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During the huge work-from-home caused by the pandemic, one thing is apparent that a full return to the previous method of working is unlikely. Although a few businesses have stated, they will require all employees to return to their offices. Still, most businesses are moving to work in a hybrid environment. Over 66% of global business decision-makers are contemplating how to change the layout of physical workspaces to facilitate this.
The proper infrastructure and tools are essential. However, bigger changes in culture are required for a hybrid workplace model to last. One out of three managers (30 percent) claims that the problem they're most worried about when managing the hybrid workforce is maintaining the corporate culture.
However, despite the changes you made to help remotely-based teams in the outbreak, the work culture you were a part of might not be suited to the hybrid workplace. Thus, trying to keep the status quo instead of creating a new one could hinder your efforts.
If you're thinking about how the next decade of employment might take place at your workplace, here are four top methods to help you create the right mix of cultures to help employees succeed regardless of the location they're in.
Utilize a remote-first method of making a single source of truth.
Companies are discussing the possibility of allowing employees to work remotely even after the pandemic; they typically talk about what they can do to accommodate employees who have made this choice. However, a truly hybrid environment does not consider working from the office as the primary mode of work that must be upgraded for remote work to work. Instead, it should be centred around a specific digital space where all employees can work together and collaborate, regardless of their physical location.
Moveworks Chief Executive Officer Bhavin Shah describes this area as the "digital headquarters." The digital headquarters, as he puts it, is more than tools and resources - it's a one-stop-shop for anything an employee may require, be it technical support, internal documents or minutes of meeting from a meeting that took place the week before. If there isn't a shared space, remote workers might not know what to do to find the right materials and assistance, while colleagues in the office may have access to information they do not possess access to.
For the digital headquarters to be effective, leaders, managers, and employees must view it as a unifying source of truth, making it impossible for work and discussions to occur in the outside world. Of course, this doesn't mean that employees aren't allowed to engage in an informal chat in the hallway or that a manager shouldn't be able to message an employee during an emergency. Still, any workplace-related decisions or insights that result from these conversations must be documented within the digital headquarters to give transparency.
To assist employees in adapting to the new way of working, it is important to make them think of your company's culture as primarily remote. If an action leaves an employee feeling slightly lost and confused, it's not the best option to take. The change in attitude will take patience, encouragement, and reinforcement, but the end result will create a cohesive and less chaotic hybrid workplace culture.
2. Consider remote and in-person work as equivalent and valid.
Another benefit of promoting a remote-first environment in your hybrid firm is that it positions remote-based work as something you want to encourage and not something you "just allow".
This is a significant distinction because remote workers can struggle to be treated respectfully. In the past, managers have classified employees in the office as better performers but with no proof of superior results. As a result, they've given them larger raises and promotions more frequently. If this happens after you change to a hybrid system, remote workers might be pressured to attend the office more frequently or feel depressed and decide to leave.
The training of managers to concentrate on the outcomes and not individual actions will help eliminate remote bias and help create an equitable and fair hybrid workforce. However, to ensure that remote working is incorporated as a central part of your culture of hybridization, you must also make sure that in-person work is not portrayed to be better, even in a subtle or a non-intentional way.
If every senior leader is onsite, employees could feel that the company's management thinks this is the best method of working. However, suppose a leader frequently attends an all-hands gathering from their kitchen or home office. In that case, they show the group that flexible and remote work is normal and something that even most senior members of the team embrace.
3. Be sure your digital team-building efforts aren't sloppy.
For those already working remotely before the pandemic struck, seeing the entire team working remotely positively affected their feeling of belonging. In a poll conducted in May 2020 of remote workers in seven countries, Microsoft observed that 52% of them felt more appreciated or even included as remote participants at meetings because everyone was sharing the same virtual space. One participant said, "Remote participants used to be invisible, but no longer!"
While some employees return to the workplace, employers could fall back into their traditional routines and put employees who work remotely on the fringes if they don't transfer certain lessons learned during the epidemic. The digital headquarters will keep employees connected. However, deliberate efforts are needed to ensure that the space is inclusive and vibrant.
A watercooler channel within your digital headquarters can only be effective if employees from both locations(onsite and offsite) participate in it. Therefore, you might need to encourage staff to use it until it's an everyday thing. GitLab is a company that was founded in a hybrid model before moving to a remote approach; it also suggests maintaining traditions like online coffee chats, which you might have begun during the outbreak. But, it advises against combining remote workers with onsite ones since this could create different workplaces instead of a united remote-first culture.
Managers should not promote in-person team building activities as the best alternative. At the same time, it is possible to gather all employees at times to attend offsites (which could, in a wonderful way in the present, be in the form of on sites) and gatherings remote workers shouldn't be pressured into coming to the office more often if they would like to be involved in everyday activities. By putting the same amount of time and thought into organizing online activities as you would do traditional ones, you can inspire everyone in the company to be involved regardless of the location they prefer to work.
4. Look for ways to reinforce your values at the heart of the new digital world.
In the past, experts described the challenges companies faced in creating a winning culture by ensuring their values were reflected throughout the workplace and not just upon the walls. However, in a hybrid workplace, the issue could be defined as taking those values far beyond walls and halls, ensuring that they are embedded in the web of your digital space.
Managers and leaders will have to think of new ways to consistently convey the values, especially to those new to remote working, who do not understand what their colleagues with more experience might appreciate. It is possible to provide examples of online behavior that demonstrate each value so employees know what the ideals should appear.
However, managers need to identify, acknowledge and promote value-driven behavior in digital environments. Having group channels that allow employees and even managers to publicly acknowledge the moment a team member is embodying core values is a method to achieve this, making sure that good work doesn't go without being noticed.
After many employees have experienced the benefits of remote work, many do not wish to return to work full-time. A hybrid workforce can aid in keeping those who are already there, however only if you actively alter your work culture.
It's likely to appear like an adjustment initially but stay to it. The result will be a workplace that's more resilient to the possibility of changes -- and more welcoming of diverse employee needs and work methods.