We’ve coined a new term: ‘hybration’. It describes the challenging but rewarding process of creating a permanent, sustainable hybrid work model.
Why? Because the hybrid workplace is here to stay. According to the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s latest office occupancy survey, three-quarters of Melbourne’s city workers have settled into a mix of home and office workdays.
There’s going to be incredible innovation to come in the next few decades, particularly if the right to work under a hybrid model becomes law. While there are many exciting opportunities associated with this change, the transition also comes with tension, confusion, anxiety and grief. But workplaces can overcome these by embracing three critical and interconnecting factors.
Become a technology company, no matter what your business is
The complaints we hear from staff working remotely typically involve feelings of being disconnected, lonely and frustrated with systems. To create a successful hybrid environment, every organisation – regardless of its business or purpose – needs to invest in the technology, systems, processes, infrastructure and individual levels of technical capability that will enable its people to do their best work wherever they are. This includes, but isn’t limited to, hardware, software, wifi, IT security and training.
While we support organisations embracing technology to enhance work experiences, this should not be done in a way that creates cultural harm. For example, many organisations are using surveillance tools to monitor their remote workers’ activities, such as data keystrokes, logins and logouts. These are often used in a misguided attempt to performance manage an outlier group. Unfortunately, this does not work and effectively erodes trust across the organisation. For the outlier group, surveillance tools will just encourage them to find new ways to do ‘performance work’, which is the phenomenon of people pretending to work.
Develop your leaders and managers
In becoming a technology-enabled organisation, it will be critical to raise the digital acumen of all leaders in the business. A successful ‘hybration’ will also require leaders to have enhanced skills around collaboration, staff engagement, inclusion and performance management. For example, integrating intentional collaboration within and across teams takes different skills than when you do it with a co-located team. Similarly, ensuring all people are included in meetings when some people are in digital spaces requires a different skillset to ensuring the inclusion of people sharing a physical space.
Inclusivity is very important in a sustainable hybrid working model because remote working is often attractive to the most vulnerable. This includes people who also have carer roles, people with a disability who find commuting challenging, and people who are neurodiverse and prefer to work in their own environment. While managing a hybrid-based team requires things to be done differently, it can also cause leaders to have feelings of loss of control and power. It is important leaders face their new reality and question what they need to be able to manage risks and achieve their own objectives too.
Work closely with facilities teams and real estate managers
Many businesses are grappling with the tension point between their significant sunk costs in existing infrastructure and employee resistance to returning to offices full-time. They are doing this by attempting to return to what we had in the past, at least some of the time, and it’s not always working.
We think there’s a real opportunity for employers to completely transform the world of work by stepping into the change and collaborating with participants in commercial real estate through design-thinking.
Architectural firm Hassell recently released its 2023 Workplace Futures Survey. It found that companies that have “changed their offices and ways of working since the pandemic have a 17% higher satisfaction score among employees than those that haven’t”. It also highlighted that high performing offices – ones that are purposeful – are drawing employees back voluntarily. Those offices typically support collaboration and people coming together to do work that is at a different level to what they do independently and remotely.
JOST&Co can help address ‘hybration’ issues by:
- Supporting cultural resets and new ways of working
- Helping redefine values and offering new vantage points on how to achieve strategic objectives
- Undertaking organisational capability reviews, and
- Supporting individual and leadership capacity building, including digital capability.