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Staying Flexible with Hybrid Workplaces

Categories: remote work, Management Tips
staying flexible with hybrid workplaces
COVID is changing the way the world works. As opposed to being tethered to a desk for 40 hours a week, many companies have adopted a work from home policy for the time being. And some for the unforeseeable future.

But even this trend is beginning to shift.

In the past few weeks, companies such as Google and Microsoft have announced new workplace hybrid models. These plans aim to maintain the flexibility of remote working with an “on-site” or “touchdown space” employees can come back to as needed. Allowing workers to come and go as they please and choose how and where they want to work.

As this trend will become the norm, more companies will need to implement systems to help them manage their employees, projects, and workspaces. This article will give some tips on what to keep in mind when engaging in hybrid workplace models. And how companies can stay agile.

What are hybrid workplaces?

Gone are the days of 8+ hours in an office. Hybrid workspaces are the latest work trend, which offer a flexible solution for workers who work part of the time remotely and part of the time in the office.

This solution is being led by tech giants Google and Microsoft, when the former announced their plans for their new hybrid workspace in September of 2020. Followed by Microsoft a few weeks later.

Microsoft revealed their intention to create new “touchdown spaces” for employees who choose to permanently work from home. While Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is currently “reconfiguring” their physical office space to better support new “hybrid models” of work.

These respective “touchdown spaces” or “on-sites” offer a place for employees to gather if they choose to work in the office on a specific day. Giving them the opportunity to bond with colleagues, catch up in person with their boss, or shake off their Zoom fatigue.

Why go hybrid?

Because flexibility is key for the future of work.

The COVID outbreak has been an important lesson for organizations around the world. Companies have learned that more work can be done virtually thanks to technology.

Both employees and employers see the difference that an agile work environment brings. And because of that, it’s impossible to turn back the hands of time to what the old normal of worklife looked like.

And why would you want to, anyway? The benefits of remote work are enormous. Ranging from an increase in productivity and money, to a decrease in turnover rates, stress levels, and commute times.

So while even companies such as Google have no plans to go fully remote in the future, CEO Pichai says, "I see the future as definitely being more flexible.”

Adding to that sentiment, Microsoft Executive Vice President Kathleen Hogan wrote in a blog post that, "Flexibility can mean different things to each of us, and we recognize there is no one-size-fits-all solution given the variety of roles, work requirements and business needs we have at Microsoft."

Hybrid work models let employees control how they work. While still reaping the benefits that remote working offers. And so it makes sense that companies should want to push for these new models.

But how to navigate this “new normal”? We have a few ideas.
Remote Work Stats:
159% - the amount that remote work increased in the past 12 years (before COVID)
3.4% of the US population work remotely (as of February 2020)
42% the amount of the US population working from home in June 2020
80% of remote workers experience less stress

Remote working is more than the new reality. It’s also likely to stay with us in the near future. Check out our article on some benefits gained from working remotely. Or see some of our tips if you’re planning to make it permanent for yourself or team.

Hybrid workplace tips

Hybrid offices are the transition between remote work and full time office work

These new models of the workplace are still in the early stages. So much that even the most influential companies in the world have yet to iron out all the kinks.

But as the foundation is beginning to be laid, we can see what the CEOs and directors at the top are beginning to concentrate on. Because as noted by Google’s Pichai, planning can impact productivity. So it’s better to give employees a sense of certainty. Especially when the future seems so uncertain.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has recently said he’s focused on three major aspects of how work has been changed by the pandemic. To make hybrid a reality, it’s first necessary to:
  1. Enable collaboration
  2. Discover how learning happens
  3. Prevent employee burnout

Taking this advice, let’s dive into what organizations need to start thinking about as we enter this new phase of work reality. And how they can be applied to workplaces around the globe.

Enable collaboration

enabling collaboration is important for hybrid workplaces

Firstly, there is a need to focus on finding effective ways for teams to collaborate, even if people aren’t in the same room.

To that end it’s worth taking a cue from teams who’ve dealt with remote collaboration for years. Picking up some pointers from dispersed virtual teams and utilizing the same tactics and tools they use to work better. Because when COVID hit, there was a huge disparity between teams who were used to working remotely. And for those of whom this was brand new.

With those with remote experience winning by a long shot.

Tools to the rescue
So sure an office whiteboard is useful for brainstorming. And sometimes it seems necessary to have that meeting face-to-face to really get your point across. But what many workers have learned in the past year is that collaboration can take place from anywhere. It’s only about implementing the right set of tools (or combination thereof).

That means that while a combo of Zoom, Excel, and Slack can maybe work in the short-term, more thought needs to be put into long-term, sustainable collaboration and management processes.

Happier team = better teamwork
While tools help collaboration, there are actually many factors that go into healthy team dynamics. And as such, better cooperation.

Stress, overworking, concurrent task scheduling, and pairing up the right set of team mates can all impact how members collaborate. Meaning these are key areas that PMs and and team leaders need to be focused on from the get-go. No matter your locale.

So with more flexibility and control in the work day, less time in heavy commute traffic, and effective resource management strategies in place, getting the best collaborative efforts from your team doesn’t have to be difficult. And might even be easier to implement within these new hybrid systems.

