Earlier this year, we released our podcast on Adapting to working from home, and now here we are 6 months later, in a time where hybrid and asynchronous working are the new phrases of the moment.
Over the past 18 months, many non-profit organisations have proved they are able to successfully operate whilst all employees work in different locations. As much as organisations have proved this to themselves, it has also created a change in employee expectations on how they are able to complete their work. As many organisations start to return to their offices, employees are now feeling some tension between going back to the office, to potentially be more collaborative and to benefit from human interaction, and working from home where they’ve developed an effective way of working which better balances their life and personal needs. What seems to be the emerging solution is the introduction of hybrid working.
But what can hybrid working mean for you, your team and your digital project? Here are some of the key considerations we have identified for you to be conscious of whilst carrying out a digital project in a hybrid environment.
Provide your team with the tools they need to succeed
Just as with full remote working, hybrid working requires virtual collaboration tools, asynchronous messaging apps and video meeting platforms, as well as structured information sharing tools and protocols. There are many communications, document and project management tools available, and you are likely to already have them in place.
You do though need to re-assess what works best in a hybrid context, especially in respect of hybrid meetings.
It is worth investing time to further understand the capabilities of these tools to help support your team and your project and to ensure that all members of the project team have an equitable voice and opportunity to contribute, regardless of their location.
Set collaboration and communication best practices and policies
Communication is vital for any project to remain on track and be successful. But as teams work in different locations and are likely to be ‘available online’ at different times, clear communication could be challenging in a hybrid model. It can actually be harder to communicate and collaborate consistently in a hybrid environment, where some team members are together and sharing in person than it is when everyone is remote.
Therefore, it is important to set best practice guidelines and policies to keep the team communicating. For example, you can set a timeframe for when teams should be available for progress meetings and have a standardised best practice guidance for which mode of communication should be used for each occasion. Similarly, you need to establish protocols for how to bring remote team members up to speed with the informal communications which may be happening within the onsite members.
Provide visibility of the workload
Online project management is critical for hybrid teams. It enables visibility for the whole team on workloads and priorities as well as shared task lists with up-to-date task statuses. This allows team members to check-in and see the status of the project, and demands on their time, at any time, from any location. This visibility of the project provides insights into project blockers as well as areas they can move forward if they are waiting for feedback on certain tasks. Pre-pandemic, many project teams would have a central room or office with information posted on walls and maintained physically, it was a really effective model to help drive projects forward, but you will need to find a way to re-create that when not everyone is onsite all of the time.
Tune into burnout
As many of us found when working solely remotely, working hours can so easily bleed into personal time and vice versa. The blurred boundaries between work life and personal life can easily lead your employees to burnout. This can be heightened if remote team members are being compelled to support full office hours alongside the more flexible working pattern they adopted, successfully, during the full remote working phase.
To mitigate the risk of burn out it is important to discuss options upfront, openly, equally and honestly, and to establish a culture of balance. There are lots of ways to promote healthy working and wellbeing at work, for example, establishing ‘quiet hours’ where teams refrain from scheduling meetings or holding activities, ensuring flexible working patterns are respected when planning tasks, communicating updates and/or scheduling meetings. This can be supported by training dedicated to health and wellbeing, which is offered to all of the team.
New routines can yield better outcomes
It is important to note that although the move to remote working presented challenges for many organisations and individuals, it revealed a lot about how individuals work best. For some, the flexibility which hybrid working can provide through changing traditional routines and hours may yield better work outcomes. It allows individuals to potentially achieve an improved work-life balance which in turn leads to an increase in overall happiness and results in them performing better and becoming more productive.
Just as the move to remote working taught us so much, it is no doubt we will be continuing to learn lots more about our organisation and team throughout the hybrid working era. What matters now is to be in front of the situation, to embrace the opportunities and to mitigate the risks. This can be achieved by taking positive action, developing working practices as a collective, and drawing on the advantages which each scenario (in-person and remote working) offer.