Going Hybrid: The Future Workplace Has Arrived

The events of 2020 propelled organizations to leap suddenly into what we once called the future of work. The ‘new normal’ in crisis mode forced organizations to completely rethink business models and how they operate virtually and digitally. How, and where, work gets done effectively has dominated the business agenda as boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘life’ dissolved dramatically for many employees.

“From order comes progress. From chaos comes innovation.” – Simon Sinek

As social distancing measures are lifted in the months ahead, the ‘next normal’ in the recovery phase means that many of us who have been working from home will be going back to the office at least some of the time. According to a report by Sage, 76% of Canadian workplaces are now planning for more flexible hybrid work models which blend on-site and remote work.

Designing a better work experience for employees is expected to foster performance and productivity though engagement and retention. A LinkedIn poll conducted the week of May 14th by Axxel-Bromelin found that over 80% of respondents would prefer to work remotely for at least half of their work week. This is consistent with a recent study by Statistics Canada. The same study found that 90% reported being at least as productive at home as they were previously in their usual place of work, while 32% reported accomplishing more by working remotely.

However, a KPMG survey found that 81% of Canadians expressed concern that their bosses aren’t prepared nor equipped to manage hybrid workplace models. What good leadership looks like has fundamentally shifted over the last 14 months.

The resilience and change agility required to thrive in ambiguity, pivot repeatedly and nimbly course-correct during the pandemic are similar to the need to approach hybrid work as an evolving model. Be prepared to execute, measure, listen and adapt as needed.

Developing a viable, high functioning hybrid working plan will depend on leadership capabilities and readiness to sustainably manage the cultural shift and leverage available tech tools to replicate connection, collaboration and coaching virtually as well as in person.

Connect with Empathy

The new ‘open door’ means inclusion and the foundation for inclusion is empathy. 81% of employees want their managers to have a more empathetic, supportive style (Adecco 2020).

Compassion, asking genuine questions, active listening and interest in understanding others’ realities creates the space for leaders and their direct reports to value and bring their authentic, full selves to work and how, and where, they work best.

Connecting at a deeper, more meaningful, and personal level, virtually and in person, builds trust and fosters a sense of belonging across the organization. What is belonging at work? It’s the experience of feeling valued and welcomed and is critical to employee well-being and engagement.

Collaborate with Intent

The new ‘touchpoints’ are intentional, not mainly spontaneous or informal. For example, this may mean being able to capture camaraderie and creativity by leveraging technology tools such as a virtual water cooler.

Another best practice is to actively work to align schedules and make sure there are overlapping times for people to do the collaboration work that they need to do.

The key is to be intentional about making time for face time, even when that means getting together on a video call. How do you disarm people so that they can be very creative and relaxed in a brainstorming session? You play a game, you do icebreakers, you share meals if you’re in-person.

Coach with Learner Mindset

The new ‘one-on-one’ is feedback in frequent, dynamic performance discussions using coach-like techniques that emphasize growth and development.

Your role as a leader is to develop, equip, empower, and enable the best performance of your direct reports and teams to drive the business forward.

Organizations of all types will need to upskill these emerging leadership capabilities in their talent strategies as well as guidelines for meetings, stretched workdays, collaboration, meeting fatigue, presenteeism, inclusion, and other factors. The entire mindset of how organizations are run must shift towards multiple workplaces and flexible scheduling.

The ‘next normal’ should be viewed as a positive wholesale, fundamental shift in the way businesses operate, not merely an extension of a temporary work-from-home arrangement.

About the Author:

Kim Blake Bromelin

The next time you are captivated by an engaging and thoughtful TED Talk, it just might be Kim Blake, (B.Comm., CHRP) delivering it. Wherever the visionaries, thinkers, and agents of change are gathered, you’ll find Kim there. An innovator known for her organizational thinking and ability to guide global 500 organizations through system transformations, Kim offers vision, expertise, and leadership as one of the AXXEL Bromelin HR Consulting Senior Human Resources Consultants.

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