Isn’t it funny the impact of language on day-to-day life? A few years ago, “hybrid” would have most commonly been heard in the vocabulary of avid followers of Gardener’s World. And then, it started to appear on the back of a few cars….and now, over the last year, it has been heard daily as we’ve been plunged unceremoniously into “hybrid working” and “hybrid teams.”

With the advent of lockdowns, the situation was clear, for most: the instruction was to work from home. Not always easy, granted, but the clarity of the situation helped us focus on necessities. Then, just as we got more used to this “new” way of working, of being separated together in teams – and on Teams – the world changed again…..which is where we find ourselves now. The CIPD’s “Embedding new ways of working post-pandemic” report shows 40% of employers expecting more than half of their workforce to work regularly from home going forward, compared to 5% (Office of National Statistics) pre COVID-19.

So, hybrid working is here to stay, whether it’s one day at home, four in the office? A full week for half the staff, then the other half the following week….? Not quite so clear and presenting a much more complicated model than a fully remote one with many perspectives to consider, especially in a world more alive to issues of engagement, wellbeing, resilience and even job loyalty.

Helpful pointers

As we navigate the relatively early days of hybrid working there aren’t any clear answers but there are some helpful pointers to the best route forward

with an issue which every company needs to design according to its own circumstances and culture. You’ll no doubt have already been involved in conversations about what hybrid working looks like for your own team and probably been asked to advise on its impact on leadership across the rest of your business. So what are those pointers? How can you propel your firm toward an anywhere, anytime model? Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management at London Business School, suggests the following:

  • Start by identifying key jobs and tasks, determine what the drivers of productivity and performance are for each, and think about the arrangements that would serve them best.
  • Engage employees in the process to understand what they really want and need. This will differ significantly from company to company, so don’t take shortcuts.
  • Think expansively and creatively, with an eye toward eliminating duplication and unproductive elements in your current work arrangements.
  • Communicate broadly so that at every stage of your journey everybody understands how hybrid arrangements will enhance rather than deplete their productivity.
  • Train leaders in the management of hybrid teams and invest in the tools of coordination that will help your teams align their schedules.

Taking DEI implications into account

It’s also hugely important to take into account the DEI implications of hybrid. A recent Harvard Business Review article “Don’t Let Hybrid Work Set Back Your DEI Efforts” poses questions for organisations to ask and metrics to observe for leaders of talent development navigating Diversity Equity and Inclusion issues through a hybrid lens. They point to 5 questions to consider:

  • who’s spending time working at the office versus at home? How does this impact pay, promotion, engagement and attrition?
  • who gets to choose when to be in the office? Is flexibility enjoyed more by certain demographics?
  • who gets promoted? How does hybrid working impact promotion and pay?
  • how are remote management tactics used? Is monitoring employees “at work” lowering their productivity and eroding trust and engagement?
  • How does time in the office predict engagement and retention? How is it possible to create a motivating hybrid culture that supports those who are more productive working “out” of the office and those who experience the exact opposite.

Using your values as a guide Finally, ask yourself whether your new hybrid arrangements accentuate your company’s values and support its culture. As with most workplace issues when there’s no rule book – or play book – to follow, the answers to the best way forward in your organisation will come from good conversations.