Virtual Teams

Remote and Hybrid – an incomplete transformation?

It all seems to have gone a bit quiet on remote and hybrid working. Most companies have some kind of policy in place, but few are enforcing it. The people who do go into the office often find there is no one else there, or they spend their time there sitting in on virtual meetings with colleagues who are working remotely.

Many organisations seem to be underestimating the scale of the transformation that hybrid working should and will eventually cause. Our fear is that this will be a future case study on incomplete transformation in ways of working.

Typically transformations move from strategy, to structure, to systems, to skills. If the transformation fails at any one of these stages it tends to be incomplete and doesn’t deliver the benefits anticipated.

In the case of hybrid working

  • Strategy – many organisations seem to have stumbled into hybrid working with a certain degree of reluctance, remote working was wildly popular with individuals but less popular with senior leaders. Many organisations saw hybrid as a compromise where they could overcome the potential downsides of pure remote working on challenges such as building community and culture. Most now have some form of policy in place (even if it’s not really being followed).
  • Structure – structure has rarely changed significantly as a result of hybrid working, so remote and hybrid working exists within existing structures. Most structural attention at the moment seems to be on becoming more integrated and reducing cost.
  • Systems – once we have changed strategy and structure we then need to align our business processes and systems to the new reality. The pandemic led to a rapid scaling up of adoption of virtual meetings technology and remote working software. However, few organisations have evolved their people systems in detail, such as how we set objectives, monitor progress, establish key metrics, or update our development and succession policies. There is a tremendous amount of detailed work needed to evolve our people processes to the new reality of remote and hybrid working
  • Skills – during the pandemic many organisations invested in giving people the immediate capability to survive working from home, but there has been relatively little ongoing investment in embedding the remote and hybrid reality more broadly into our leadership, collaboration and personal effectiveness skills. In a remote and hybrid future every soft skill will be exercised in an environment where some people are physically present and others are remote, and this is different.

In most organisations, managerial and professional people are now spending 40% or more of their time working remotely, a large proportion of meetings are now hybrid meetings where some people are physically present and others are remote.

We still need to equip people at scale with the skills to thrive in this more complex environment.

To complete a successful remote and hybrid transformation we need to do the work to update our people systems and skills in detail to reflect the new reality of the world of work. If we don’t, then our transformation will be incomplete and the people who never liked remote working will start to push to get people back to the office.

It’s time to revitalise this transformation in ways of working and make sure it succeeds.

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