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How to make hybrid working successful

by Wanda Rich
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By Michele Don Durbin, Evernote’s SVP of Marketing

Many teams are moving to a hybrid working environment, a model that combines remote work and office time. Michele Don Durbin, Evernote’s SVP of Marketing, looks at how companies can embrace this new way of working and make hybrid helpful rather than harmful.

Michele Don Durbin, Evernote’s SVP of Marketing

It’s clear that post-pandemic working will be hybrid with individuals, teams and organisations working part of their time at their normal workplace and part of it remotely. Hybrid working is one of the biggest behavioural changes driven by Covid-19 with a recent study finding that almost two-thirds of employers plan to introduce or expand a mixture of remote and on-site working. 

Even Apple for example, which has a global workforce with 137,000 employees has recently announced a return to a hybrid work style in September. It’s expected that employees will spend three days a week at the office and the other two at home or remotely.   Evernote has also launched its work from anywhere programme, allowing employees to work from just about anywhere in the country, whether or not we have a physical office nearby. 

Hybrid working offers huge benefits for employees including flexibility for staff members in their work/life balance and little or no time or money spent commuting. Many employees also feel that hybrid working is good for their productivity and mental health. However, there are challenges for employers when implementing hybrid working, such as how to ensure fairness, inclusion, collaboration and productivity.

Here are some practical tips your business can follow to get the most out of hybrid working. 

Employ the right people 

If you’re recruiting for a role that will involve remote working, it’s important to ensure you’re hiring for the correct skill sets. Recruiting a hybrid working team is different to recruiting a team that you will manage face to face. Working remotely is not for everyone and hybrid team members must have remote team qualities, as well as the core skills and experience for the job role.   

Look for candidates who have self-management skills (good time management, good energy management); above-average self-motivation; and very strong oral and written communication skills (including very good listening skills).

Be clear about what hybrid work looks like at your company and hire people who will thrive in this setting and enjoy this new way of working.

Think Remote Forward

Just because some of your workforce isn’t present in the office doesn’t mean they aren’t there and a part of the team. It’s important that these workers aren’t treated any differently to their colleagues who may be spending more time in the office.

Ensure fairness by offering a hybrid arrangement to everyone on your team and whether they decide to work remotely or from the office, consider the unique circumstances of each team member and any issues they may face. For example, access to various resources may differ – employees in the office have access to technology and infrastructure to support their work whereas those working remotely may not. They could struggle with a slow internet connection or a less than ideal home office set-up for example. Make sure that you offer these workers additional IT support and resources to work effectively. It’s worth the extra investment, especially now it looks like hybrid-working is here to stay. 

It’s also important to promote an inclusive and collaborative culture. A study revealed that the vast majority of the workforce currently think collaboration between remote and in-office colleagues is a challenge (78%). You need to think of ways to facilitate effective communication between remote and office based employees, an app like Evernote for example can make collaboration easier and bring people together.

Avoid cognitive overload

Whether working from the office or remotely, research shows that the average worker is productive for less than three hours a day. With constant distractions, deadlines and surprise to-do items landing on your plate it can be hard to manage your time. 

On average, a knowledge worker gets interrupted or switches tasks every three to five minutes, according to research. This leads to a very unhealthy cognitive or mental overload, exhaustion and mini burnouts at the end of the working day. 

Encourage employees to block out time in their diaries for deep work. Remove all distractions i.e. switch off email and social media notifications. By doing this we can give something our undivided attention to reach new levels of productivity and produce a substantial amount of work. Even one glance at your phone or email can cost you about 15-30 minutes of attention loss. Deep work is important because it challenges you to accomplish difficult and meaningful tasks. 

Use the right channels for communication 

The shift to hybrid working has presented some challenges when it comes to communication, whether that’s for collaboration purposes or support requests. Pre-pandemic we were accustomed to conversing with each other face-to-face and getting an immediate response however the move to a hybrid workforce means it’s not as straightforward.   

It’s important that we choose and consolidate our communication platforms to minimise interruptions yet still be effective. If your home caught fire, would you email the fire service? No! You would call 999! The same goes for hybrid work communication – you and your team need to pick the right channel for the right type of communication. 

Decide as a collective what types of communications should happen via which channels – this will help your team meet deadlines and build the trust that’s crucial to succeed. Remember the hierarchy of communication channels (face to face is best, followed by video call, phone call, email, then text message) and choose the right channel.

Make small steps to improve productivity 

Research shows that knowledge workers spend about 80% of their working time communicating or collaborating through emails, meetings, chat, and messenger. Workers need to protect their time to ensure they can be productive and get the most out of their day.  

Meetings are part of our professional lives however a lot of them are considered a waste of time. To make meetings more productive ensure you and your team always have an agenda in the calendar invite and add links for pre-meeting reading directly so everyone can prepare properly. Also, try shrinking your meetings. Just because your calendar may default to creating 30 or 60-minute meetings, it doesn’t mean they need to be that long.

The next thing to consider is a physical AND digital declutter – in both office spaces and remote working spaces. Research shows that because of data overload the average knowledge worker wastes about two and a half hours per day searching for information. Start by organising your computer desktop. If your computer desktop is covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need, when you need it. Delete any documents you don’t want, file away items you want to keep, and create files for anything that doesn’t already have a home. 

Finally for the days that you are working remotely, try going to work symbolically. Getting up at the time you would normally and getting dressed can make a big difference to your mindset. It will help you maintain your daily structure and ensure you stay tuned into the daily rhythm of the working routine.