How to Make Hybrid Working Work for Your Business

Michele Don Durbin, Evernote’s SVP of Marketing looks at how your business can thrive in 2021 and beyond by learning to get the best from hybrid working.

The huge rise in hybrid working in the UK brought about by the impact of COVID-19 has seen individuals, teams and organisations work part of their time at their normal workplace and part of it remotely.

For instance, NatWest Bank recently announced that nearly 90% of its workforce will take part in hybrid working, with only around 8,300 of its 64,000 workforce working full-time at an office or branch each day.

The benefits of hybrid working include more flexibility for staff members in their work/life balance and little or no time or money spent commuting.

But there are challenges for employers when implementing hybrid working, such as how to ensure fairness, inclusion, collaboration and productivity.

Here are some practical tips your business can follow to get the most out of hybrid working, which has now become the new norm for many organisations.

Employ the right people 

It may seem like an obvious point, but can all your team members work as well remotely, as they do on site? It’s a great place to start when you are thinking about how to make sure your team succeeds at hybrid working.

Recruiting a hybrid working team is different to recruiting a team that you will manage face to face. Working remotely is not for everyone and hybrid team members must have remote team qualities, as well as the core skills and experience for the job role.

The remote-working skill set includes self-management skills (good time management, good energy management); above-average self-motivation; and very strong oral and written communication skills (including very good listening skills).

So, shape your recruiting process differently to ensure you employ the right people and start with two highly relevant steps: check for verbal articulation skills and listening skills.

Start your interview process with a 30-minute telephone call to discover how articulate the candidate is. In the same telephone-based interview, ask the candidate to respond to two simple questions via email. Tell the candidate to repeat the questions in their email response and answer them with no more than four or five sentences.

NatWest Bank recently announced that nearly 90% of its workforce will take part in hybrid working, with only around 8,300 of its 64,000 workforce working full-time at an office or branch each day.

It’s not really about the candidate’s answers but about their listening skills. If a candidate doesn’t listen properly during a job interview, it’s likely the same will happen once that person becomes part of a hybrid team.

Think remote forward

It’s important that out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind when it comes to managing hybrid workers.

Just because some team members may only spend little or even no time in the office, it doesn’t mean they should be treated differently to their colleagues who are more visible because they spend more time at the office.

Ensure fairness by offering a hybrid arrangement to everyone on your team that works for them. However, you need to consider the unique circumstances of each team member and the specific issues they may face.

These may include things like having children in the house at the same time they’re working or juggling childcare and school runs around shift patterns. And they extend to issues like considering people who live in remote, rural locations who have poor and unreliable internet connections, who may need additional IT support and resources to work effectively.

It’s also important to promote an inclusive culture to ensure there is no divide between people who are more office-based and those more remote-based. Regular socials get-togethers (in person and remotely) like quizzes and drinks nights are a great way to help achieve this.

Avoid cognitive overload

On average, a knowledge worker gets interrupted or switches tasks every three to five minutes, according to research. This leads to a very unhealthy cognitive or mental overload, exhaustion and mini burnouts at the end of the working day.

Help your hybrid team learn to protect their attention. Ask each team member to think about when they’re at their best and reserve this time for deep work.

Encourage team members to reduce or remove distractions like mobile phones and close email inboxes for periods of time. Also, team members should develop strategies to get their inbox regularly back to zero unread mail, like batch-processing email at particular times of the day instead of having an inbox open in the background all of the time.

Use the right channels for communication and collaboration

If your home caught fire, would you email the fire service? Of course not! You would call them on 999 immediately. The same goes for hybrid work communication – you and your team need to pick the right channel for the right type of communication.

You and your team members should decide as a collective what types of communications should happen via which channels, which will help your team meet deadlines and build the trust that’s crucial to succeed. Remember the hierarchy of communication channels (face to face is best, followed by video call, phone call, email, then text message) and choose the right channel.

Also, make sure all communication is clear about the three Ws: WHO, does WHAT, by WHEN. Once you have this clarity for internal communications, meeting requests and commitments will be much easier.

Make small steps to improve productivity 

Research shows that knowledge workers spend about 80% of their working time communicating or collaborating through emails, meetings, chat, and messenger. Unfortunately, this doesn’t leave much time to do deep work (the most challenging and important tasks), so getting the most out of meetings is crucial.

Make sure you and your team never have a meeting without an agenda in the calendar invite. And add links for pre-meeting reading directly to the invite so everyone can prepare properly.

Also, try shrinking your meetings. Just because your calendar may default to creating 30 or 60-minute meetings, that doesn’t mean you need to have meetings that long. For instance, you could try 25-minute or 50-minute meetings instead.

Plus, take notes in every meeting and create a list of tasks, questions and follow-ups that you can refer back to when figuring out the next steps and assigning action items.

The next thing to consider is a physical and digital declutter – in both office spaces and remote working spaces. Research shows that because of data overload the average knowledge worker wastes about two and a half hours per day searching for information.

Start by organising computer desktops. If your computer desktop is covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need, when you need it. Delete any documents you don’t want, file away items you want to keep and create files for anything that doesn’t already have a home.

Next, go through your computers and tablets and delete any unneeded files, then empty the downloads folder on each device.

Ultimately, a few small changes to the way your team works can make a huge difference to productivity and organisation to help your business get the most out of hybrid working.

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