By Domenica Di Lieto, founder and CEO of Chinese planning and marketing consultancy, Emerging Communications. https://www.emergingcomms.com
Hybrid working offers lots of business and personal advantages. However, it cannot function based on bit part development, or short term improvisation. It must be built on a practical well thought out plan, and a secure information platform that gives staff access to whatever documents and data they need to allow them to do their jobs in the office, at home or elsewhere.
Staff have to know what the work protocol is, and what is expected of them. The information system that allows them to work cannot be based on compromise – what area could be satisfactorily compromised – not allowing full access to the information staff need, or taking risks with security? These are not options.
From experience, we know getting it right from the start pays dividends. Giving each member of staff a company laptop, and access to a secure cloud based system is essential. It means they are unrestricted in having whatever work documents they need wherever they are. It means they can work from home, office, a coffee shop, or more or less anywhere.
Consult all internal parties at the start to find out what is needed. We consulted every function within the company from accounts to creative, and built infrastructure accordingly. A major part of development was security. The aim was to create a system that allows staff to have easy access to what they need while paying minimum attention to security matters.
The principle behind the effective formula for this was simple. Understand the best way to give staff access to the information they need to be free to be as productive as possible. In other words, build a system around them.
Always what comes first should be people. This is the best possible strategy for productivity. It means you attract the best talent that is motivated and efficient, and prepared to go the extra mile, push boundaries and constantly learn.
Letting staff choose where they work in an office
We are starting to try a new idea of giving staff We Work access cards so that they can get together in groups in office space when they want to work alongside each other wherever there is a WeWork location. They arrange this themselves. This is particularly useful for those working on the same client, campaign and other collaborative project. But equally, some just want to hang out together while they work. It looks like it might become popular, and it is a useful alternative to the at home or in office scenario.
Staff can work the hours they want, from where they want as long as work is completed, and necessary meetings attended.
If covid taught us anything, then it is that the fast eat the slow. Leaders have to be able to pivot businesses fast, change systems, and take people willingly with them. Wanting to go back to ‘normal’ is a retrograde step. Change can be stressful, so must be fully explained, the benefits to individuals highlighted, and concerns listened to and addressed effectively.
Trusting Employees To Fail
A key element of hybrid working is giving staff the resources and support they need to be autonomous so that they can get on with what they are good at. But working independently so much of the time places great responsibility on the individual. As a result, fear of failure can become a significant problem.
Fear of failure creates inertia, anxiety, and mistakes may go unreported. It is therefore important staff know they should not be afraid of failure. If they need help, they should understand they will not be judged. That if things do go wrong, they will be supported.
Above all, failure should be embraced as the best opportunity to learn, improve and move forward with a greater amounts of knowledge, experience, and allows people to grow and be better prepared for the future leading to greater productivity.
Project management software essential for flexible working
With remote teams managing resources and output is paramount. Project management software and use of timesheets allows an at a glance view of capacity, so work can be distributed fairly. It also identifies when individuals work longer hours than is desirable. Long working days should be the exception, and not slide into becoming a fixture.
Management software and timesheets are a useful tool for monitoring productivity and welfare, but it lacks ‘human intelligence’, the ability of one person to understand how another is. For this reason it is important do constant personal rounds talking to all staff.