapt their approach.
It is time to make hybrid working sustainable. Support your teams to CONNECT with each other.
Authored by Martina Mangelsdorf, Founder of GAIA Insights