The time for seeing flexibility as a ‘perk’ and a ‘nice to have’ is over.
Full stop. Get over it. Yes, I do feel strongly about this.
We all know that the pandemic has changed the way we work, and hybrid working is well and truly here to stay. We must get the balance right. But how do we know what the right balance is for people? How can we balance the reality of life with the needs of an organisation?
Your team might not need to be in the office
Many of us now want to stay working from home at least some of the time, if not most of the time. It’s not that we don’t ever want to see colleagues face to face again. We do. We’d rather not suffer the ridiculous daily commutes, the battle of breakfast and after school clubs, or the mental conflict to prioritise work vs. the personal e.g., exercise.
So it baffles me why some organisations are trying to push individuals back into the office full-time or at a push, offer a token 1 day a week at home in the name of ‘flexible working’. Yes, some roles require being in a physical location – we can’t change that – but we also know all roles aren’t the same. Why try and make them?
Implement hybrid working that actually works for individuals
We’ve worked a lot with organisations recently who want to offer hybrid working but they’re not sure how to get started. One of the key things we have supported their leadership teams on is not deciding this alone.
The buy-in and engagement are so much higher when you involve and collaborate with employees in the decision-making: share the perspectives of both sides and solve it together. This doesn’t have to be an absolute commitment or a policy, you can start with a trial. See how it works in practice and make changes as needed.
Line Managers should also speak to employees individually on an ongoing basis. Plenty has changed in our personal lives over the last few years and that isn’t about to stop. Take time to understand their concerns about coming into the office and any commitments outside of work they have. Having this insight will help you to understand the balance people are striving for, the scope for potential compromises, and any other necessary support. Some may simply want to talk about the reality of coming back in rather than trying to negotiate an alternative arrangement. Take the time; it will pay off in the long run.
Changing working practices
When people moved to remote working at short notice, most simply replaced their calendar of back-to-back face-to-face meetings with back-to-back video calls. So use the move to hybrid working to try something different. This is an opportunity to examine peoples’ habits and ways of working. I don’t think that the intensity of back-to-back meetings all day long is productive for anyone. It’s worrying how many people have told us they won’t get their work done if they have ‘unproductive’ time in the office i.e., talking to people outside of a meeting.
Look, as a team, at your ways of working.
- What do you want to keep from the way that you have worked remotely?
- What isn’t practical in a hybrid model?
- What purpose do you want your office days to have?
This will help you to plan tasks and activities to make the most of physical time together and help people see the benefits. There’s certainly no point coming into the office to sit with heads down on Teams/Zoom calls all day, but we hear this happens a lot!
Overcoming the challenges of hybrid working
Now, we’ve heard the more extreme reasons as to why some employees cannot return to the office under any arrangement e.g., “I’ve got a dog now and can’t leave the house”. We aren’t saying that everything can be agreed but being patient with people and trying to understand their current reality will help.
It’s easy to become frustrated about the permanent arrangements people put in place for what was a temporary situation – that frustration won’t help you to move forwards. Help the employee to understand what the organisation needs and explore possible options. For example,
- What doggy daycare is available?
- Are they needed in the office every day?
- Could these be shorter days?
We know that some organisations are worried about setting a precedent by agreeing to something for one person that they would then have to offer to others. Remember that treating people fairly doesn’t mean treating everyone identically. Ultimately, it’s about balance, flexibility, and treating people as individuals while meeting the needs of the business.
If roles can be split between home and work, why can’t the arrangements be flexible? In the current job market, where the demand for talented people is high, if you can’t find the right balance with your team member, another organisation will.
Looking for some individualised support for your organisation? Book a free call with us to talk it through.