How Are You Planning For Hybrid?
Sixteen months ago, Covid woke us up to think about work in whole new ways, from the tangible – “how do I create a workspace at home?”, to the softer intangibles – “how do I balance work with the other people, places and experiences in my life that I really value?”
Now, as it becomes safe to work together again, “hybrid” is the hot word. What is hybrid? Some companies want everyone back in the office; other companies that were already virtual will continue virtual. Everything in between these two extremes is some version of hybrid.
So how do leaders at all levels prepare to lead in this new – hybrid – normal? If you have read my book, or been a subscriber to these notes in the past, you know I’m going to tell you, “Don’t do it on Autopilot!”
Instead, be intentional. Here are three of the bigger challenges I think you will need to proactively address to lead well in a hybrid workplace:
- Accountability. Let’s get back to basics. Businesses get paid for results. Results, not mere activity, should be the ultimate basis of measurement. We can mistake activity for results – which leads to a lazy default measure of accountability based on “busy-ness.” Some leaders want people “back in their seats” just so they can see for themselves that everyone is busy at work. But in the new normal, leaders must re-calibrate how they keep score with their team. They must better clarify the results they expect, from whom, by when, and establish how they will keep track. This requires a higher form of holding people accountable than merely taking attendance.
- Collaboration. Having focused on surviving the last sixteen months, leaders are ready to grow again, to innovate, to create. These happen through collaboration – working jointly with colleagues to develop new products and services. Collaboration enables 1 + 1 to equal a lot more than 2. In the ‘old days,’ you would pull everyone into the same physical space and whiteboard ideas together. Or roam around an open office sharing your latest thinking with a teammate. But how do you collaborate best in a hybrid working model? If people will not all be in the office at the same time, spontaneous, serendipitous creativity will not occur like it did in the past. Leaders will need to be more intentional about when, where and how they gather their teams to collaborate.
- Agility. To do both of the above, along with meeting other challenges in a post-Covid workplace, requires that leaders be agile in their leadership – constantly evaluating and adapting to determine what kind of new normal they want. It would be dangerous to simply set a return-to-work policy now and never look back. Remember what you did in the early months of Covid? Most companies formed a task force of some kind to meet regularly and adjust operations. A similar mindset will help leaders in the coming months. Pause regularly, intentionally, to evaluate how your organization is coming back, and be prepared to continue tweaking until you’re sure your team is operating at its best in this new normal.
I personally have always had a strong work ethic – as do all the leaders I work with. I think America’s work ethic is part of its greatness. AND, I think there is room for all of us to re-look the ways we attach our identity and worth to how hard, and long, we work. (I was raised hearing “get your work done and then you can go out and play.” The problem I’ve finally realized is that the work is never done! So I have actually been working at playing more, enjoying life . . . .)
Attitudes toward work are being re-considered because of the pandemic. Below are some articles that provide various perspectives. I think it will be a couple of years before things truly settle into a new normal. And the larger your company, the more likely you are to be affected. Even if you plan little or no changes in your workplace, stay tuned in to what is happening elsewhere. Your people are.
Have you been curious about leadership coaching for yourself or your team members? We should have availability for new engagements beginning in September. Contact me today to learn why our clients say their coaching partnership with us is “unlike any other leadership development program” they’ve ever experienced.
Some additional reading:
- Chief Executive: Thinking about Changing the Workday? Read This First.
- McKinsey: Culture in the Hybrid Workplace
- The Atlantic: Kill the 5-Day Workweek