After nearly three years of office re-openings, closures and adjusted start dates, almost everyone in the working world has their eyes set on that glorious day when the office doors will open and things will return to normal.
We don’t mean to burst your bubble but that day is never coming.
This doesn’t mean that there is no workplace anymore. It does mean that the office should be viewed as more of a resource and less of a holding pen.
Ignore the flexible work revolution at your own risk
Reopening the office is a barrier to the real goal: an office that takes employee choice into consideration.
It’s a new era for the workplace and we know you’re probably sick of hearing about it. But before we can get back to “precedented” times, we need to step a little further into the unprecedented stuff.
We like to take every opportunity to remind the teams we work with of the stakes here. Get hybrid work wrong and risk scaring your teams away. Get hybrid work right and retain plus attract talent.
It’s important to remember, getting hybrid work right doesn’t mean you have an out-and-out success from the jump, it means you are actively listening to your teams, iterating on your strategies and incorporating the best technology.
Employees expect to see earnest efforts from leadership to listen and learn. Leaders playing lip service is, like, so 2021.
3 tips for reigniting collaboration in the workplace
The workplace is a little bigger than we remember. That’s because it stretches far beyond a single physical location. The office exists anywhere you can get work done. Even in the best conditions, the average person will work from home AND in-office every week — and they will work with people doing the exact same thing.
Remote today, office tomorrow.
Most of our work at Robin, since 2020, has been directly supporting companies in their return to the office, and accelerating their plans to adopt flexible workplace strategy. There’s no better example of this than with hybrid work — it’s now the expectation.
A great hybrid workplace builds energy, creates a vibrant sense of community, and is an important part of the modern working world. Here’s where to get started.
1. Communicate intent, not rules
What do you want your space to be used for? Think about what that kind of workplace would look like.
- Do you see teams gathering in the kitchen over coffee?
- Are there breakout spaces designed to encourage collaboration?
- Is your office more of a focus-spot for teams that need it?
- Will your space be vibrant and social or focused and neutral?
The answers to these questions will dictate the intention of your space. Once that vision is clear, communicate that intent to your teams. No one likes to be micromanaged and that applies to workplace usage. When leaders can convey what they want the office to exist for, employees can interpret that how they see fit.
We’ve seen this approach work time and time again for our customers. That’s because you can’t approach flexible work inflexibly. Stay open to change and it will be less of a headache down the road when those intentions have to shift.
2. Rally your managers & establish theme days
Managers are multipliers for workplace collaboration.
It was true before the pandemic and it’s true now. Just think: if you had a company brainstorm and needed to jumpstart participation who would likely get the ball rolling? Managers.
When employees see their leaders, management or beyond, model what hybrid work collaboration looks like, they are much quicker to follow suit. Beyond that, drilling down into employee experience by team helps leaders better identify and approach individual needs and preferences.
The good news is that workplace technology makes sending out that rallying cry more streamlined than ever. We tend to do this in a few different ways:
- Identifying opportunities for on-site days.
- Outfitting your office with the right tech tools.
- Understanding what office perks excite employees.
One fun approach could be ‘themed-days’ where leaders set a wider intention for the day. Maybe the sales teams does two days in office focused on selling internationally. Or maybe you dedicate a week to cross-department collaboration and encourage in-office brainstorming. Whatever the idea, these ideas are all about fostering community.
Remember, the office is a resource, not an obligation. Framing the workplace in this light can result in clearer paths to success. Just follow the feedback.
3. Establish core working hours
One of the biggest questions around hybrid work is around accountability.
Some people are super productive in the early morning hours, others have inspiration strikes late at night. And while there is room to work around these preferences in a flexible working world, there does need to be some consensus on when people are available.
Core working hours are something teams like Dropbox and Calendly have trialed with great success. Set clear expectations around when you need team member to be online and available. Maybe this is from 11-3 for your team or maybe it’s 9-12 - the mix doesn’t matter, the accountability does.
Pro-tip: Set up hybrid meeting guidelines which optimize for a team of distributed workers. Make sure to spend time on welcoming remote and in -office team members and always share those meeting notes.
Rollout, reflect, revise & repeat
Now that you know how to jumpstart collaboration, how do you make sure that initial fire doesn’t die out? The answer is employee feedback. Leaders need to stay curious about what their teams need and how they can best deliver that.
There is no real finish line with hybrid work. Organizations will continue to innovate and adapt to whatever the world doles out next. Businesses should be ready to:
- Roll out their plans with strong communication and a focus on intent.
- Reflect on how the initiative went, solicit feedback from all teams.
- Revise their current strategy in-line with new data points.
- Repeat this motion on loop forever more.
Every company has their own culture, their own values and their own non-negotiables. No one can make a blueprint for you. Only you can determine what’s right for your employees. Make sure you’re listening.
In case you missed it, check out the recordings from our recent webinars on rediscovering collaboration in the office:
Or, learn more about how Robin can help revive your workplace experience and book a demo with our team.