Moving to a hybrid workplace: Flexible experiences, intentional collaboration & empathy based management to come to

How did the ordinary business day look like for any employee in the pre-pandemic era? Most of us living in the metros involved a long, painful commute, late nights at work, not a very healthy routine, and compromised time with our families. And how about the weekends, holidays and vacation

Originally published in thetechpanda 

 

How did the ordinary business day look like for any employee in the pre-pandemic era? Most of us living in the metros involved a long, painful commute, late nights at work, not a very healthy routine, and compromised time with our families. And how about the weekends, holidays and vacations? Well, those were mostly spent running personal errands, dentist and doctor appointments, and probably catching up on the lost sleep trying to recover from the fatigue. Not a great way to live anyway. Right?

Then came the pandemic, which disrupted all of that, and for good in many ways. And, to most of us, it allowed us to apply the long-overdue ‘pause and reset’ to get back our working life on track, at least in some ways. There were lesser commutes in the heavy traffic, more room to organize our weekday and weekend schedule better, an opportunity to spend more and quality time with our family, or something as fundamental as the time to breathe. All of this leading to lower levels of stress and anxiety.

However, as they say, all good things must come to an end. So we saw ourselves coming back to a phase where the employers and employees started planning the return to work from the office. However, it wasn’t as straightforward this time. The pandemic helped employers and employees experience and discovered the positive side of working remotely. But, in the process, it also unveiled particular challenges of making 100% remote work the new norm.

So we all found ourselves at the crossroads again. However, the human species is very smart, and therefore it was not a challenge for employers and employees to discover a new working model. A model that offers us the best of both worlds, onsite and remote. And, therefore we started calling it the ‘hybrid working’ model.

This new hybrid working model is gaining considerable momentum now with a healthy growing number of employers, making it the new norm that most employees are happily embracing. In a typical hybrid workplace, most employees have the freedom to choose where they work, dividing their time between working from an office versus working from home or anywhere remotely.

The primary goal of a hybrid workplace is to balance the needs of individual employees while allowing them to collaborate and be productive in a shared physical space from time to time. However, like any other model, this new model of the hybrid workplace also comes with its unique challenges and therefore requires flexible experiences, intentional collaboration, and empathy-based management to come to the forefront.

While on one side, it requires offices that are designed around flexibility and can help people adopt a more dynamic way of working, yet providing inspiring and adaptable workplaces that support the organization’s business goals, alongside dedicated desks and private offices to help remote workers feel more connected to their colleagues in the office.

For any hybrid workplace to be successful, it has to embody the three key elements:

Flexible experiences

Flexible experiences – that allow the employers to offer specific fundamental choices and flexibility around the key variables like how is the working schedule planned between office versus remote, is there a choice available to get the benefits and perks aligned to working from office versus remotely, how are the work deliverables and priorities agreed upon and tracked, whether there is an option to switch from one schedule to another based on the business as well as employee needs, and so on.

One size doesn’t fit all, and likewise, having a very rigid policy around how we implement the concept of hybrid work in any organization doesn’t yield any significant benefits.

Intentional collaboration

Intentional collaboration – ensures everyone is actively engaged and aligned to the shared vision and the organization’s goals. Digital distractions, virtual overload, and an always-on mindset can lead to remote work fatigue. At the same time, if some of the team members are working remotely while others are from the office, there are high chances of misalignment, disengagement, or even scenarios where the other set could ignore the contribution from the ones working remotely.

Despite all the challenges related to full-time working from an office, why do most of us still miss it when we work from home or remotely? Because we are all humans first, we have the intrinsic social need to be in the company of other people. We miss those watercooler conversations in the office lobby, that cafeteria, playing a game of chess or table tennis, or having that cup of coffee together. All this gets completely missed for those working remotely, and hence the need for encouraging intentional collaboration where we devise policies and practices in such a way that everyone, irrespective of whether working remotely or from the office, spends a particular time doing activities together that boost collaboration and therefore engagement and resulting productivity.

Some practices that help are things like getting the entire team to collaborate on the same platform using tech, creating opportunities for casual chat and team building activities, reinventing the meeting format considering the needs of the team while delivering desired business outcomes, and finding ways to encourage as much communication as possible amongst the teams.

Empathy-based management

Empathy-based management – to get the best outcomes while allowing people to feel at home. Based on a recent study, a whopping 63% of the managers quote ‘people management as the most challenging part of their job. And rightly so. human beings are not machines that, once programmed, shall continue to operate in a certain way, giving a consistent output, not asking any questions, or never feeling emotional. Thereby making it very common and justified for most leaders to find it challenging to keep all their people aligned to a shared vision. Situations like a pandemic make it further difficult as each individual is bound to be affected differently based on the case, leading to different expectations from their managers and employers.

Yet, everyone has one common link: an emotion—empathy that allows one to feel how the other might be feeling. Therefore, to make their job easier, managers need to appreciate the value of empathy and empathy-based management. Genuine empathy happens when it is reflected in the actions of the managers and employers. It is not in words and actions that signal proper understanding and concern for an employee’s needs, care for people, and compassion at large.

Make empathy the cornerstone of your organization’s culture. Lead by example, be flexible wherever you can, inspire Connection, maintain productivity, manage security and safety of yor people, get team members into the collaboration mindset, create an inclusive environment, make meetings more efficient, prioritize process and accountability, and most importantly do not panic when things go wrong.

We need to start believing that it is the best way forward for this whole concept of the hybrid workplace to work. And after that, we need to consider the fundamental human needs while designing the entire program & policies and planning the workplace designs that promote collaboration and communication. Once we do this and garnish it with the shared values of empathy, trust, care, passion & fun, it is all going to work out just nicely.


SCIKEY VJ

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