Hybrid work arrangements are here to stay.
Business leaders should embrace all that flexible work arrangements have to offer and not focus on the debate over the number of days employees should be required to report to an office. It is time for leaders to take control of the dialogue and lead: CEOs should seek to develop an approach to hybrid work that reflects their organization’s mission, supports excellence and productivity and promotes positive employee relations.
Developing your organization’s approach to hybrid work arrangements requires collaboration among your leaders. Each member of the C-suite must not only support the final edict but should contribute to the development of the approach. If your organization has been battling to convince your existing workforce to report to an office as mandated by your policy, it is time to recalibrate. Rather than surveying the competition to review their policies we recommend that organizations look inward to determine what approach to hybrid work best suits your organization.
An honest reassessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your organization’s existing hybrid policy is a necessary first step. First, identify which teams are most productive? Then assess why. We suspect productive teams are headed by leaders who are intentional in their approach to assigning work, supporting team members, and following up to ensure that tasks are performed in a timely and efficient manner. Dig a bit deeper to understand why the successful teams are successful and you may find that how much time is spent in the office or working remotely is not the determining factor. Rather, success is more likely based on whether teams are using their time in the office effectively to build relationships and support productivity.
Reassess your organization’s approach to hybrid work by examining the status quo.
If your organization needs a fresh approach to hybrid work, start with a team building exercise that includes your C-suite leadership team. Explore why each member of the team supports or does not support the existing approach to flexible work arrangements. Are your organization’s leaders making assumptions about productivity or are their assessments actually based on data points? As the CEO, you cannot make decisions about how and where work is best performed unless you have reliable data. Reports in the media about whether white collar knowledge workers are more productive when working remotely are still inconclusive. As the data being reported is mixed at best, a better approach is to look at your teams to understand which of your organization’s operations are most successful when employees have flexible work arrangement.
What does a successful hybrid work arrangement look like at your organization?
Make sure that your leadership team is looking at the right measurements for success. Sales volume? Customer acquisition and retention? Deadlines met? Employee retention? On-target budget? Work with your leaders to identify those targets that should be assessed.
Learn from your organization’s successful leaders.
Once your leadership team has applied the criteria for success and identified the strong performing teams, talk to the leaders of those teams. Are the leaders complying with the hybrid work policy in effect? If not, what arrangements are in place?
Ask these leaders why they believe their team is successful. Find out what the successful leaders are doing when their teams are reporting to an office to work. What activities do these leaders schedule when their staff is in the office together. How do these leaders monitor the work of their staff when they are not together daily. How do these leaders support and engage with their staff?
What does successful leadership of hybrid teams require?
Successful leaders are making time in the office worth the commute. These leaders are engaging in relationship building with each of their team members. Intentionality is key. Intentionality requires that leaders plan to make sure that days in the office include team building and collaborative exercises. Tasks that require employees to sit with one another in the same room to discuss issues and hammer out ideas should be scheduled for days in the office. Leaders will need to plan ahead to make sure that employees feel that time in the office is well spent.
Leaders should model best practices and not only show up in person when expected to do so but engage in activities that build social capital. Whether the leader walks around the office and spends a few minutes one-on-one with everyone present or schedules regular touch base meetings, these exchanges are best conducted in person. The extra effort it takes for leaders to plan their day to ensure contact with every individual is critical to the success of the team when these interactions can occur only a few days each week. Thoughtful leaders will not leave these interactions to chance but will book time on their schedule with their direct reports, or leave ample time open in their schedule. Employees will likely come to appreciate the support and want to be part of a dynamic engaged team.
Trust between team members is not easy to build, and even when teams reported live each day developing trust takes time. Leaders should support and foster workplace friendships, identify mentorship opportunities and other purposeful connections. It is these connections that will ultimately support stronger collaboration and team building.
Concluding the reassessment exercise.
Following the reassessment exercise, your C-suite leaders may come to the conclusion that the hybrid work policy is not the reason for lagging productivity or poor employee retention. Rather, the issue may lie with leaders who lack the skills to successfully manage hybrid teams. Training leaders to understand that employee engagement requires intentionality and trust may be what your organization needs to ensure the success of hybrid work arrangements. When employees see that their leaders are creating a work environment that is supportive and inclusive, they may decide that back to the office at least some of the time is important to their career development and success in the workplace.