Who Wants To Go Back To The Office? No One!

Well, nearly no one, according to the plethora of surveys that have been produced since the pandemic sent us home to view our world through zoom-coloured glasses, and we got comfortable seeing our colleagues in their tracksuits, with their cats, dogs, and clambering kids.

Remote working has well and truly gone mainstream, and it looks like most of us are pretty happy with it. According to a recent YouGov survey, less than four in ten of us want to leave the house to work. Among those who never worked from home before covid, but now do so all the time, 91% say they want to be able to do so at least some of the time once the pandemic is over. Similarly, 81% who never worked from home and now sometimes do, want to be able to continue to do so.

An  Institute of Directors (IoD)  survey of just under 1000 firms, shows that 74%  of director leave and above plan on maintaining the increase in home working for their businesses. More than half planned on reducing their long-term use of workplaces.

“Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay,”

– Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD.

In the US, a similar shift has taken place. A Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic and 47% will allow employees to work from home full-time. In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long term.

Interestingly, from the employee’s point of view, a Flexjobs survey shows that 27% of workers say that the ability to work from home is so important to them that they are willing to take a 10% to 20% pay cut to work remotely. And, 81% say they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options.

Large companies such as Aviva, Dropbox, and Facebook have already committed to continuing remote working in the years to come. Twitter has announced its staff can work from home forever if they wish to.

So, it looks as though a hybrid approach will become the new normal office life. So, the challenge for companies is how to create a new hybrid culture that works.

Imagine what this new world will be like. For those who return to the office full time, the working patterns of their colleagues may mean that the office doesn’t feel the way it used to. Staff might not see their managers in person or as often as pre-pandemic days. Team members will work different days, different times with only the communications channels created for an ‘everyone in one place’ structure. Maintaining a strong, cohesive culture and positive employee experience for the long term, will be a challenge.

So how can you keep the focus on productivity and performance while maintaining the ‘human’ side of work? How do you keep the relationships alive, the team united, and the performance high in a fully remote hybrid world?

Our Tips For Managing  Remote and Hybrid Working

1)Culture Shift Not Culture Drift

Even if your pre-pandemic office culture was great, there will definitely be some level of culture shift required now. So, it’s better to do this in a structured and intentional way rather than the alternative, which is to let your culture drift into something that is less than optimal.

Consider too that if you thought your culture was great in office- were you just papering over the cracks? The daily buoyancy of everyone in the same place at the same time can mask underlying issues that may be lurking in your culture. In the traditional office setup, managers could afford to be vague in their instruction, as asking a colleague, eavesdropping on a conversation, or checking your understanding over a beer with colleagues were all viable information gap fillers.  

Also, think about the rituals in the office that you took for granted. The Colin the Caterpillar cake for birthdays (or Cuthbert, let’s not start that here!), Friday beers, impromptu team lunches, team Spotify playlists, department sweepstakes. Those little daily reinforcements of ‘team’ can’t be there in quite the same way and are not going to be easy to recreate virtually.

If you have pivoted your business as a result of covid, then you will need to adjust your culture to align to those shifts too. The culture needs to be set to mobilise your people and execute your strategy. If you’ve changed your strategy completely, then you probably need to change your culture too.

What to do-

  • Audit your culture- figure out what parts stay, which parts need to go, and where the gaps are.
  • Look at your new strategy/business plan and decide if your cultural foundations are sound and just need tweaking for remote working or whether it’s time to overhaul your culture and change your mission, vision, and values.

If you have everything in place and they are ready to go, then you still need to reignite your culture to the new normal. Using team-based embedding to engage your teams and get buy-in from across your organisation is a great way to relaunch your culture.

2) The Development Dilemma

Developing and upskilling your managers is always a critical requirement, but with managers now having to deal with their own workload as well as manage dispersed and remote teams, these skills are even more important.

 In the office, the previous physical proximity to staff meant that managers could deal with things as they arose, and teams are easier to manage, but with a fully or partially remote team, your management skills need to be more robust. 

What to Do –

  • Translate the vision into clear objectives.
  • Delegate Effectively. Good delegation is really an art form. You need to set out clearly what the expectations are and what the timeframes are.
  • 3 X your comms. You need to communicate far more than you think you do. You also need to be more thoughtful and more considered in your language. Ensure it is:
    1. Not vague or ambiguous in any way
    2. Not biased- you need to neutralise the text so that it’s inclusive and speaks to all.
  • Establish feedback loops for your managers, so that they are supported in their accountability.
  • Ensure your communication reinforces the culture you want,

3) Feels like Team Spirit

We know it’s so much harder for people to feel like they’re part of the team when there isn’t physical proximity. There isn’t the ‘walking to a meeting chat’, the ‘walking from a meeting post analysis’, the ‘have you got a minute’ impromptu conversations that all build trust.

Creating the team spirit starts with psychological safety and inclusion.  Psychological safety is defined as a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. Organisations with a higher level of PS perform better on almost any metric, or KPI, in comparison to organisations that have a low PS score. When you do not feel safe in a group, you keep ideas to yourself, and opportunities for creativity and innovation are lost.  You avoid pointing out risks and opportunities to mitigate these risks are lost.  Low PS hinders team performance, innovation, learning, and success.

What To Do-

  • Lead with active listening. Create opportunities to grow your own and your team’s skills in active listening. Reinforce the concept that everybody in this team will be heard
  • Nip negativity in the bud. Don’t let niggles or whispers of negativity fester, get them out and on the table, and encourage staff to express their concerns.
  • Create a feedback loop. Like active listening, creating an environment of regular constructive feedback allows team members to get comfortable giving and receiving it. As a leader, you also need to show that you are hearing, acknowledging, and acting on feedback.
  • Advocacy is everything. As a team, when your leader believes in you, you are unstoppable, Knowing your manager is championing you, your team will feel safer to talk about the tough stuff as it arises.

4) Driving innovation and a Growth Mindset

How do you get a remote team to innovate? Disparate workforces and a lack of regular group connection can quash innovation, creativity, and knowledge sharing. It’s easy for personal silos to develop and people to work less collegiately. Keeping a focus on innovation and growth is key, as is developing a specific plan with practical ways to bring innovation and growth to life.

What To Do

  • Organise cross-functional projects to get the different minds on problem-solving.
  • Ensure that innovation is a strategic priority- if it’s not on the top team’s agenda it won’t get done.
  • Ensure there is psychological safety that is strong enough to endure the test and learn ethos. There has to not be fear of failure.

“Working from home doesn’t work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing.”

–  Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD.

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Get in touch with us today if we can help you or your business.