The employee voice is shouting loudly. Depending on which survey you read, somewhere between 60-80% of employees want to work in a hybrid way in the future. Employers have listened, and for the most part are responding positively. New policies and ways of working are being developed and tested. This in turn raises the question of skills.
Hybrid and remote are not the same. Although many people have been working for home for well over a year now, we cannot assume that these workers have necessarily have developed the skills to work in a hybrid way. When an organisation moves strategically to remote working in a non-crisis situation much thought would be given to identifying and developing the skills that employees would need to be effective. This wasn’t the case for our shift to pandemic related homeworking. We need to do better with the next step, and we need to go back and retro fit some of the skills and development that people didn’t get in the emergency of March 2020.
So just what skills do people need for hybrid?
Let’s start with people managers. First of all, the good news. Leading and managing in a hybrid way does not require a whole new skill set. What it does require however is adaption of approach. Some of those things that we have always said are good practice, like timely feedback, regular performance conversations, effective communication and clear objectives, become even more important than they have ever been. Other areas such as inclusion and team building need a heightened focus – and so does helping managers become aware of any of their unconscious biases. What managers therefore may need is a skills refresh on some of those key areas; good people practice with a hybrid twist.
For example, if you already support leaders with developing their performance management skills, the overall messages about how to do this well are the same as they ever were. What hybrid adds to the mix is a heightened need for performance to be measured on the basis of evidence and data, and not on presence or proximity. The manager conversation needs to be about how do to this in their particular context.
For employees it’s a similar picture. Some of that stuff that we have always known to be important – but did not necessarily always prioritise – becomes more important. This includes establishing good work life balance through boundary management and good digital habits. Also on that list is being an effective communicator (including using technology for communication and collaboration), time management and self-motivation.
There is one thing however that is largely new, and that is helping people to think about restructuring their work for productivity and effectiveness and then building the skills to support this. In the old, pre-Covid days a significant chunk of the workforce went to the office as default. There, we did whatever work needed to be done or had landed in our diaries and inboxes on that particular day. Taking the same approach to hybrid will be sub-optimal. What people need to do is think strategically about what they do where and when. Remote days will suit focused and independent work. Days in the office should be about maximising facetime, relationship building and social connection. If we travel to a physical workplace to do mostly virtual work, we are missing the opportunity of hybrid work.
We need to bring focused attention to thinking about our own effectiveness. Consider:
- When and where are you most effective?
- What aspects of your work can be undertaken most effectively at home?
- What aspects of your work can be undertaken most effective in the office?
- Where do you gain value from being in the office?
- How should you organise your work accordingly?
And a few further thoughts on those other things that are so important when working remotely:
- How can you maintain your focus and productivity whilst working at home?
- What are the skills that you need to develop or enhance to support the work that you do from home?
- How effective is your time management when working from home? What are your personal time management challenges that need to be overcome? How can you do this?
- How well do you balance the work and non-work aspects of your life?
- To what extend are you actively managing your boundaries? How much separation do you need between work and home to support your wellbeing?
- What do you currently do in order to maintain your wellbeing and ensure you can recover from work? What more do you need to do?
- What steps do you need to take to ensure you are using technology with wellbeing in mind?
For some, the move to hybrid will come naturally. For others it will be more difficult. Talking to people about what skills they believe they need to help them make the most of hybrid is a key first step.