Hybrid Work: Leadership’s Perspective
Continuing our conversation about hybrid work, in this post we share the potential feelings of leaders challenged with doing the right thing for their team members regarding this hot issue.
With many employees working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the organization is paying for space that’s not being used. This perceived waste of money has created tension in those in charge, but there are more reasons why leaders want their team members in the office. Here are a few.
“If I could see my people working, I would know they are working.”
Leaders are responsible for showing results, and they worry about their team members, who must deliver the results, always doing the right thing. Our experience with clients has demonstrated that around 20% of team members role model doing the right thing even when under pressure. We have also found that another 60% can become role models with proper orientation and training. That leaves around 20% who need reinforcement to do the right thing because they have yet to prove they can be trusted in all circumstances. This small but significant segment needs rules and guidance for making the best decisions for the organization.
Rules, like those regarding when team members are to show up in the office, are for this population who need guidance to do the right thing. The hybrid work environment has accentuated the frustration and anxiety leaders feel when some of their workforce they do not trust is out of sight for days, weeks, and months!
Productivity: Is Being “At Work” the Same As “Working”?
Before COVID-19, team members felt they were “at work” once they entered their work setting—it didn’t matter whether they were productive or not. Contrast that with working from home and having to prove you were working!
Many organizations benefited from objective assessments of the productivity of people working from home, which showed they are getting the work done, often more effectively than when in the office. Organizations realize that having some employees working from home can contribute to labor optimization. In addition, organizations know they are reducing their carbon footprint by not requiring workers to commute to and from the office.
The Possible Cost to Creative Collaboration
Creative solutions to complex problems often spring from interactions where ideas are developed and refined as they bounce back and forth among the participants, who may enter a state of flow that energizes their thinking. This creativity can occur whenever and wherever people gather, in structured, scheduled meetings and happenstance encounters during the workday.
Introverts may cherish the opportunity to work alone at home and not have to socialize with others who distract them, and perhaps there are a few who keep some of their interactions going. Still, their perspectives and intelligence do not include the larger work community. A working model that features too much time working at home may increase the silo effect and lead to lost growth opportunities.
The Peril of Culturalization from Afar
Team members and leadership acting and reacting in the organization’s best interest, even under pressure, provide an example of your culture at its best. There may be no better way to experience an organization’s culture than to witness it in person in real time when it is under pressure.
Culturalization is an especially significant problem for new hires if they spend their first few months working at home away from the office. The perception they develop of the organization’s culture can be very wrong.
Frayed Emotional Support
Mental health is a more significant problem in the work setting than ever. Could the lack of someone to talk to in person be a factor? Zoom has done wonders for our remote communication, but it cannot replace the body language that is such a large part of communication, especially when someone needs to feel cared about.
Remote Technological Support
Tech support teams have struggled since the pandemic created a dramatic increase in work-from-home options for both them and the users they support. For example, they cannot simply walk down the hall or up the stairs to access a malfunctioning computer or printer—they must develop a new set of problem-solving skills and even additional technical expertise.
How Will Organizational Leaders Respond Going Forward?
These are just a few reasons leaders like having team members in the office. The desire to be independently responsible was granted through COVID-19, and studies have revealed work-life balance has improved significantly. However, at the same time, some studies have shown that productivity is down, although there is no universal agreement that increased remote work options are the cause.
So, what will be the future of hybrid work?
In next week’s blog post, we will share some examples of hybrid work models that are working and what the future of hybrid work might look like.
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