Rewrite the rules: the only right way to hybrid is to be flexible

Rewrite the rules: the only right way to hybrid is to be flexible

“Hybrid” is a term now firmly entrenched in the professional lexicon. A mere two years ago its association to a way of working was barely recognised, nevermind understood and embraced. 

“The pandemic definitely accelerated the adoption of hybrid work models, but the conditions have been right for a while now. Employees have been craving more flexibility for ages and hybrid work models have finally made that possible,” says David Seinker, Founder and CEO of The Business Exchange, whose fully serviced office offering operates at various locations in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Mauritius. 

McKinsey & Company have suggested that we’re currently faced with a “once in a generation… opportunity to reimagine how we work”. For thousands of employers and employees around the world, the pandemic’s need for social distancing has seen the rise of remote work at a scale that would have been unthinkable in February 2020. 

Now, as vaccines are rolled out and we contemplate a return to the office, it is clear that a new work model is what is necessary. “Countless studies have shown that people don’t want to return to the office in the traditional nine to five sense, but there is definitely a desire to go to an office some of the time. Hybrid models are the answer to the conundrum, and they address the different needs of both employers and employees at the same time,” Seinker says.

He adds that one of the main advantages of a hybrid model is that it can be retrofitted to meet the exact needs of a particular organisation. “The point of a hybrid model is to sculpt it to meet your exact needs. It’s not a once-size-for-all solution and neither should it be treated as one,” Seinker says. 

Flexibility is at the heart of an efficient hybrid model but the “nitty gritty” of it can be dictated, designed and decided based on individual needs, Seinker believes. 

Don’t be rigid about office days 

While it is useful to have a framework or policy for coming to  the office, there is no need to be rigid about set days and times. “For example, if the policy is that employees need to be in office two days a week, you don’t want to be prescriptive about which two days. Rather, let individuals decide for themselves which days suit them best, though you could ask them to stipulate this a few weeks in advance. Drawing on our own experience, employees tend to be more engaged (and happier) when they have the autonomy to decide when they want to be in office,” Seinker shares. 

Manager flexibility 

It is useful for managers and team leads to ensure they have face time with all members of their team, which may mean being more flexible about days in the office. “Managers may want to consider ensuring they have in-person time with each team member at least once a week,” Seinker suggests. 

Depending on the parameters of a company’s hybrid model, it is likely to happen that some employees will spend more time in the office than others, which raises concerns about an “out of sight, out of mind” situation emerging. “It’s crucial to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, irrespective of the number of times they are in the office. This calls for sufficient feedback loops and very transparent communication models,” Seinker says. 

Make the office a worthwhile experience 

When the office isn’t the default space where work gets done, a lot more consideration should go into the design of the space to ensure it is one that fosters connection, collaboration, creativity and innovation.

“Employees must want to be in the space and feel excited about leaving their remote workspace to come to a place that prioritises form over function. Or as the Harvard Business Review puts it, ‘less office cubicle and more cafe lounge’,” Seinker believes.  

Account for individual preferences 

If employees have demonstrated that they are able to perform as well remotely (or better!) in a hybrid setup, then that should serve as proof that they don’t need to be micromanaged. As such, allow for individual preferences – that’s one of the great advantages of hybrid work. “If management is going to be prescriptive about every detail of hybrid, it misses the point of adopting the model in the first place. Hybrid is about being flexible, accommodating and, ultimately, facilitating a pleasant and productive work environment,” Seinker says.



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