Six tips to embrace and implement a hybrid working model in your workplace

Melissa Occhipinti
Executive General Manager
5 mins

The great flexibility versus culture debate continues to dominate boardrooms and Teams meetings. How do you keep your people happy (and deliver the flexibility they want), while still building and maintaining a strong workplace culture? 

We firmly believe the solution is going to lie in a hybrid model. This is an intentionally designed model that looks at the intent behind work and determines what should be done in the office versus which work should take place at home. 

If you are not already having the conversation, you should be. No one wants to return to the office full time. That clock cannot be turned back. But it is also extremely important to bring your people together for collaborative work and skills transfer. We would go so far as to say it is a business and societal must. Teams meetings do not count—especially when everyone has their cameras off. 

Of course, actually implementing a hybrid working model in your workplace is a deceptively tricky task and requires an understanding of what motivates and supports people, as well as changes to the way job performance is measured and managed.

Here are six tips to get you started on this hybrid journey and make it work for your business and workforce.

1. Put employees first

Most strategies begin with the business and the people only come in at an operational level. A hybrid model is different. If employees do not want to come back to the office, it is because they do not see the value in being there. How you build your hybrid strategy and the way your leaders implement it, will determine the success of a new hybrid way of working.

For example, people need connections. We are all social animals and are often at our most innovative and creative when we are together. However, we have all discovered how productive we can be when we are working from home.

So, what is the right balance? Instead of designing the work week based on time in the office versus at home, focus on tasks and outcomes instead. Collaboration and innovation meetings should be held in the office. All other work should be defined by outcomes and can happen from home – this is not time-based work, but outcomes-based. Businesses that can clearly demonstrate how they track outcomes without micromanaging will be well placed to win the talent war in the future as well.

Highlight how important it is for teams to come together and work near each other so that they can troubleshoot together and get a better insight into what everyone else is working on. Put the focus on what employees get out of time in the office, instead of only looking through the eyes of leadership.

2. Challenge leadership styles 

Sales meetings, one-on-one leadership catchups and quarterly reviews serve leadership and not employees. People will not find value in coming to the office if this is why they are coming in. Instead, these meetings should be virtual with in-person collaboration focused on ideation and teamwork. Remember, there are usually multiple people in any given process, and working around the people who are doing the same thing as you and seeing how they work will show colleagues how they add value to each other.

Of course, this requires a fundamental evolution in how leaders operate, which means it is time to challenge your leadership style. The default of many leaders is to micromanage activity versus outcomes. The reverse will now need to be true, and outcomes will need to be managed. The secret is to understand that outcomes cannot be managed day-to-day the way activities are, which requires a principle of trust that is absolute. Employees should not need to earn trust – it must be freely given and then theirs to keep or lose based on the delivery of outcomes. It is a one-size-fits-all inclusion strategy that must become the centre of any leadership handbook going forward.

3. Commit to coaching your team and transferring

 your skills

The traditional way of office-based working had a very specific outcome that was often taken for granted. When experienced and talented people and leaders work with juniors, there is a natural skills transfer taking place every day. Juniors are exposed to how the more experienced people in their industries operate and coaching takes place, even if it is not formalised.

But what happens when everyone works remotely? That natural coaching disappears. Skills transfers stop taking place and the next generation’s growth is stunted. This even impacts talented and experienced workers, because when everyone is working from home, they tend to just do what they have always done – and a culture of continuous improvement stalls. Individuals grow in collaborative environments where troubleshooting and ideation are taking place. Take that away and growth is severely hampered. 

It is therefore the responsibility of the experts and seniors in your organisation to commit themselves to coming back to the office and passing on their knowledge to the next generation. There is enormous value in this – and it is up to you to ensure your team see it. 

4. Refocus on job roles

Start with the premise that everyone wants to do their job well. Which means that what their job actually entails is important. 

When you are at home and working towards key outcomes, you want to be doing something you enjoy and that gives you a sense of purpose. What people want to achieve will define the types of work they choose to do. If hiring and keeping talent is important to your organisation, start focusing sharply on job roles – what they look like, key outcomes, and how the role supports the business’s overall purpose and customers.

5. Put EQ at the centre of culture

Most of the traditional ‘things’ associated with culture, from free food to on-site entertainment, was never anything more than fluff. No one missed the office ping-pong table when they were in lockdown. This is why these things have fallen so steeply in importance to flexibility, a tangible value to how people live their lives. 

So, as you rebuild a new corporate culture that focuses on people first, think about all the things leaders struggled to do in a remote environment. One of the biggest for us centres on employee wellbeing and mental health. It is very difficult to gauge what type of day an employee is having if you are not in the office together. This will remain true on work from home days, but office days should become something else entirely. This is each leader’s opportunity to really focus on the emotional wellbeing of the people on their teams. Those are the types of check-ins that add value to employees, and they should be central to building a culture of trust.

6. Sacrifice some productivity for the greater good

One of the biggest arguments for continued virtual working is productivity. Without the distractions of the office, in-person meetings and spending hours each day travelling, people feel as though they get a lot more work done. In many cases, this is probably true. However, there are a few important considerations that we should highlight. First, ‘productive’ and ‘delivering on outcomes’ are not the same thing. A lot of what we all do each day is very transactional. There is an old mantra that states if you ignore problems, 80% of them will go away within an hour or two (which means they were not very important or problematic, to begin with). The reverse of this is being highly productive, addressing each problem and yet failing to achieve any high-value work.

Yes, remote work is productive – but outcomes must come first. Ideation, innovation, teamwork, troubleshooting, collaboration and skill transfers are critical. Processes and systems should be redesigned to support these outcomes in the office. And if that means sacrificing some productivity, so be it. Just ensure employees understand that as well. If they spend all day in the office but feel they must work through the night to ‘catch up,’ the culture you are looking for will not materialise either.

Pulling it all together 

Ultimately, each organisation will find a new way of working that suits its business objectives and cultural needs. The key is change management and communication – creating a new hybrid workforce is one thing. Ensuring all employees understand the value of working from home and from the office (and the outcomes associated with each) will separate businesses that are laying the foundations for successful futures from those that will struggle to attract and maintain talent. 

In todays Digital age of working businesses need to adapt to overcome the challenges presented. Get in touch with Paxus by Adcorp Today and find out more!

You may be interested in:

Executive General Manager

Related articles

Workforce insights delivered!
Sign up now for our weekly newsletter.