Forging Ahead with Flexible and Hybrid Working with the Gatwick Diamond Business Jan 2021
When we find and develop the right work/life balance, our wellbeing increases along with our performance and productivity. Who would have thought that when we packed up our laptops – at the start of the first ‘lockdown’ – that we would make ‘working from home’ work so well? Business leaders have found their teams working efficiently and more productively whilst working remotely. Employees have proved beyond all doubt that they can be trusted – much to the amazement and delight of their bosses.
So, as we look forward to brighter skies, how will we embrace a post-COVID-19 working world, where presenteeism will be a thing of the past? Of course, a large proportion of the workforce were already working informally in terms of ‘flex’ prior to the pandemic. 87% of the workforce according to Timewise research. But many of us have faced major barriers to working flexibly – mainly due to issues around trust, communications and management structure – concerns which have largely been overcome for now. We have come a long way, but as we emerge how will hybrid working actually work?
There is anxiety about returning to ‘the office’ – whatever that might entail. Our traditional workplace may look rather different. Many companies have abandoned or reduced their office space, not just as a cost-cutting exercise but in a bid to find new ways to accommodate social distancing. Offices will be used differently – for hot desking, together with creating, collaborating and meeting colleagues. The ‘heavy lifting’ of our roles will be done quietly at home, unless impossible.
Managers will need to be more emotionally intelligent and empathetic too, post COVID, to get the best from their scattered teams. This is endorsed by Mother Pukka and Sir Robert McAlpine who highlight the need for a “different type of manager to manage what’s coming,” and ties in with Adecco research which talks about resetting normal. New management skills will be required to manage our ‘blended’, or ‘hybrid’ teams, with these softer skills becoming imperative. Joe Cheal from the Imaginarium reiterated the need for kindness and empathy in tackling the ‘new world of work’.
Flexible working can generate solutions to these challenges by empowering employees, so they feel engaged whilst working from home. Teams reflect their leaders, and flex only works if it comes from the top of the organisation. So, post-COVID offers the the perfect time to break free from any entrenched mistrust or intolerance around flexible working and make this the reality rather than a ‘forced normal’.
Businesses, emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, have a great opportunity to shape how, when, and where we will work, and define a ‘better normal’. Whilst we cannot remove uncertainty as such, we can mitigate the negative impacts to help employees stay engaged, with effective leaders translating chaos and uncertainty into more tangible strategy.
Business leaders who adopt flexible working in their approach to management, culture and systems will not just be able to attract the best talent. They will reap the rewards of having a culture that is all about blend and balance – with productivity and performance that’s ahead of the curve.
Resources of interest
The November 2020 Action Learning Group – I recommend David Blackburn FSCS’s presentation
If you are interested in joining our next Action Learning Group please do put March 18th in your calendar. More details to follow.