In the last 12 months of remote work: we learned to collaborate online, to communicate, to use tools and we became aware of the issues of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Most companies I am currently talking to will be working in the more or less hybrid team in the future after the pandemic.
What is particularly important to keep in mind in the hybrid work environment?
When working together in hybrid teams, there is another dimension in addition to flexibility (time): Location – working from anywhere to the office. The dimension of „time“ – asynchronous and synchronous working – will become even more acute and will be based more and more on location. In the office, everyone in the team is automatically together synchronously, while their remote colleagues flexibly schedule their own work. The risk then is that the team splits into two groups that don’t really interact well with each other. Remote colleagues are quickly forgotten and left out. This often doesn’t happen consciously.
The challenge in designing hybrid forms of work is not only to optimize the advantages but also to minimize the disadvantages and understand the conflicting goals. Working from home or generally outside the office can increase productivity, but it can also be isolating, hindering collaboration. Working on a synchronized schedule can improve coordination, but it can also involve constant communication and interruptions that disrupt focus.
What should companies do now?
1) Analyze workflows and tasks
Leaders should now rethink all team processes: what can be done asynchronously? I believe we still need synchronous communication for team building, trust, idea sharing, co-creation. We can shift more to asynchronous working than we have been doing. This means more focus and flexibility.
When doing this, always consider the preferences of individual employees in terms of work context, how well the home office can be set up, and the different roles and tasks, where employees can be most productive, and how to provide the necessary team interaction.
Identify the most important tasks and determine the drivers of productivity and performance for each and how hybrid work arrangements affect them. Involve employees in the process, using a combination of surveys, personas, and interviews to understand what they really want and need. Next, consider how these factors are affected by changes in work organization toward the hybrid team and how to best design a new hybrid work organization.
2) Ensure coordination among each other through appropriate tools
Provide tools for coordination among each other: Who plans to be in the office when, when can collaborate synchronously, who is out of the office and available when, what gets done completely asynchronously. This way, schedules can be coordinated among each other. The motto is: everything that is analog must be digitized and made available to the team in the Digital Workplace. Otherwise, disruptions will occur between analog collaboration in the office and digital collaboration at a distance. Everything analog must be digitized and made available to the team in the Digital Workplace. Otherwise, disruptions will occur between analog collaboration in the office and digital collaboration at a distance.
3) Rethink the number of meetings
To avoid overload, consider whether a meeting is necessary or whether the problem can be better handled asynchronously.
Hybrid work arrangements must be designed with individual human concerns and employee preferences in mind. They must be harmonized with corporate processes and their requirements. When they are introduced in the company, this must be made possible fairly for all and the different preferences must be taken into account.
Hybrid working is new: if something doesn’t work, we tend to go back to the old mindset. This will not make a company competitive in the future. It is better to involve all stakeholders and establish a culture of continuous improvement on hybrid workflows and collaboration.