The benefits and challenges of hybrid working

No ready-made solution for hybrid work

During the pandemic, working online has become the new normal faster than we all expected. Digital strategies that organizations had mapped out for the coming years had to be realized in a short time. This new situation requires a whole new set of skills from all employees in the organization. Now that more and more restrictions of Covid-19 are disappearing, it is time to think about the way of working after Covid-19.

As PwC, we are currently supporting ABN AMRO Bank in its transition to hybrid working. This has provided valuable new learning experiences not only for the bank, but also for ourselves. How will we work together? How do we divide our time between home and office? What skills and technology will we need? In this blog, PwC experts Debby Jannink, Vanessa van de Wiel and Roger Metelerkamp explain how to successfully realize the benefits of hybrid working, with a primary focus on knowledge workers. They also discuss how to overcome the challenges of hybrid working. At the end of the blog, Annemarie Matze-Mennes, ABN AMRO Program Lead Hybrid Working, shares some of her thoughts on the course of this transition.

Benefits of hybrid working

The shift to hybrid work offers organizations an opportunity to review the work and organizational culture: a better balance between work and home, living less stress, a better CO 2 footprint and location independence are examples. In addition, it seems that if teams do not offer the option of hybrid working in the future, this could lead to less employee engagement, lower well-being and more outflow of team members.

Challenges of hybrid working

In addition to the opportunities that hybrid working offers, it is also important that you are aware of possible challenges. We have identified the following challenges for our customers and from our own experience: how are we going to evaluate people's performance in an objective way, if some of them will be in the office and some will stay at home more often? How do we make sure we're inclusive so everyone feels part of the team when only part of the team is together during the week? How will people grow and learn from each other in a hybrid setting? These challenges need to be addressed not only with rules, but also with existing and possible new cultures and behaviours.

Solutions to some of the challenges of hybrid working

Keeping control of your calendar, no more back-to-back appointments and supporting a hybrid way of working
It's overwhelming for all of us, those back-to-back appointments, leaving us with no time to think bigger or just take a break. Start with a simple analysis of your own agenda and set some ground rules. Use different colors for each activity: meetings, creative tasks, detail-oriented tasks, casual appointments, or prep time. Analyze the current situation and determine what you want to change.

Some ground rules such as 40 percent meetings, 10 percent catch-up time, 40 percent detail-oriented tasks, and 10 percent inspiration time can help you manage your own time. Another solution that can help is to schedule time between meetings so that you have time to stretch your legs or grab a drink. If applicable at work, try to cluster specific types of meetings per day. This makes it easier to focus on certain topics and allows you to adjust the physical location according to the type of day.

Improving your personal connection and cohesion in your team

No social activity will come automatically, it will be a constant challenge to strengthen and maintain team cohesion in hybrid work models. Leaders will need to foster and nurture team cohesion when people work in different places. But where to start?

  • Talk about things other than work, for example ask your colleague about that painting on the wall or that plant you see in the background.
  • Organize social activities such as sports activities or cooking classes.
  • Buy a cup of coffee and spontaneously visit your colleague to catch up.
  • Schedule regular times when the whole team is in the office

Assessing people's performance objectively

The people we see and interact with the most are also the people we bond the most with. We experience their ups and downs. We know what is going on in their lives and we understand where they come from. How do leaders deal with this? How are goals set, managed and assessed if the work is done without the physical presence of the manager? How can managers fairly evaluate people's performance if they are not in the same location as their employees?

It is important for leaders to recognize personal biases. A dialogue about this is the starting point. It is the leader's job to set clear goals and expectations for the rest of the organization. It may be necessary to establish new goals, expectations and KPIs with employees in a hybrid setting. In addition, use at least four sources to collect feedback so that you evaluate as objectively as possible. Organize regular check-in moments with 'direct reports' to reflect. Finally, discuss evaluations of direct reports with supervisors and peers, analyze evaluations and discuss possible deviations.

Stimulate a growth mindset by taking time and letting people learn

Company policies, practices, work standards, technology, ways of working together and more will have to change again. This is a learning process for all of us! The organization must ensure that a learning management system is in place so that people have access to a wide variety of training courses. Companies need to invest in tools to stay relevant and retain employees. An example of the kind of tools that are now gaining importance are online employee experience platforms that combine communication, knowledge, learning, resources and insights. In addition, it is crucial to have physical spaces where people can meet, learn and be inspired by other colleagues.

Experimenting gives the best insights

Hybrid working is a concept that is new to all of us and offers a long-term perspective, but with the need to continuously develop. There will be no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges associated with hybrid working. However, we can learn from each other if we remain interested in each other's preferences and ensure that we regularly engage in dialogue with colleagues. Don't be afraid to experiment and fail, because that's how you get the best insights into what works best for your organization. That way people have less resistance, knowing that it is an experiment that will be well evaluated to judge whether it will be a lasting solution for the organization.

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