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The Future is Hybrid - From Remote Work to Hybrid Solutions and a New Normal Working Model

Unbenannt12 New normal

At the moment, one news item about mobile work follows the other. Today, there is a current statement from Siemens, where mobile working is to be drastically expanded. In the meantime, there is already a corresponding board resolution and also a name, it is about a "New Normal Working Model". As can be read further, however, this is not connected with a hard claim to the home office. Both the employee and his or her supervisor must agree. According to designated Siemens CEO Roland Busch, the basis of this model is "a further development of our corporate culture. This is also associated with a different management style, which is oriented toward results, not office presence." This assumes two to three days of mobile working per week. From my point of view, a big challenge. I am curious to see how the concrete implementation will take place.

In the last few days I also found a very apt quote on remote working, which I like to reproduce here "The rabbit is out of the hat: remote working works". This statement can be found in an article by BCG consultants, which I would like to present below. I will also briefly discuss a recent study by Salesforce. Both articles and studies focus on hybrid solutions for mobile work that will make sense in the future and explain why they are important and what should be considered when introducing them. In doing so, these authors abandon the all-or-nothing statements on remote work that are currently frequently encountered.

The starting point of the BCG contribution is the experience of recent months, which has shown what can work. However, many are currently asking where to go from here. Many companies are now trying to bring employees back to the workplace. With BCG's "workplace of the future" survey cited here, it's clear that most organizations know they will be much more remote in the future than they were in the pre-Corona era. Overall, the companies surveyed expect about 40% of employees to use remote work models in the future. Thirty-seven percent of companies assume that more than 25% of employees will work in hybrid models, combining mobile work with on-site work.

If mobile work increases, however, it is up to leadership to develop a vision for how exactly this will happen. The main issue here is how this vision can be realized in concrete terms.

Mobile work has many facets. It by no means means that all or most employees work from home at all times. Rather, it is about structuring work in such a way that employees divide their time between home and the workplace. Many things seem possible: alternating weeks with a rotating schedule. Or even specific times when everyone must be physically present. Companies could also opt for a "work-from-anywhere" model, where employees are always remote, but can come to any work location whenever they want.

Task- or function-based considerations will take into account the specific nature of the work (is office equipment required, for example), the need for interaction (e.g., for live supervision or brainstorming), etc. Mapping work tasks and functions to different models of mobile work will help identify specific variations for each group and region, and determine which work can be done remotely in the foreseeable future and which should be done on-site.

The focus is on five key characteristics of work that, together with specific needs and the concrete environment, determine the decision for remote, on-site or hybrid work models.

1. On-site customer interaction. Consider the extent to which employees need to interact live with customers.
2. Specific equipment and facilities. To what extent is the use of specific equipment or facilities required on-site.
3. Supervision and legal requirements. Selected work requires supervisor oversight because the work must be performed accurately or required by law.
4. Collaboration and interaction. To what extent and how much collaboration or interaction with other employees is required?
5. Innovation. How important is innovation here?

By considering different variations of hybrid work, organizations can accomplish a lot. They can experiment with different models and it becomes possible to find and define today the model for remote work that will fit in the future.

The goal of working remotely is an important step in redefining what future work can and should be. However, this requires proper planning. In companies, remote work works well in some areas and less well in others. Much can be learned from the successes and failures. After the abrupt changeover to remote work and the experience gained in the process, possible hybrid models should now be evaluated. The desire for hybrid models is also evident in the Salesforce study, because in the long term, as opposed to working exclusively remotely, 64% of workers want to spend at least a few hours in an office, store, factory or other type of workplace. This desire seems to be more pronounced among younger employees in particular than among older employees.

However, overcoming the complexity that hybrid models bring seems to be a much bigger challenge than switching to full remote working.

The challenges in question can be very well understood from the following illustration.

The individual points will be explained here in a little more detail.

Routines, tools, and skill building. Organizations provided new tools for collaboration and developed routines to enable employees to quickly adapt to remote work. But were these tools and routines successful? It's important to assess what worked and what didn't. Finding out and understanding how and why certain tools are used (or not used) can help solve problems. Examining effective teams and their behaviors, routines, and use of tools can help managers scale best practices across teams. What knowledge, skills and attitudes do these employees and managers possess? How can the organization get them to bring others along or train them? Tools alone are not enough here. People need to practice deliberately to develop new behaviors so they can take full advantage of any change.

Cybersecurity and internal data security. When employees work from home on unsecured networks, the risk of external cyber threats increases. Organizations need more cybersecurity professionals. This need will continue to grow as more employees work in a hybrid environment.

In addition, limited control of remote workers increases the organization's vulnerability to internal data security issues. To mitigate these risks, organizations must ensure they limit access to sensitive information to select employees, establish data access workflows, implement multi-level (and multi-person) approval processes for each information exchange, and limit access to sensitive information to specific work hours. Yet only 30% of cybersecurity is technology. 70% is culture, behavior, and awareness. Developing programs to build a cyber and data secure culture should be on the immediate priority list.

Coaching and personal development. Informal moments for coaching that might have occurred at the end of meetings have given way to quick transitions from one call to the next. Teams and leaders need to take time to provide feedback in the interest of coaching and development.

Leaders must ensure that on-site and remote employees receive equal attention. Ensuring that teams continue to grow and learn during these times. Leaders must shift their thinking in the process and be thoughtful and deliberate in coaching their employees and each other.

Productivity and Performance Management. Being present does not mean being effective and productive. Companies may have implicitly linked presence and performance in the past, but they now have been forced to look at that link differently. Remote work has helped shift performance metrics from inputs to outputs. If there are no quantitative output measures, companies like Apple have used the Net Promoter Score for internal customers. Companies should recognize that daily tasks and performance goals have changed dramatically.

Executives need to examine how promotions, bonuses and performance reviews look for remote and on-site employees. Here, they need to ensure that employees are evaluated and rewarded in comparable ways.

Senior Leadership and Culture. Given COVID-19, a positive culture emerged that should be maintained. This also creates opportunities to address negative aspects of the past culture. Working remotely, leaders had to find new ways to connect and build virtual social intimacy. These efforts have paid off. Remote workers no longer struggle with having their voice heard in a meeting, or missing out on conversations in the hallways. Or missing out on social bonds that develop just before and after meetings. The relationship between business leaders and the workforce has also changed. Executives are on screen from home with kids and pets in the background, To reap the benefits of remote work, leaders should also make sure to maintain and even improve the positive culture that has been created. They should shape change and work remotely as well, using a hybrid model. For example, they could work remotely two days a week. Companies are looking at executives more than ever right now.

Recruiting and onboarding. Tomorrow's employees are just as important as today's. While it's natural for leaders to spend much of their time thinking about how best to leverage their existing employees for success outside the organization, they can't forget how to recruit and onboard new employees outside the organization.

In recruiting, HR departments can make greater use of technology-enabled methods; this includes video interviewing, automated resume review, and the use of gamified elements. Onboarding is about how "day 1" and an "onboarding week" can run remotely. Virtual coffee chats, welcome videos with greetings from current employees, and virtual networking can encourage engagement. Regardless of the type of recruitment and onboarding chosen, leaders need to be sure that best practices are shared throughout the organization.

The forced transition to remote work has been a great success. So why stop there? Organizations don't need to return to the old ways of working. Instead of taking a "yesterday, forward" approach, organizations can use a "tomorrow, backward" philosophy that embraces a future that takes into account lessons learned. By doing so, organizations can get the most value from hybrid work models.

Source: Peter M. Wald, Leipzig HRM Blog

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