By: Paris Stevens, Head of Marketing at Wildgoose.
A great team is a diverse team — a melting pot of fresh ideas and different viewpoints. Nurturing individual differences gives you a competitive advantage. But employees will also naturally have different preferences, and the conditions each individual needs to be their most productive must be prioritised.
More companies than ever are moving towards a hybrid working model because it offers flexibility for all employees and their differing life situations and personalities. Some employees will be more productive working from home, where they can put a clothes wash on or do a school run in between their work schedule. Others will thrive in a busy office environment, chatting by the water cooler and working better in a creative hub. Many will want a mix of both.
Hybrid working is not just beneficial for your employees; it’s good for business. It will:
- Attract and retain talent
- Raise productivity
- Increase employee happiness
- Lower costs
- Prevent an office from becoming overcrowded
- Ensure the company adds value to the employees (rather than just taking it!)
But any transition needs some careful thought before employees up sticks and run towards a new life by the sea, laptop in hand. Getting it wrong can mean a burnt-out, disconnected workforce, with the potential to develop inequalities. Take a look at our checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
It’s essential to implement some guidelines or policies for your employees (e.g. when in the office, that’s the day they organise meetings), but it’s useful to let departments choose their structure for differing needs. No remote micromanagement! They’ll have a better idea of their workflow and how often teams need to come together.
And the most valuable thing about this approach? They will know that you trust them, which is worth its weight in gold.
You also need to make sure that you have a timetable that everyone can view, which allows people to see who’s in the office and when. This will also ensure that you accommodate everyone safely, and no one is missing a desk (awkward…).
Effective communication is vital during and after the transition process. During the process, you’ll need to make sure that everyone understands and follows the guidelines and that people are clear as to who is working where and when. It’s also useful to set up an easy communication system. Emails are too slow and clunky in a fast-moving environment where you need to problem-solve quickly. Take a look at communication apps such as Flock, Twist or Slack.
Your transition to hybrid won’t be successful until everyone has everything they need when working — wherever they’re working. Equip all your employees with the right tech. Make sure that everyone has a reliable, fast internet connection and an ergonomic workstation at home and in the office. And ensure that teams can all work on the same document or project at the same time.
It can be harder to build strong relationships when colleagues are split between office and home, and especially hard for new employees to get to know everyone. Making an effort to get to know other team members is beneficial, but hard to do if the work environment is fragmented.
Familiarity between colleagues is central to a successful team. The more coworkers feel like they have a supportive community to work in, the more productive they will be and the more effective their comms will be. And having friends at work makes for a happier work life.
You need to create opportunities to bring all your employees together. Trips to the pub are all good fun, but people can still become left out in a pub environment. Those who know each other better huddle together, random table layout is bad for mixing, and there are only so many times you can shout over background noise. The answer? Hybrid team building activities.
Time is precious, so make time spent together in person meaningful and ensure everyone is included. For something a bit different that will excite your employees, take a look at the Art Heist Escape Room. This experiential team event will see teams developing their teamwork, communication skills and logical thinking through a virtual escape room — while having a lot of fun.
Don’t overlook remote workers
Beware of proximity bias, which can happen when those who are visible in the office are favoured simply because they are seen in person. Ensuring equal opportunities for all employees is crucial to making hybrid working a success. Keep all employees in the loop on projects by creating channels on specific projects within your communication app.
A remote activity such as an Online Team Quiz is fun for everyone involved, allowing people to participate from the office or home, in person or virtually. This is no dreary ‘pub quiz’ where the person who shouts the loudest dominates. It’s an adrenaline-filled, high-energy way of keeping teams connected and laughing together.
Be brave — transitioning to hybrid working takes a lot of hard work, but once it’s been done, ask the staff for feedback. If there are changes to be made, that’s OK — this is a flexible process and one that can be adapted and improved all the time.
A few times a year, make sure that you get everyone together for a special social event in person. If you do it too frequently, you won’t have such a good attendance rate and those who work from home, miles from the office, will feel pressured to make a long journey.
Everyone looks forward to an occasional gathering in the diary though, and there are so many outdoor and in-person activities to choose from. From a Spy School to an Urban Explorer activity on the streets of your favourite city, there are some exhilarating and entertaining activities to get people connecting face to face.