Change and the new era of hybrid working

Two men and one woman sit on armchairs with laptops in front of them, in a meeting in a residential lounge

How do you set the stage for an optimised working culture?

The working landscape has changed and hybrid looks like it’s here to stay.  No longer viewed as ‘alternative’ approaches to the working model, flexible, hybrid and remote are being advertised by firms in a bid to win the best talent. 

Equally, the voice of the workplace has spoken.  In the words of an ICC client, a senior Director at a global data and software firm, “The people have spoken, they’re not returning to being office-based full-time…and neither am I.”  They have experienced the benefits, their concerns have been stress-tested and now there is no justification to return to ‘normal’.  

Hybrid working ultimately gives ownership back to individuals, a very empowering practise.  Employees have more flexibility around when to get work done and when they’re most productive (the more you know about your own sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, the more obvious your choices around work will become – mental note, talk to ICC about focussed performance versus creative performance).  Balancing work and life becomes more achievable, with the workforce directing their individual schedules.    

How many of our individual values are driven by a sense of identity, purpose, recognition or contributing to something bigger?  Hybrid working can be isolating – current thinking suggests that to perform at our best, we are hardwired to need to be part of a community, to collaborate with others, to be part of a movement that inspires purpose, that values individual recognition.  When we think and work as a team, we expand our learning and grow our social and professional networks.  Linking the sense of connection with solutions for depression is well documented. 

First and foremost, your team need support that goes beyond faster broadband speed and a better webcam.  Being appreciative of concerns, worries and challenges while laying out a change pathway that’s easy to navigate and understand goes a long way to gaining buy-in on the road to successful hybrid working.

It’s time to welcome change and set the stage for an optimised working culture: 

  • Collaborate and agree on the criteria to be used when deciding which activities are achieved best where – in person, remote or hybrid?   
  • Create engaging spaces in-office that inspire teams and individuals to come ready to perform – do they want somewhere quiet?  Do they need a collaboration space?  Would they value an area that inspires creativity and innovative thought?  How can you best promote networking or road-test group technologies? 
  • Implement a feedback culture – get to grips with team and individual views on the meaning of work.  Understand requirements on how we must lead differently.  Look for opportunities to implement continuous small improvements. 

This is a new and reimagined landscape and simply taking a tactical and logistical approach to working hours is missing the point – overlaying location and availability preferences onto a pre-existing working model will feel misaligned with the enforced practices and illuminating learnings from the lockdown experience. 

The approach to working life changed fast but sustaining it requires patience, giving time for all other personal factors to line up and for routines to shift.  Investment in appropriate technology has been critical in the move to remote working, but so has the need for intentional leadership.  This isn’t just ‘change management’, this is reigniting purpose, developing a strong and meaningful ‘why’, being able to demonstrate a clear vision that’s aligned with hybrid approaches. 

What’s your experience? We’d love to hear about it

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