Hybrid working: Back to the future

30 Jun 21 Admin


Welcome to the new normal, where the 9-5 daily office grind is no longer necessarily expected. Nothing will ever be the same again. You’ve heard it all before. But, how can you and your team thrive in a hybrid-working world?

Everyone is talking about ‘hybrid working,’ or ‘blended working’.

These covid-induced labels feel like new concepts for that reason exactly: They were born, en masse, out of a global pandemic.

But the freedom for employees to work flexibly around their lives has actually been around for a while.

Jack Nilles, a NASA engineer, coined the terms ‘telecommuting’ and ‘teleworking’ in 1973.

Forty-eight years later, the work-from-home movement Nilles was gunning for now looks like a permanent fixture in our working lives.

While society might have moved on in response to a 2020 none of us could ever have imagined, something is still missing from almost every recently launched remote, hybrid, or blended working strategy – and that is the people.

We, however, have been listening to the people who make up a number of global businesses over the last year or so. And what we’ve learnt is that they are ready for change. They don’t want to go back to the old way, nor can they carry on as they are. They are, therefore, eager to make new ways of working… work.

What people want to know…

There are questions, understandably. And these largely fall under the following key areas:

  • Inclusion – Will I be seen and heard?
  • Information – Will I still have the same access?
  • Collaboration – Will I still be able to work with people?
  • Wellbeing – Will I be judged for working from anywhere that isn’t the office
  • Performance – Will I still be recognised (e.g. be entitled to a bonus, a promotion)
  • Productivity – Will I still be able to work at my best?
  • Culture – Will I still feel like I belong?
  • Development – Will I still be able to learn and grow?

Here are a few observations:

It’s an individual thing

Establishing new ways of working is a case of discovering what will work for you and your people; the perfect blend of business and individual needs.

Talking about it creates a sense of togetherness that will make your people feel like they’re part of the solution. It’s a new beginning for everyone.

Make the conversations part-reflections. Ask every person on your team:

  • What has worked for you in the last year? What hasn’t?
  • What have you enjoyed and what are your concerns about the future?
  • What are your perceived opportunities, and what would you like to see happen?

It’s not a case of starting from scratch; it’s taking what your people have learnt and adopted in the last year, and using it to adapt to become smarter and more unified than ever before in the process.

Think ‘remote-first’

Responses to adopting hybrid working need to be agile and adaptable. Try things out internally first, and see what works before you share these ideas with clients and customers. Some of the practices you take on board in the coming months will inevitably need tweaking, so be cautious of going public with policies that you might decide to drop in two months’ time.

Find your best practice for hybrid meetings; ask leaders to measure team reactions with remote assessments; get staff to measure their own productivity. This is all part of the process of discovering internally while you agree what hybrid working looks like for you.

Don’t forget leaders

Managers have the added anxiety of leading their teams in a hybrid world in which they have no role model, or prior experiences to draw upon. And with many hybrid solutions trumpeted as being tech-orientated, we’ve found many leaders feel doubly exposed. This is another reason to make a new working model a people-focused strategy. Managers need to be able to manage people – and hybrid working provides an opportunity for them to shine.

Be transparent

Everyone needs to be frank about establishing a new way of working, and that includes talking about finances, too. If you’re selling off office space, staff will wonder where that saving is going. Similarly, if a salary includes an allowance for a commute that no longer exists, what compromise can be reached?

One client we’ve talked to has seen greater team productivity from hybrid working, but it’s come at the cost of increased burnout in staff. The solution? A six-month trial of a four-and-a-half day working week, where employees have Friday afternoons off. This concept would have been unthinkable 18 months ago, but now is the time to try bold ideas that can have positive results – just like this one. This move has led staff to feel a greater personal accountability, which has encouraged them to hit their targets, while feeling empowered by a culture that trusts them to deliver. It’s a win-win all round.

A little more action please

Hybrid Working - A little more conversation

Ultimately, when it comes to our new hybrid working lives, think of Elvis – and our overwhelming need for: “A little more action please”. Conversations can, after all, only get us so far unless action is taken, so make yours count to set your team, business, organisation, up for success. Good luck – and if you think we could help your team flourish in this area, then dive in and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Written by:
Lou Whitfield, senior creative strategist at Tilt.
Euan MacDonald, senior creative strategist at Tilt.
Sophie Robehmed, creative producer at Tilt.
Jonathan Malyon, managing director at Tilt.