I don’t know about you, but it sure seems that in the past few years, everything has changed. Yes, that whole pandemic thing was a big disruptive influence on everyone, but there had been changes brewing even before that. The pandemic just seemed to accelerate things. Now managers find themselves in charge of a new workforce that has a whole new set of expectations about how things are supposed to work. How can we manage this new hybrid workforce successfully?
The Arrival Of The Hybrid Work Force
Managers realize that remote and hybrid work options create more opportunities for managers to attract and retain talented people. However, hybrid work, often referred to as being the “messy middle,” requires an entirely new manager playbook to work well. Managers are going to have to start off by making sure that they know the difference between their guardrails and their principles. Managers are often used to command and control, and many right now think that making flexible work models successful means mandating that team members spend a certain amount of days in the office. It turns out that research shows that 79 percent of people want flexibility and a voice in how that flexibility takes shape.
So how can managers balance the needs of the company with those of their team? We can start by establishing principles and guardrails to help define what flexible work means to our team. Principles ground an approach in core company values, while guardrails are the agreed-upon guidelines for behavior that keep the company’s principles in place. This approach helps give team members the framework to get started, but also leaves room for teams to test and learn.
Managers have to beware of falling into the trap of faux flexibility. Managers need to lead by example instead of just handing out broad mandates. An example of this would be a “one dials in, all dial in” guardrail policy for meetings. Managers should also consider setting “speed limits,” another type of guardrail, on the number of days per week that managers spend in the office. Define both your principles and guardrails, and then make sure to stick to them.
Creating A New Way Of Working
Something that managers need to understand is that for most team members time matters more than place. It’s easy for us to get too focused on “days in the office” when thinking about flexibility. However, while the majority of people want location flexibility, almost everyone surveyed – 93 percent – want schedule flexibility. It turns out that it’s more valuable in unlocking productivity, reducing stress, and creating work-life balance for team members. The big question is how can teams coordinate and collaborate when they are working on different schedules?
Managers can make schedule flexibility work by letting employees set team-level agreements around how they’ll work together. An example of this is if team members agree to a set of “core collaboration hours” from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in which they’re all available for live conversations and meetings. Then the rest of the day can be reserved for heads-down focused work. Finding ways to document decisions and share discussions in virtual spaces is crucial to keeping teams on the same page. Teams can use digital channels for their status updates, and brainstorm in real time using shared cloud docs.
In order to balance the needs of all team members, managers need to start to treat onsites as the new offsites. Using a flexible and digital-first approach allows managers to access a broader, more diverse talent pool but requires more intentional relationship building both on- and offline. This can be difficult without those accidental lunchroom encounters. Navigating this new paradigm means that we need to be being intentional about our time. Managers should use in-person gatherings more deliberately for connection. Teams can come together in the office for a few days or weeks at a time to plan, reconnect, and socialize. This is why onsites are the new offsites. Managers need to encourage teams to find the rhythm that works best for them, whether that means gathering monthly for more frequent product sprints or gathering quarterly for long-term strategy planning sessions.
What All Of This Means For You
Finding ways to attract, retain, and get the most out of talented people in a hybrid work environment requires managers to consult a new playbook. At companies that have experimented with new, more flexible ways of working, team members are reporting improved work-life balance, greater productivity, and even a better sense of belonging than those who are working full time in the office. Team members don’t want to give that up, and managers who want to attract and retain top talent must be intentional about the transformation of their work models.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: What is the best way for managers to learn what the members of their team want from the new workplace?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
How do you communicate with other people? If you are like most of us, you use email. Yes, yes – there are text messages, Zoom meetings, and the like. However, when we want someone to really think about what we have to tell them, we generally sit down and send them an email. The problem with this approach is that all too often, they send an email back. The result of this is that it is far too easy for us to get overwhelmed with incoming email. If we are not careful, our job can turn into one where we just process email all day. We need to come up with ways to get on top of our email.