Are hybrid workflows all they’re cracked up to be?
There are benefits in working from home, but away from the office we may be missing out on learnings and colleague camaraderie. Just how easy is it to manage a hybrid workflow?
- While I appreciate many people enjoy the flexibility and benefits of working from home, I do worry they might be missing out on learning from more senior staff, social interactions on the commute and in the office – and building deeper camaraderie with work colleagues.
- It appears with some teams half in the office and half at home, some leaders are floundering like fish out of water.
- It’s why hybrid workflows – a way of working that enables employees to perform their roles regardless of their physical location – are fast becoming the norm.
For well over a decade, I’ve worked remotely. By nature, I’m motivated, naturally curious, process driven – and an introvert. As a result, my work typically requires deep focus and I have a great home office set-up.
To combat loneliness, I participate in Facebook community groups and listen to familiar voices on podcasts or webinars as I work. It’s not all robots: Chester, my border collie, is an engaging and chaotic companion who encourages me to take mini sunshine breaks from the home office.
For my dose of in-person human interaction, I organise a monthly AccounTech meeting on a topic of my choice. I didn’t miss a beat during the mass work from home experiment – at this stage in my career, remote work suits me perfectly.
While I appreciate many people enjoy the flexibility and benefits of working from home, I do worry they might be missing out on learning from more senior staff, social interactions on the commute and in the office – and building deeper camaraderie with work colleagues.
Returning to the office – or not
While many successful businesses have adopted a remote-first model, from small accounting practices to giant corporations – including Australia’s Atlassian with its more than 8000 global employees – the shift to remote work has brought challenges.
One difficulty is in training staff. Shy employees may find it intimidating to ask for help from home. Others, comfortable in their working from home bubble, may not recognise they need help or further training.
In a physical working environment, asking a colleague for help is much easier. You can tap them on the shoulder or ask a question in the kitchen while you heat up lunch.
Likewise, upon discovering that a team member needs support, in the office it is far easier to match them up with a nearby colleague with the skill set and patience to help.
I appreciate that people and companies benefit from in-office or in-person interactions and can see why management at various organisations are experimenting by defining in office days, offering special team lunches, holding enticing events, and encouraging FOMO (fear of missing out) social media posts to entice staff back to the office.
It appears with some teams half in the office and half at home, some leaders are floundering like fish out of water. They are coaxing staff back to the office, citing culture and team building. (Ironically, several people have told me they’ve made an effort to go back into the office, only to find themselves in a big empty room all on their lonesome.)
It’s why hybrid workflows – a way of working that enables employees to perform their roles regardless of their physical location – are fast becoming the norm. Many companies have stated they would like staff in the office two or three days a week to collaborate and learn from each other. The problem is, staff do not – or cannot – always come in on the same days, meaning managers are often juggling half their teams in the office and the other half at home.
“It appears with some teams half in the office and half at home, some leaders are floundering like fish out of water.”
Managing split teams
With management support – and the appropriate software and hardware – business teams should be able to collaborate efficiently and effectively, even with split teams.
A well-managed hybrid team might start a typical day with a team huddle or scrum, followed by a one-on-one run-down of where the team member is and their plan for the day. As the day progresses, there may be ad hoc or agreed check-ins. Some offices find it helpful to keep a video call running all day, encouraging general conversations and questions as they pop up.
To support the tap-on-the-shoulder quick conversations and reduce emails during the day, teams can communicate using apps. I, for example, subscribe to a number of channels for general chit-chat and jokes, including Facebook Messages, MS Teams, Slack and WhatsApp. (Honestly, I’ve not figured out how to use WhatsApp, but it seems to be where people want to interact.)
Ways of gathering everyone together
I also bounce between Skype, Google Hangouts, MS Teams and Zoom for face-to-face virtual social interactions. While it’s not ideal to have the majority of team members in a meeting room and the rest at home, these apps do enable hybrid-style meetings where it may be the only option.
At the end of the day, another one-on-one rundown of where everyone is up to and where they will start the following day can be useful. At each stage, managers could check-in to see if their staff need help – and to build relationships. Software that supports team huddles include Huddle, Jell, TIMU, Slack huddles functionality, Standuply, and Microsoft Teams.
The truth is, whether they are in an office or a working from home situation, a leader should nurture an open, collegiate and trusting environment that encourages staff to feel comfortable to reach out for help. They should document all policies and procedures thoroughly and include comprehensive descriptions and references on templates and checklists to enable on-the-job learning (for those who don’t read the manual!). Loom and Tango software are great for such processes.
Moving between locations
When moving between home and office, consider where activities are best done. For me, the home environment is best suited to deep thinking, focused writing and activities that don’t require input from others. On the other hand, I find collaboration, brainstorming and conversational activities suited to the hustle and bustle of the office environment.
The other thing to note is different work models work for different stages of life and if you manage a diverse team, it’s likely they’ll have different preferences. When I was young and working in England, for example, I didn’t know anyone outside of work. Work was my social life. I even put my hand up to run the office social committee and organised monthly social activities. Similarly, as a young mother in Canada, going to work became a respite from the mayhem of toddler life at home.
Once my children were school age, however, working from home became the perfect lifestyle model for me, enabling me to prioritise their busy schedules and work around them. Now, with my children grown up, I have adopted the ‘work from anywhere’ model: I began mulling over this article on a canal boat in the English countryside; I put pen to paper while on a flight to Helsinki. And here I am in Denver, reviewing the final draft, before heading to New Orleans.
While there’s an emphasis on hybrid solutions being the new norm, different business models work for different work cultures and people’s needs at varying stages of their lives. The leaders and workplaces that recognise this – and find ways to make it work – are the ones more likely to attract and retain staff.
From CA Library
Remote and hybrid working
CA Library offers a range of resources to help make remote and hybrid working successful.See the curated list of 26 titles here