Virtual Teams

The long wait for hybrid

It’s been a stop/start year in many organizations around the implementation of hybrid work, how can we prepare when the date keeps changing?

Over the summer we saw a massive spike of interest from companies preparing their people to return to the office and to implement a hybrid style of working.

Even in countries where there have been high levels of vaccination and COVID case levels were manageable, it hasn’t really happened yet.

In northern Europe before the latest spike in cases in November / December people were starting to come back into the office but this was happening slowly.

Some of our clients operate building facilities, catering etc and are in a good position to know what is actually happening with the use of offices globally. They told us that whatever policies that companies were trying to operate, only about half of this was actually happening in reality. So if companies were expecting their people to be back in the office for three days a week, they were finding they were actually there for about 1 1/2 days a week.

There seemed to be little effort at the time into pushing people back more often, and individuals remained cautious about coming into the office if they really didn’t have to.

As we trained leaders to have the conversation with their teams on preparing for a hybrid pattern of work, it seemed that many had underestimated the need to sell the return to the office. They were often surprised by the level of push back they were experiencing from their people who have demonstrated to themselves at least their ability to do the job perfectly well from home.

Unfortunately, as winter approached in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe, a combination of new variants and accelerating infection levels has put many countries back into enforced remote working

Today many clients are telling us they are not expecting a more widespread return to the office until the spring

We expect that the situation will continue to improve with a few setbacks but it could be a couple more years before the situation is completely stabilised.

Society is learning that COVID is not going to go away but will move from being a pandemic to just a normal factor we have to consider in our planning.

In 2022 we expect hybrid to continue to increase but to be unevenly implemented around the world.

However, once some people start to return to the office then hybrid meetings become the norm for the broader organisation. we already have clients who are running training programmes where some people are live in the room and others are joining virtually. This does requite new skills.

It does not require everyone to get back in the office for hybrid to become the norm, just a few who are physically present

We also can’t wait until people are fully back in the office to do some planning around development. Hybrid meetings are starting to be a reality already. Many organisations are doing objective setting for 2022 – have they adapted the types of objectives they set to a virtual and hybrid world?

This year we are doing performance reviews in a world where most people where working virtually for the last 12 months, which levels the playing field. This time next year we will be doing performance reviews in a hybrid world where some people have been present and others have been working virtually, the risk of proximity bias increases massively once the levelling effect of everybody working remotely disappears.

So just because we are not back in the office doesn’t mean we can ignore hybrid, we need to get started planning how we are going to manage this, even if it hasn’t quite got there yet for everybody

What are your plans to kick off your team organisation for a hybrid 2022?

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