Virtual Teams

The great hybrid working reset

As the hybrid return to the office starts to pick up in the UK and Europe most of the focus right now is on preparing leaders to have the conversation with their teams about what hybrid pattern of work works for them.

In September alone will be running over 150 workshops supporting our clients in this area.

Several our clients are also thinking ahead to the kind of culture and environment they want to create in a hybrid world. Understandably after being prevented from being in the office a lot of the focus is on how many days people should attend but the longer-term consequences are even more significant.

It’s understandable that after a year and a half of crisis management responses to the pandemic, many leaders are still in survival mode and many parts of the world still have a significant period of that to contend with.

Some are seeing the return to the office as the finish line of their pandemic response, but in fact it’s the starting line for a major transformation in the way we work.

It is also an opportunity to reset some of the things we were unhappy about before the pandemic and two particular areas are generating a lot of interest at the moment

The first is meetings, both face to face and virtual

  • Before the pandemic people told us they spent between two and three days per week in meetings, and 50% of it was irrelevant. Dissatisfaction was high with meetings that lacked relevance, participation and engagement – we do not want to go back there.
  • During lockdowns, diaries have been crammed with even more meetings and few breaks – we need to disengage from this unsustainable pattern.
  • As we move to hybrid meetings, let’s take the opportunity to reset our meetings culture and upskill people for hybrid engagement.

Yes, we could just run a simple upscale programme for running meetings where some people are in the room and others are joining remotely, but some companies are looking at it more from the opportunity to reset their collaboration culture;  cut out unnecessary meetings, improve the quality of the ones that remain, and develop the capability to run engaging and participative hybrid and virtual meetings.

The second is resetting the balance of control and autonomy

  • In working from home people have got used to higher levels of autonomy and less direct supervision, and they like it
  • Managers have seen proof that people can be trusted and don’t need to be managed so closely when working remotely. in the 27 years we’ve been working on remote management training, the single biggest barrier to remote working has been managers attitude towards control.

We hope that the arguments against working remotely have now been soundly overcome (though we have seen some stirrings of a traditional management desire to get everybody back where they can see them – we are calling this the Empire Strikes Back)

Taking these two factors together we have a historic opportunity to reset the balance of control and autonomy and make empowerment a reality.

Nearly all of our clients aspire to a more empowered culture and we have been helping them to develop the values and skills to lead people on the journey to higher levels of empowerment. However, the fundamental challenge with control is that everyone likes to be in control and nobody likes to be controlled and it’s hard for people to give up control.

It is easy to talk a good game on empowerment, but to make it a reality you also have to relax your “carriers of control”. Delegation levels, approvals, reviews etc. need to be pushed further down the organisation and this takes a more systematic effort.

We hope that the return to the office won’t lead to a sliding back into the old level of control. We expect and hope that individuals will be more resistant to this, so expect to have conversations about the right level of autonomy and the right level of involvement of leaders in tasks.

We think both developments are extremely positive. Fewer, better meetings and more empowerment would be two great outcomes from the hybrid return to work. You can see more about our whole range of hybrid skills training here.

If you are part of an organisation working on the hybrid return to the office or developing hybrid skills, we have a free webinar on this running on 14th September. You can register the for the event on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/events/leadingpeopleinahybridworld6831198337019080704/

Apologies but we won’t be inviting external consultants and trainers as we’ve had some abuse of our intellectual property from these sessions in the past.

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