A version of this blog first appeared in Heart of the City Newsletter, published 28 July 2021
As the workforce and workplace become decentralised, rethinking work as a range of activities, not a place, makes sense as business priorities continue to evolve. People need to be able to work on different topics in the place that produces the best outcome for the customer, employee and organisation. And for that, you need the flexibility to coordinate being in the same space at the same time as the colleagues you need to see to get the work done. Matching the task to the location is new.
Calendars don’t keep track of location
But your calendar can’t manage all these schedules, nor track people’s changing locations. If you’re working in the office, you can’t afford to just assume who else will be there. If someone changes their plans and works remotely, it could derail your objectives.
As employees are no longer consistently co-located, this means recognising that the hours different people work may be ‘out of sync’ - they may not occur at the same time! Hybrid teams will need to adjust to not all work happening in real time. Managing hybrid working well means helping teams to work effectively across different locations; home, office or 3rd space, and at different times.
So, hybrid workers need to be able to keep up with others’ locations and preferences as priorities change to make sure planning collaboration days is straightforward. Ensuring hybrid teams can share and retrieve work whatever their hours is key to protecting productive time and avoiding over-use of too many apps that rely on real-time video or chat.
Levelling the playfield
Hybrid working has the potential to create a more level playfield for all workers to contribute fairly, while businesses can benefit from providing their employees with the flexibility to work when they can be most productive. If companies are to remain agile, and continue to serve clients efficiently, they need to focus on helping their employees plan effective working days.
Equipping teams to share their work and progress in a uniform way can equalise their visibility. Hybrid working has the potential to level out imbalances that have frustrated many in the past, such as parents returning to work who want to progress a meaningful career while balancing outside demands on their time. As we all spend less time in the office, this new working style is an opportunity for people who previously needed to be strict about office time. Now, you should worry less that being physically seen is a measure of your commitment or endeavour.
To work with varying levels of workforce visibility, businesses need to upskill, reskill, adapt to new working styles and plan their spaces. Practical tools to simplify planning when to be in the office will help employees see the people they need to see, reduce the meetings in their diary and help them prioritise their work according to where and when they work at their best.
Leaders that empower and equip their employees to work flexibly will win the war for talent. The way we work has evolved… finally!