It’s been a year of extremes. Trading bustling office spaces for home offices, colleagues for cats and children, and entering into the world of online meeting spaces, managing your workforce has most likely had some changes. Some of these look likely to stick around, challenging and reshaping how we view work and productivity, requiring new, imaginative ways of managing your team. The current buzzwords are ‘hybrid working’, but what exactly is hybrid working and how can you manage it successfully?
What is hybrid working?
A hybrid is a mix of two different things – in this case, the mix of in-office working and online remote working. This has benefits as well as challenges, so it is worth spending some time preparing and setting structures in place to accommodate for it. This might be a daunting undertaking, but we’re here to make sure your hybrid workforce runs as smoothly as possible.
You might have already started running through all the difficulties facing a hybrid workforce and absolutely, there will be challenges. However, by acknowledging them early on, you can strengthen your hybrid workforce, anticipating and avoiding issues later on. Some challenges to be aware of upfront might be:
- Difficulty collaborating across the workforce
- Suitability of different work environments to different people
- Avoiding prejudice or assumptions about either workplace
- Ensuring security and privacy online
- Flexibility required
However, just because hybrid working faces some challenges, doesn’t mean it is without its benefits. These can add to your company’s appeal as an employer, whilst boosting the morale and loyalty within current employees. Depending on your company and the people you work with, the benefits can outweigh the challenges. These include:
- Wider inclusivity and diversity of employees, particularly those with disabilities, chronic illness and other circumstances that make commuting difficult
- Larger hiring area
- Reduced costs on office spaces
- Greater flexibility in working hours
- Workplaces more suited to employees
What are you waiting for? Turn your team into a successful hybrid workforce quickly and easily with our guidance.
Key ways to manage hybrid workforces
Check-in with the individuals
A company is nothing without the employees, whatever role they take. So, the better you look after your employees, the more productive your company. This can be through one-to-ones or team meetings, any way to gauge how they are doing. Making use of the best RPA tools when scheduling check-ins can save time and ensure this is an automatic part of your week.
For hybrid workforces, communication between you and your team needs to be taken to the next level. Don’t assume that because someone has been working from home for the past year, that is their preference. Likewise, members of the team who have been in the offices may not thrive in that environment constantly. Having conversations clears up ambiguity and prevents issues from arising.
Make sure everyone is fully equipped
Not everyone in your workforce will have the same access to the equipment they need to work their best. While in office spaces, it is apparent if someone requires additional equipment to improve their workspace and they can easily join an IT helpdesk ticketing system when facing technical issues. This can be challenging when managing a hybrid workforce.
One way to check everyone is properly equipped is by listing the resources, equipment and technologies that would be available to them in the office. This includes laptops, second screens, and extends to less obvious things, like paper to print on, high internet speeds and a technical support team on call. Using this list, discuss with your employees what they need, and how the company can provide additional support for those both in the offices and working remotely.
Look for signs of burnout
This year has taken its toll on all of us, and your workers may be in different circumstances to where they were a year ago, six months ago, or even last month. Happy and healthy employees are more productive, creative and innovative, so it is worth watching over your team and finding ways to help them. Encouraging the whole team to do this for one another starts building community and can be more perceptive to individuals.
Working remotely doesn’t eliminate burnout, and can often be just as stressful as working in an office. The concerns of each person might differ, but they should be taken just as seriously. Showing a real interest in your team member’s well-being is a great quality in a manager and can provide early solutions to issues before they become problematic.
Create a regular team schedule
With a hybrid workforce, it can be hard to keep track of everyone and where they are at. Private cloud computing can help to some extent, but ensuring regular meetings as a whole team and in smaller task forces can help with organization and keeping tabs on everyone. This is key for clear and consistent communication across the office and remote workers.
Having a team schedule also gives advanced warning to workers regarding when they are needed in calls – perfect for those factoring in school runs, doctors visits, or additional demands on their time. This may apply to workers both remote and in-office, improving the working experience for the whole team.
Having a shared drive and applications for instant messaging helps to accelerate projects and communication, especially between those in office and remote. Although emails are still necessary, they take longer to receive responses from and are not always suitable for sending files. By sharing resources and documents instantly, there is no delay between employees working together, regardless of their proximity to each other.
This is useful when searching for documents, not knowing who created or had them saved. Rather than asking everyone to look, anyone within the team can access the shared drive and find past documents without hassle. Using voice recognition software can further speed up this process, using AI to search through shared drives.
Work hard, play hard
This year has been tough on everyone and adapting to hybrid working can put a strain on some. Take time as a team to have fun together, both remote and office workers. Use one of the myriads of online team-building exercises, have designated coffee breaks including remote workers, or find events where the whole team would be comfortable getting involved.
Having a strong team relies on the relationships between team members. So, although these activities might not seem directly productive, they can diminish division between office and remote workers, building up community spirit within your workforce.
Hybrid working gives employees additional flexibility to improve their work/life balance. Whether in flexible working hours, part or full-time remote working, or flexibility to take your dog to the vet, this improves the wellbeing of employees and gives them ownership over their work.
Although you might anticipate needing flexibility with remote workers, it is equally needed for those returning to offices, or who never left. Being aware of this can prevent assumptions of what office working or remote working is, and allows each individual to have the same opportunities available.
Prepare for change
We have adapted to a lot of change recently, becoming familiar with new rules and regulations and managing our teams through very different methods. This should act as a reminder to prepare for change and things not playing out how you anticipate. This could extend to the purposes of offices and meeting rooms changing, as well as ensuring you have business continuity planning software and procedures in place.
Be aware that the needs and preferences of your workforce might also change. Working remotely might be ideal for a parent during the school term, but during holidays working in the office may be better. Similarly, keen office workers might find themselves needing to work remotely while looking after vulnerable family members. Being open and ready for change makes conversations with employees around changing their work environment a lot easier, ensuring they can always work in a place suited to them.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it works
Hybrid workforces are a new and constantly improving aspect of companies, meaning there is no one way to perfectly manage your new hybrid team. What works for you depends on your workforce and the individuals within it. There are plenty of new developments to share the workload across your team, from dialler software, to synchronized calendars. In testing the ropes, mistakes and difficulties will happen, but don’t let this put you off. You’re in good company with many other businesses also making the move to hybrid working.
RingCentral won the Award for Innovation in Human Resources in the 2020 Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards.
Severine Hierso is EMEA Senior Product Marketing Manager for RingCentral Office, the leader in cloud communications solutions and ACD systems. She is passionate about creating value, differentiation and messaging, ensuring a better experience for customers and partners.
She has gained extensive international Product Marketing, Market Research, Sales Enablement and Business development experience across SaaS, Telecommunications, Video Conferencing and Technology sectors
within companies such as Sony, Cisco, Cogeco Peer 1 and Dimension Data/NTT.