How can companies best set their employees up for success when they return to a hybrid work week?
Coming back into the office after the move to a hybrid work model requires managing a host of moving parts. The time and care involved in moving to a hybrid work would be considerable, even in the absence of health and safety considerations.
Throw concerns like workplace density and social distancing into the mix, and the need for a thoughtfully implemented, well-analyzed change management approach becomes even more essential to success.
Full-circle hybrid work communication
Communication is at the heart of all change management. In order to react appropriately to the new normal, people need a clear understanding of the situation and how it will evolve. Over-communication — especially for teams going partly or fully remote for the first time — is vital for all levels. It creates an environment where employees are fully aware of the changes well in advance and can voice concerns and adopt new mindsets that will help them successfully adapt to the change once it arrives.
- Over-communication is important and begins with the early stages of planning. From gathering and sharing data in an effort to fully understand how the hybrid experience will operate in practice, to communicating policies, providing enough information about how people can expect to interact with the office will ensure that aversion to change will shrink. This includes dates, policies, workflows, and any other information that would be helpful to people in integrating this new way of work.
- Once plans are in place, effectively conveying expectations will be a big-ticket item for organizations. This means establishing and communicating strong work policies around the physical return to the workplace, how to handle potential changes to the schedule, and giving employees a place to quickly find and/or share the information they need.
Empowering hybrid work through technology
Encouraging adoption is crucial to successfully managing change within your organization. Just as with policy change, helping your employees assimilate new tools and technology into their practice will increase buy-in, and get everyone working collaborating together more quickly. These tools should help employees work independently from anywhere, collaborate effectively, and spend time in the office with confidence.
- Creating learning opportunities over the course of change management for hybrid work gives everyone a chance to get to know the tools they’ll need to interact with when they choose to come into the office. In many cases, COVID-19 plunged organizations into a baptism-by-fire method of tech adoption, but this rush to pivot may have created gaps in tech adoption or understanding that will need to be addressed.
- During a formal move to hybrid, reviewing the tech stack, ensuring everyone has what they need to work well and coordinate their work week, and integrating new tools (for instance, flexible desk and space booking platforms) will ensure that your company’s move to hybrid work is as smooth as possible.
Change management doesn’t end the first day of hybrid work. In fact, this is only the midpoint of the change management process. Once things are underway and people have had a chance to ease into this new way of work, balancing some days in the office and some days at home, conducting some form of impact analysis and continuing to collect feedback will ensure your initiative remains successful for the long term.
There are three important areas to address when considering the effectiveness and further improvement of your move to hybrid work:
- Individual experience: How is the shift to hybrid work impacting individuals? Are they able to navigate the hybrid work experience as intended? Are there unforeseen challenges, or ways in which the individual experience can be improved?
- Team experience: Are teams able to communicate effectively and easily plan for in-office collaboration on the days they want to come in? How is team culture impacted by hybrid work?
- Organizational effectiveness: Are the technical and organizational changes implemented working as intended? Have there been fluctuations in team performance? What adjustments could be made to further support and improve the current hybrid work policy?