The impact of the COVID pandemic has undoubtedly left many companies reeling and unsure about how to progress in their business structure. Should all employees return to the office? Or should working from home be a full-time option? How do you master the hybrid work week?
An alternative concept that emerged during the pandemic is the ‘hybrid approach’ – a structure that combines the flexibility of working from home with the social in-office face-to-face communication that can certainly benefit businesses through team collaboration.
As we look across the world, employees are returning to their in-office desks but with the option to flexibly work from home when their wish arises. This is somewhat of an unfamiliar style of work for many, and unsure as to whether it is beneficial. Experts seem to imply that hybrid working is what you make of it, and optimising how you utilise hybrid working could see significant benefits over time.
“Hybrid work models are here to stay, so the faster you adjust your routines to make them more productive, the better,” argues Luciana Paulise, Lu Paulise, culture coach, speaker and author.
Want to master the hybrid work week? These are a few ideas you can start implementing today.
Optimise your Hybrid Approach
There are a variety of different hybrid approaches to working. Some companies may set a specific number of days an employee must be in the office, while others may leave the decision up to the employees themselves.
Irrespective of the style, the challenge for employees will be the efficiency of changing between ‘office days’ and ‘home days’, as the two can differ significantly and cause a lack of consistency which many strive for in their workweeks.
Tsedal Neeley, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business, suggests that the best way to handle the balance between working from home and the office is to recreate ‘home’ within your office environment to make the change seem less drastic.
This could be as simple as adding the same green plants on your desk as you have at home or replicating your seating position exactly. If your layouts are closely matched between your work-from-home setup and office setup, it has been shown to increase efficiency throughout the workday and therefore make the transition less dramatic for individuals.
If you can master your weekly tasks, you can master the hybrid work week. Some tasks will be easier to complete from within the office. Whether that be because communication with your team is required, or there is technology within the office space that you do not have access to within your home setup.
The importance of task management is a decision making process. In simple terms, you need to decide when the best time to venture into the office would be based upon the tasks at hand. If you have a more strict setup (for example, three days at home, two in the office). You don’t want to utilise your office days on tasks that could have been completed at home.
Studies have shown that communication via video call can be more emotionally draining than in-person collaboration. People generally struggle to process non-verbal queues via video technology, which can increase stress and fatigue within the workplace. Therefore, if there is a collaboration-heavy task you need to complete, utilising your office time to complete it would likely improve efficiency and reduce stress.
Individuals will know their work styles best, and therefore should plan accordingly. If you have a task in which you know would benefit from uninterrupted silence, then perhaps home is the best environment for you. However, not all individuals are the same, and employers should recognise that each employee will need to establish their own style of working within this new era of hybrid working.
Maintaining social skills and relationships has certainly been difficult during the lockdown periods. On your first day back in the office, did you struggle socially with something which would have been normal pre-pandemic?
It is essential to maintain communication with colleagues in order to maintain a level of familiarity and connection. Colleagues who seem like distant memories will be less able to work within a team environment than those who feel like a cohesive unit.
The importance of social interaction has shown to be even more important for younger individuals, or those who are new to a company due to the lack of experience with other individuals within the office. Communication is one of the best ways to master the hybrid work week.
Therefore, colleagues should strive to maintain contact with people within their office, whether team lunches/coffee or activities and team building. Keeping this ‘in-person’ interaction active will make the working relationships significantly smoother over time when team members are working from home.
“There are a lot of opportunities for communication lapses every time you’re away. To keep confusion and miscommunication to a minimum, make constant communication a high priority,” says Howie Jones, a Customer Success Manager at Calendar.
Many people working from home show that they’re worried that their work will not be recognised if they are not in the office in a physical form. Does this have the potential to harm remuneration or promotion? Without a presence, the contribution to the team may not be quite as clear.
This can lead to additional side effects such as anxiety within their job role. Therefore it is up to the management of companies who adopt a hybrid approach to provide comfort and reassurance to team members, and most of all trust that they are doing their job at home to the best of their ability.
Neeley has actually stated that while working from home during the pandemic, there has been an increased level of productivity for the most part. Therefore, it is clear that working from home can and does work.
Unfortunately, during the pandemic, it has been clear that many managers lean towards employees’ preference to be present within an office. The idea that people need to physically be in the office to demonstrate that they are being productive and doing their job correctly is false and an assumption that shouldn’t be recognised.
To some extent, the argument on whether or not employees are productive from a work from home environment is dependent on the work environment itself.
Finance differs from the creative industry, for example, and the average age of the office itself. The general trend from studies shows that older employees tend to prefer being in the office, while younger members of staff prefer working from home/hybrid flexible approach.