Change Management For Hybrid Work: 6 Ways To Create Success
For employers only
A successful transition to hybrid work might be tough for you. Tracy Brower's article from Forbes might be the answer to your dilemma.
Hybrid is here to stay, and it will surely turn work upside down. Adopting new ways of working and relating will be the name of the game, as employees, leaders and companies navigate the reimagined landscape of work. Managing the change successfully will require starting with people. Ensuring hybrid works for them will serve employees, but will also be good for companies—based on helping people succeed so they can bring their best to work. And there are definitely ways it’s possible to make hybrid work best.
Hybrid can go wrong in several ways—from assuming home is for private work and the office is all about socializing (both wrong) to believing it’s possible to mandate people’s enthusiastic return (also wrong). Companies who get it right will accomplish a delicate balance of providing enough choice and flexibility along with compelling people to engage fully in a dynamic and magnetic culture. Companies who succeed will be those who inspire people with shared purpose while recognizing unique contributions. And companies will do well to embrace wellbeing for their people—intentionally creating a holistic work experience which nourishes employees and achieves great results.
The stakes are high, especially given the talent revolution—but companies can consider key elements to manage the change and help people transition to being in the office more—supporting employees as their work encompasses not just the home environment, but also more time in the office.
Here’s what will work best, for hybrid to hum and to facilitate a transition to working differently in the future of work.
#1 - Vision and Direction
Figuring out how a hybrid approach will work best is an opportunity to reinvent the future of work. But too often, it is being managed at a tactical level. Details like who should return, on which days and with what performance expectations are clearly key, but it will also be critically important to ensure a future vision is part of the mix.
Ensure the vision and mission of the organization are inspiring, that they are strongly linked with the strategies for hybrid work and that they are communicated effectively by leaders. Inspire people with a clear “why” for the ways hybrid work will support a meaningful strategy, enable rewarding work and contribute to your culture. Take a strong stand about your hybrid approach so people know what they can count on.
#2 - Intentional Work
As people embrace a hybrid model—spending some time in the office and some time working from home—it’s also helpful to coach them in how to decide what work they do in which location. While this may seem obvious, it’s generally not. Suggest criteria for when people should come in, and when they might work from home. Recommend that individuals be intentional about where they’re working for given tasks and suggest teams have discussions about the points in their projects when it is best to be face-to-face, all-remote or hybrid.
For example, people may want to come into the office when a project requires complex problem solving and face-to-face collaboration. Being together in the office may be better for tough conversations or resolving prickly issues. People may also want to be in the office to build relationships with colleagues, or when they want to tap into the energy of being around other people. And they may want to stay home for more routine work or tasks which don’t require a lot of different perspectives.
Hybrid work will be most effective when people reflect on their own preferences, their work patterns and their team processes, so they can make planful decisions about where and when they’re working within the guidelines set by the organization.
#3 - Curiosity
With so much information bombarding people constantly, attention is one of the scarcest resources today. But curiosity can be a catalyst for action. Smart companies are reimagining their work experiences and updating offices for the new ways people are working, and these can be opportunities to leverage curiosity.
Share with people how the office has changed and invite them to seek out what’s new and interesting in the space and in the experience of work—the refreshed culture, the improved processes and the updated tools and technology.
People don’t want a return to normal. They want something better than the all-gray maze of cubicles they left two years ago, so meet the demands for improvement and invite them to find what’s new. Whether it’s new places to gather or improved spaces for privacy and quiet, or whether it’s cool new tech which will allow people to collaborate better across locations or great new opportunities to rejuvenate surrounded by natural elements—all of these can be points of discovery and interest.
#4 - Piloting
Wise companies will also experiment with new workplaces, new policies and new practices. Anyone who claims to know exactly what hybrid work will bring is either ignorant or arrogant or both. In reality, no one knows exactly how work will evolve—and it certainly will. Best practice for companies will be to establish opportunities to try new approaches or test new collaborative technologies, and then intentionally seek input from employees, so improvements can be made over time.
Ideally, the process to fully realize hybrid work will be a rich opportunity for learning about the meaning of work, about how leaders must lead differently and about how work experiences must shift to accommodate new dynamics of the work. It will be important to listen to feedback, capture learning and execute continuous improvements over time.
#5 - FOMO
One of the primary reasons people want to be in the office is to re-connect with their colleagues. But while standing around the coffee pot talking about March Madness is lovely, people want even more. They want to build social capital and their networks. They want to feel connected to a social fabric that nurtures them and lets them feel known and appreciated. They want to expand their learning, since growing skills together is one of the most effective ways to learn.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can be a terrific way to compel people back to the office for part of their workweek. People have an instinct to matter, and work is a powerful way people express their talent, apply their skills and contribute to communities. When people come into the office and share their positive experiences, it creates forward momentum for others to join in—seeking to be part of the culture, connections and camaraderie.
#6 - Phasing
Companies should not underestimate the significance of the shift people will be making as they begin to spend more time in the office. Work schedules and locations have ripple effects on daily and weekly routines for everything from day care to grocery shopping. Going out of the house to work means earlier mornings, later afternoons and changes in the patterns of what gets done when—and how people live their lives.
As a result, phasing will be enormously helpful. Rather than mandating people are back to the office for three or four days a week in one fell swoop, it will work better to let people ease their way in. For some, the immediate shift may be fine, but for others, it may be better to allow a day or two in the office for a couple weeks, followed by more days in the office over time. This ramp up will help people adjust their patterns of work and routines for life.
Overall, achieving success with hybrid work will be a process requiring intentional management of the change. Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, when everyone went home (almost) all at once, the return has been tremendously fragmented. Organizations have had to manage it very differently based on their industry, their customers, their regions and the work they do.
And while fragmentation is understandable, it has created a significant need to provide a strong “why” for hybrid approaches, a meaningful pull for people to return and a new level of conscious planning for when, where and how people will be working. With intentional effort, the hybrid future will be bright, for sure.