In the last couple of years, the pandemic brought about a dramatic shift in the way that organisations conduct their business, especially concerning the acceptability of hybrid work. A Gartner survey reveals that nearly five out of ten Indian hybrid workers consider themselves more productive when working remotely. In the hybrid work landscape, the choice of location and flexible working hours are the top enablers for productivity according to the survey.
Going forward, workplace trends will be dominated by digital nomads, who uphold work and talent as being location agnostic. As a result, the core of work experience has changed. For business leaders, this has given rise to some pressing questions. How do you build a productive environment in a hybrid setup? How do you effectively measure performance? How do you empower your employees to deliver their best in a flexible environment?
While each organisation follows its learning curve, there are a few important tenets that can prove to be extremely valuable in leading an ever-changing hybrid workforce:
Flexibility is a key part of improving engagement. To maximize flexibility, we must empower employees with the autonomy to decide how and when they complete their work, of course within the confines of a reasonable and acceptable remit. The traditional top-down command and control leadership styles have become obsolete and are ineffective when bringing about behavioural changes. Instead, a spirit of collaboration, deeper engagement, and relationships based on trust make up the secret sauce in a hybrid workforce. Enabling this requires the organization to trust its employees and their ability to make the right decisions. While regular check-ins might be useful, resisting the urge to micromanage is critical.
An autonomous workforce encourages a collaborative environment that keys to a unified business goal. This approach also helps them to become more innovative and independent at the same time.
Invest in the right collaboration tools
In a hybrid workforce where employees are working from different locations and at different times, communication gaps can easily occur. Therefore, having access to the right tools for collaboration and productivity is paramount to ensure that work happens effectively. With the right tools, a hybrid workforce can not only be managed effectively but can be a real advantage, if leveraged well.
The right collaboration tools- such as Zoom, Slack, etc - when complemented with empathy, inclusive policies, and a commitment to meaningful engagement, can be a potent force to reckon with. Tools like Zoom have come a long way in just a short time to help the remote workforce to connect, communicate and collaborate.
Leveraging tech to make the virtual workplace more energizing, fun, and innovative hubs further benefits organisational culture. We use these collaborative workspaces to further engage with employees in activities such as Commvault’s Mentoring Circles and Hackathons. Incorporating such intuitive, quick-to-implement and easily integratable tools aid businesses in making the business environment inclusive and encourages employees to collaborate beyond office borders.
Remember to listen
Whether people are working remotely or from the office, the most successful managers are typically good listeners and reach out proactively to seek feedback and check in with their employees. In a hybrid environment, it might even make sense to err on the side of over-communication to ensure you have the pulse of the team. A mix of informal catchups and formal employee surveys can prove to be extremely insightful. Of course, the next step, which is to act on the feedback is also equally critical.
Relook at performance measurement
The ritual of yearly performance reviews must evolve to suit the needs of a hybrid workforce. As the pandemic showed us, setting goals for the entire year might no longer be realistic. Instead, performance management must become a continuous process with feedback delivered on a real-time basis. Also, in addition to looking at past performance and output, the focus of performance reviews must be on bridging any skills gaps to build a future-ready workforce.
The hybrid and remote workplace models have also witnessed employees investing extra hours of work to maintain business continuity. This has increased the need for leaders to change their strategies catering to all aspects of employee experience. Realigning and reshaping people's leadership and management in a hybrid virtual world, and encouraging interactions between leaders and teams will help rebuild organisations' social capital and create a unified hybrid virtual culture that the organizations need in the next normal.
Balance short-term and long-term goals
With the lack of physical separation between home and office, burnout and overwork emerged as a real threat in remote working environments, leading to trends such as the ‘great resignation’ that we witnessed globally. Therefore, there is a greater onus on leaders to balance short-term employee productivity with long-term wellness. This requires a mix of compassionate action backed by conducive policies, our employees have enthusiastically welcomed programs like global recharge days, no-meeting Fridays, and virtual yoga classes. At the same time, leaders need to model the right behaviour for employees to emulate when it comes to ensuring a good work-life balance. This means setting the right expectations around response times for emails and texts and adequate respect for ‘off-work’ works.
While the emergence of hybrid workplaces has brought fundamental changes to the workplace, the basic tenets of employee engagement and leadership remain the same. The work from anywhere models currently disrupting the workspace has cemented the focus on employee retention, salary and job benefits, candidate expectations, and hiring.
Businesses must lean on these tenets of leadership to empower their workforce as they not only focus on maximising performance and maintaining cultural cohesion but they ensure that the workforce is resilient and ready to lead the future.