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Managing hybrid work environment

The Covid-19 induced remote work has been with us for more than a year now. However, many organisations are still grappling with return-to-the-workplace changes—but most aren’t returning to business as they knew it before the pandemic. In fact, smart organisations are seizing this unique opportunity to re-imagine and optimise their organisations.

Debbie McCarthy

Managing the change for a return-to-the-workplace transition is not a walk in the park. The key is to identify the work that needs to return to the office, which will inform who must return and in what capacity.  What aspects does your organisation need to change to accommodate your workplace of the future? What is important and what is not?

Adaptive action framework

This framework can streamline your decision making process. Breaking down decisions by asking  “What?” “Now what?” and “So what?” enables you to focus and plan effectively, even with limited information. The approach is straightforward. First, you note what you’re observing, then you draw conclusions, and then you take actions that address the implications.

Plans for the return to the workplace include the following:

Space requirements

What? Identify the space needed for work returning to the workplace. This includes strategic workplace configuration, facilities management, re-imagining real estate, renovations, hoteling, home-office ergonomics, and social distancing and other safety protocols

So what? Once you decide, you must align around the areas. Can you even have an office? Will you use temporary hoteling or assigned spaces? Don’t underestimate how people feel about their personal workspace.

People have strong emotional reactions to not having their own place, not being able to hang up their pictures, and not having their own trash can. These reactions lead to resistance.

Now what? Establish where they are in their change journey. Anticipate the resistance and help them overcome their barriers. Think about how you will create policies and protocols. How will you enable the change and help people get used to new ways of working?

 Employee engagement

What? This involves actively managing employee engagement, finding ways to connect, team building through technology, and virtual facilitation.

So what? We all miss the daily interactions around the water dispenser—those informal conversations that enable us to build relationships organically. We must be very intentional about creating ways to engage with those who are virtual  and in hybrid working environments.

Now what? Create specific policies for building teams, connecting online before meetings, creating virtual get-togethers, and committing time to build relationships and find connections.

 Management expectation

What? We must have clear expectations about work hours, availability, boundaries, flexible work policies, outcomes measurement, and goal setting.

So what? It’s critical to help people buy into the chosen approach now and then plan for resistance to return later. Desire on day one is not the same as desire on day 14 after the excitement wears off and people start to think and reminisce.

Now what? Communicate the options, boundaries and approaches to manage expectations about return-to-the-workplace changes. Planning for resistance up front, keeping communication lines open, and responding to issues will be critical.

Hybrid communications

What? This includes the strategy for a remote or hybrid workforce, creative communications, various virtual channels, on-screen protocol, and expectations around communications.

So what? Every organisation now understands what they can and can’t do well remotely. How will this apply to the hybrid workplaces we’re creating?

Now what? Examples include being very intentional about communication in multiple channels, such as email, chat, Microsoft Teams and Slack. This means understanding “Zoom fatigue,” developing on-screen protocols, and getting creative—perhaps creating video updates for your teams every Friday. It is also important to help teams manage boundaries around communications because being at home means the workday can creep into evenings and weekends, causing burnout.

Protecting culture

What? This involves supporting and protecting culture, building new culture and connection remotely, developing new mindsets and attitudes, and building trust remotely.

So what? Think about your culture, who you are as an organisation, and where your issues are. If you are a collaborative, trusting culture that builds relationships, you can still do that in a virtual or hybrid environment. If you are siloed or lacking trust, remote work will exacerbate that.

Now what? Leaders set the tone, so they must model the behavior they want to see. How will you continue to live the organization’s values in remote and hybrid workplaces?

Technology requirements

What? This includes technology needs for virtual, in-person or hybrid workplaces, including home-office support, IT security and bandwidth.

So what? Having flexible technology has been a critical enabler for some organisations and a debilitating barrier for others. Which is it for your organisation?

Think through which technologies you need for the work that must be done, which systems have to improve, and what your employees need to be productive.

Now what? Thoughtfully planning and then supporting your team will ensure that they have the right tools, know how to use them, and have duplicates for home and office as needed.

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to do your job when you don’t have the tools to do it.

This article was published on https://blog.prosci.com

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