The past couple of years have seen hybrid and remote work emerge as a viable alternative to employees attending the office five days a week. After the pandemic threw every company into an all-remote world overnight, the pendulum has now swung back a little. Hybrid work environments–where workers split their time between the office and working from home–are emerging as the new normal.
By now, it’s clear that our work lives are not going back to our pre-pandemic ways. Hybrid work is here to stay. Businesses that try to force their employees back into the office full-time will experience an exodus of their top talent. Instead, the future is more flexible: a nuanced blend of team-based office work and remote work that employees can do from home.
But as this new world crystallizes, few companies have fully solved the challenges that come with a hybrid work environment. Done right, a hybrid workplace results in happy, productive employees that contribute more to your business than ever before. Get things wrong, however, and morale can plummet.
The shift to a hybrid work environment has perhaps been the most dramatic change to working patterns in a generation. Its natural businesses will experience some bumps along the way. Ironing out these kinks and working towards a better approach benefits everyone: employees, managers, and the business as a whole.
The Great Disconnect: Differing Perceptions of Productivity
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing companies embracing hybrid work environments is the differing views between managers and employees when it comes to productivity.
One study from Microsoft, which surveyed more than 20,000 staff in 11 countries, found that 87% of employees felt they worked as, or more, effectively from home.
The problem with that? 85% of leaders said that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence employees are being productive.
That’s a huge disconnect that spells major problems for employers. Talking to the BBC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained the challenge this presents business leaders:
"We have to get past what we describe as 'productivity paranoia', because all of the data we have shows that 80% plus of the individual people feel they're very productive - except their management thinks that they're not productive. That means there is a real disconnect in terms of the expectations and what they feel." –– Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Other studies back up the findings of the Microsoft research. Cisco’s “Employee’s are ready for hybrid work, are you?” study found that 61% of employees believe that their quality of work has improved since shifting to a hybrid environment.
The Cisco study called out several key benefits of hybrid work enjoyed by workers. 8 out of 10 employees said the ability to work from anywhere has made them happier, while 76% reported that working from home had saved them money. It wasn’t all good news though: only 1 in 4 employees felt that their organisation was “very prepared” to support hybrid working.
To be successful in years to come, it’s clear that companies need to do more to resolve their ‘productivity paranoia’ and invest in creating supportive hybrid work environments for their employees. So, what has to happen for that to become a reality? Let’s take a look.
The Evolving Role of Business Leaders
Managing a team in a hybrid work environment is a challenging task. On any given day, some people might be in the office while others work from home. Some employees might leave early to pick up their kids from school and then log back on in the evening.
Simply put, you can’t expect to look across your office and see your whole team at their desks 9 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday.
Navigating this new hybrid environment presents additional complexities for leaders. Before, you could physically see your team doing the work with your own eyes. Now, it’s not so simple: you have to trust your team to get the work done without your supervision.
That requires a much more flexible approach to leadership; one that is much more focused on emotional intelligence than technical skills. Getting the best out of every employee demands that leaders give their teams the freedom and flexibility to get their work done on their own terms.
Building Trust Between Employees and Leaders
The one key concept in all of this? Trust.
Leaders have to fully trust their teams to get the work done. How can you do that?
Invest in building personal relationships with every employee, taking the time to get to know them, their desired work environment, and their aspirations. Check-in periodically to see how your employees are progressing with their work, but don’t micromanage them. Communicate openly with everyone and make sure they know that you trust them.
Trust is a two-way street. If you demonstrate that you trust your employees, you’ll find that trust will be reciprocated. Pair that management style with the right hybrid work technologies and employee productivity will grow significantly.
Bridging the Gap: The Role of Hybrid Work Technologies
In addition to redefining the employee-manager relationship, it’s also imperative that companies invest in hybrid work technologies. 77% of employees rated technology support as a key factor in their ability to work from home successfully, and six out of ten respondents said that a lack of connectivity would be career-limiting for hybrid employees.
For your team to be successful it’s important that you provide them with the tools they need. Hybrid work technologies bridge the gap between remote and in-person, helping your team communicate effectively no matter where they’re working from.
Perhaps the most important system companies should invest in to create an effective hybrid work environment is a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) platform.
These technologies make it possible for employees and leaders to communicate seamlessly, regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home. UCaaS systems are hosted in the cloud, making them accessible from any device, anywhere, so employees can even log in when they’re traveling.
Evolve IP harnesses the power of two industry-leading technologies, Evolve Anywhere with Microsoft Teams and Evolve Anywhere with Webex, two natively integrated voice solutions. These voice solutions are supported by a full Value Add product suite that seamlessly supports a hybrid team, giving you insights into team performance, helping you identify busy points within the business and collaboration tools to help any business’s communication strategy.
Build Your Hybrid Work Environment with Evolve IP
Managing the transition to a hybrid work environment is no easy task. Overcoming ‘productivity paranoia’ cannot be achieved overnight, but anchoring the relationship between bosses and workers on mutual trust is a crucial step towards progress.
Perhaps equally important is providing employees with the technology they need to be successful in a hybrid environment. Leveraging powerful communication tools designed for hybrid work enables a business to work closely together on any project, regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home.
Need some guidance building out your hybrid-first IT infrastructure? Contact Evolve IP today.