Key takeaways for enabling collaboration:
  • Find and implement the right combination of virtual project management tools.
  • The flexibility of remote and hybrid working can improve team dynamics.
  • Focus on your team with better human resource management strategies.
Read on: It’s not surprising that Microsoft is focusing more on collaboration. Especially because one of their flagship products, Excel, lacks so many basic collaborative features common these days. To see a few reasons why Excel doesn’t cut it for virtual project management and what you can do instead, read our blog post here

Discover how learning happens

figuring out how your team learns is key when you want to go in a more hybrid direction

The next area that industry leaders are focusing on, is discovering the ways that employees actually learn about the work they do. This can encompass everything from on-boarding new teammates, to implementing new technologies, to everyday interactions and information exchanges.

Learn how your team learns
Once employers start tracking the ways in which their teams communicate and learn, they can begin to find solutions to better spread that knowledge.

For example, is most of the learning coming from an outdated employee handbook, or is there one person on the team that everyone goes to when there’s a question? Is that technology that you’re using causing more confusion - and do you see your team focusing on workarounds as opposed to the ideal solution?

Technology and tools should be our friends. And it’s in the best interest of your organization to understand how people use them. That way you can optimize the ones in place. Or find something that’s more suitable to your specific needs.

If you see that your workforce is spending unneeded energy wrestling with clunky software. Or they bypass certain guidelines and processes for something simpler, then you have a disconnect. And this issue is only going to widen when your teams are driven apart by distance. Which will inevitably damage productivity, efficiency, and project success.

Getting feedback from employees is the most effective way to uncover these learning processes. Whether this is done through internal surveys or in recurring check-ins. Through this feedback, you can weed out what isn’t working from what is. And began rolling out enhanced systems for your workforce.

Key takeaways for discovering how learning happens:
  • Employee surveys and recurring check-ins can help understand organizational learning paths.
  • Analyzing how employees use technology and communicate with team members can help bridge any learning gaps.
  • Technology should help work processes, not hinder it. By not bridging the disconnect gap, it will only widen once the team’s dispersed.

Prevent employee burnout

Working from home can accelerate burnout, but preventing it is the key to success.

The third area that Microsoft suggests focusing on is preventing employee burnout. This is of course not a new trend, as employee burnout has been a problem since the dawn of working. Although it has become something that is much more talked about recently.

Especially in the past year! As there’s been an increase in everything from work from home fog, to Zoom fatigue, to actual delayed repercussions from COVID on mental clarity. All of these play a part in impacting productivity and hindering work processes. And can lead to higher organizational costs along the way.

Stamping out stress can go a long way in combating burnout. And without lengthy commutes, more time for personal hobbies, and more money in the bank, it would seem that remote and hybrid working might be the cure-all.

Why then, was there an explosion of people searching for “work from home burnout” this past summer?

Google trends on work from home burnout

Because no situation is perfect. Even the freedom of remote working can be taxing. So what can you do?

Schedule transitional time
Team members should find ways to unwind after work that doesn’t involve their computers. Since turning off from work is the number one complaint about working from home, it’ll be beneficial to schedule in some transitional time at the end of the day. You also check out some tips from others experiencing the same thing.

But this transitional time isn’t one-sided. PMs and those doing the work scheduling need to be mindful of when a person finishes their work and make sure not to interfere with that personal time.

Moreover, make sure you aren’t overworking your staff. And implement some metrics to help calculate just how much your team’s working. Tracking your human resources’ utilization can show when people are overscheduled and can help make better capacity planning decisions for your other tasks.

Another idea is to schedule some time to check in with everybody one-on-one. A group meeting on Zoom is not the best place to check-in, but even setting aside 15 minutes at regular intervals for a quick catch up, can help teammates feel more connected. And let’s you better understand how they’re feeling.

Key takeaways for preventing burnout:
  • While working from home can help alleviate stress which leads to burnout, it can also lead to similar problems.
  • Employees should find some transitional time between working and relaxing to turn off from work .
  • Employees need to be able to spot signs of burnout. Also monitoring your human resources’ utilization can help prevent overworking.
Read on: Employee burnout isn’t new, but with the transition to remote working, it can be harder to notice. Some common signs of burnout include:
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Indifference to work
  • Anger and engaging in arguments
  • Exhaustion
  • Absenteeism
Check out our infographic on some ways to spot your teammate most likely to burn out. And a few ways that human resource management can help.

Keep it agile with hybrid working

keep your work agile with hybrid workplaces and software to help your team

A recent survey showed that 99% of employees see themselves working remotely at least some of the time in the future. Hybrid workplaces are a future trend that will enable this method of working, while maintaining aspects of office culture.

To implement this system, organizations are going to need to stay agile in the near future. And incorporate some tools, tips, and methods to help them achieve this.

Discover some ways that resource management with Ganttic can help your team stay flexible. Schedule both human and non-human resources. Share it with your team. Monitor projects. Track utilization. Measure progress. All from an intuitive cloud-based platform.

Sign up for a free trial to see for yourself. Or schedule a personalized demo and we’ll guide you through the process. Stay flexible with the most flexible software available.