Will Hybrid Working Become Your Business’ Downfall?

Business Insights

The ‘gloss’ of hybrid working will soon dull if business leaders do not know how to successfully keep their teams engaged and motivated whilst working at home.

In 2020, Global Workplace Analytics administered the Global Work-From-Home Experience Survey, where it was found that 76% of global employees want to continue working from home, with more than 77% saying they felt more productive.

The Office of National Statistics found that in 2021, 85% of remote workers wanted their businesses to implement a hybrid approach in the future.

With the introduction of hybrid working, people feel better about working from home, as they no longer feel isolated.

However, there is data to show that the productivity of hybrid working may be declining in some cases. Camilla Cavendish observed (FT Weekend 8 January/9 January 2022) that when COVID-19 began, remote working was a success and studies showed that employees were sticking to or increasing their hours working. However, things have changed; the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan found working from home reduced productivity by 33% and a small study suggested UK workers were spending less time on paid work throughout the lockdowns.

So, whilst hybrid working appears to be here for the foreseeable future, it is also clear that if leaders are to ensure they maintain their people’s productivity when working remotely, they will need to change the way they work. They need to understand how to communicate their needs to ensure their team will feel motivated and valued. If a leader shows they care about their people, they will feel like an important part of the business and want the company to succeed.

Have Clear Expectations

Be clear about your expectations, without micromanaging your people. Start focusing on their results. If you constantly ask for updates on every task, they will be unmotivated and underperform. If you have clearly detailed your expectations and effectively communicated your desired objectives, you should trust your team to do the work. They will be able to deliver the results.

Communicate Your Needs

When remote working, communication is essential. Without it, your team will have no idea what they are doing. We have a wide range of technologies at our fingertips, all of which can be used for communication. Choose what is most effective for your business, whether a phone call, text, or video meeting.

You need to know your team. Some members will need more communication than others. Understand who you can leave to get the job done and who needs a little more support.

Hear What Your Team Have To Say

Ask your people for feedback. Learn how to help them understand what you mean. Don’t only hear what your people say but listen and act. Adapt your working style and communication to suit their needs. This will build mutual respect, and your team will work harder to hit your targets.

Allow employees to shape their own workspace. In ‘The Undercover Economist’ Tim Harford (FT.com/magazine March 12/13, 2022) quotes Alex Haslam and Craig Knight, professional psychologists who created a study where participants were asked to perform simple administrative tasks in various work environments.

They tested four office spaces and ‘when workers were empowered to shape their own space, they performed better. When employees were deliberately disempowered, their work suffered, and they felt unmotivated.

The results showed that it was not changing the office space that created stress, but the lack of control. Harford added ‘it should be easy for an office to provide a vastly superior working environment to the home, because it is designed and equipped with work in mind.’ Many people cannot afford a motivating home office environment. However, at home they have more control, ‘nobody will rearrange the posters on your wall, and nobody will sneer at your ‘dog pictures, or whatever.’ This is something that seems insignificant but allowing some control is a winning strategy.

Be Flexible…Up To A Point

Every team member will have a different home environment. Some will have partners, some children, some may have housemates and not much space to work. A leader needs to understand each employee’s circumstances and help to ensure that they can successfully still work at home.

Being explicit about the parameters within which you can be flexible is key. Psychotherapists call this ‘setting boundaries’. Jim Armitage wrote (Sunday Times, 26/09/21)

“Unilever is tackling the Covid trend of employees moving to the South of France and beyond to work remotely by insisting they live within a 24-hour commute of the office…it is insisting that employees must be able to reach the office at a day’s notice if called in for an emergency meeting.”

Be Mindful Of Your Team’s Wellbeing

Some people may be hiding problems and focusing on work when going to the office, which they simply cannot avoid while working at home. Show you care about your team’s wellbeing. Show them that you are there and that you respect their needs.

Intuition, a leading global knowledge solutions company, reported that 80% of current workers would consider quitting their current jobs to look for work that focused more on employees' mental health.

Acknowledge the anxieties and struggles your team face and provide a listening ear to help them through it. If you are not flexible to the needs of your people, you will lose their loyalty, and your people will remain unmotivated.

Have Their Back

To prevent hybrid working being the downfall of your business, you need to ensure that you have your team’s back. In doing so, they will feel valued, motivated, and want to support you. Effective communication and working together will increase productivity. Focusing on the results instead of each activity will show you trust your people. This is good leadership practice as well as a great retention tool. After all, “people join companies and leave bosses.”

Giles Watkins and Marcus Chipchase