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HR

How to set a hybrid work schedule that works for your team

Posted by Kanika Sinha

February 10, 2022    |     4-minute read (802 words)

More organizations are embracing the opportunity to reset work using a hybrid model in hopes of facilitating collaboration, increasing productivity and boosting employee satisfaction. But in many cases, the transition to a hybrid work model is turning out to be more complex than 100% remote work.

Businesses leading hybrid transitions must grapple with avoiding unconscious bias, bridging potential silos and keeping the company culture intact. They need a plan that recognizes the trade-offs of hybrid work and optimizes its benefits while minimizing its downsides.

This is easier said than done – here are some steps that employers can take to design an effective hybrid work model.

• Consider the axes of “place” and “time”

Millions of employees around the world made a sudden shift in March 2020 from being place-constrained (working in the office) to being place-unconstrained (working anywhere). There was also a shift along the “time” axis, that is, going from being time-constrained (working synchronously with others) to being time-unconstrained (working asynchronously when they choose).

Although the place axis gets the bulk of the attention, leaders also must address the time axis when designing a hybrid work schedule.

• Recognize the drivers that underpin roles

When considering how jobs and tasks will fit into a hybrid scheme, managers should start by assessing the four key drivers of productivity: energy, focus, coordination and cooperation. 

From there, determine how those drivers will be affected by changed work arrangements with respect to the time and place axes. 

For example, when it comes to gathering market information and developing business strategies, the critical productivity driver is focus. Since “place” is less important than “time” when it comes to enabling focus, managers should allocate roles that require focus in a way in which they can be done asynchronously, either at home or at the office.

As another example, when it comes to product innovation, the critical productivity driver is cooperation. This suggests that “place” is the axis that should be prioritized, as face-to-face brainstorming sessions and group meetings are more likely to spark innovation. To that end, managers should design the hybrid schedule in a way in which such tasks are performed synchronously in a shared space that provides the opportunity to connect.

• Accommodate employee preferences

People’s peak performance times vary greatly from one another. In designing hybrid work, managers should accommodate differences in productivity among team members to the extent possible. This will also require informing other employees of these preferences so they can be mindful of their colleagues’ availability.

For instance, two strategic planners working at the same company share “focus” as their critical performance driver, but what if they have different individual circumstances that affect their work hours? One may be middle-aged and living with family some distance from the office, requiring a commute of an hour or more. But thanks to a well-equipped home office, this employee is the most productive when skipping the commute. Meanwhile, their age 20-something colleague lives nearby with roommates and is more productive at the office.

To tap into these individual needs while building a hybrid structure, employers could conduct surveys or brief interviews. Doing so gives leaders a chance to learn more about each worker’s key tasks and needs, including where and when they feel most productive, whether they have a home office setup, and to what extent their roles require energy, focus, cooperation and coordination. This information will help managers identify the hybrid arrangements that are best for their teams.

• Reorganize projects and workflows

Coordinating with colleagues was relatively straightforward when team members worked in the same place at the same time. Hybrid work arrangement makes such communication much more complex.

To tackle this issue, managers can use technology to categorize and visualize the types of work teams. They can then use this information to design the best arrangements for their projects.

Managers should also redesign workflows to ensure that under the hybrid work arrangement, existing bad practices or processes aren’t replicated. This may include eliminating redundant team tasks (such as traditional meetings), automating certain tasks and investing in tools that help team members collaborate. It could also include reconfiguring existing office space in ways that encourage cooperation and creativity.

• Build a culture of fairness and inclusion

Every team in the organization may not enjoy the same degree of flexibility and freedom. Some employees likely have time- and place-dependent jobs that make hybrid arrangements unworkable. But these employees are likely to feel they are being treated unfairly once the hybrid work arrangement is in place.

The best way to address the issue of fairness is by involving employees (as many as possible) in the hybrid design process. Leaders should ensure that they use clear expectations combined with feedback and suggestions from the staff and design a hybrid schedule that is rooted in the company culture.  

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