The great digital revolution gave businesses the ability to function during pandemic lockdowns. Revolution Part 2 is upon us now. Employees and employers alike discovered the benefits of remote work. Now that the hybrid office is here to stay, the secondary revolution is cultural as well as technological. How can traditional office culture accommodate the changes necessary for a successful hybrid operation?
Beliefs vs. reality – The traditional management style was one of synchronous work: everyone in the office at the same time on the same days. It was assumed that if workers were not closely monitored, in person, they would slack off.
The pandemic-dictated shift to remote work proved that off-site asynchronous workers were actually more productive than they had been under the synchronous regime. But now that offices are reopening, some managers cling to the old notion that in-person supervision is essential to productivity.
Formulating a new set of management beliefs requires a “trust walk” message from the C-suite. When top management signals that the flexible, asynchronous workstyle is the new normal — and they back it up with tangible support and rewards for making the shift – then team leaders can take that step of faith to trust their own team members in turn.
Supportive actions – It’s clear the hybrid workplace offers greater productivity, greater employee satisfaction, and lower overhead costs. To get the benefits, though, certain supports must be activated.
- Collaborative technology such as asynchronous apps (Slack, Outlook, etc.) keep teams organized and goal-focused without forcing individual tasks into a synchronous schedule. Well-connected virtual meeting spaces also support hybrid productivity, as long as each meeting is truly useful (a challenge that existed in the traditional office too).
- Technology for document accessibility is also essential. When paper documents are imaged (digitized), they become accessible to team members in and out of the office. Moreover, the data contained in the paper documents is made far more secure when it is stored digitally with access controls in place.
- Inclusion can be difficult in the hybrid office, but managers can draw from the social function of the traditional office. Richard R. Smith, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, suggests, “Arrange and encourage social interactions on the days that people are in the office—and potentially encourage common in-person office days.”
Change is almost always uncomfortable, but the rewards are worth the effort. Commit to the office of the future, put the supports in place, and see the benefits flow to the bottom line.
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