Earlier this year, The Economist published a special report on the Future of Work. The report analysed issues such as the Covid pandemic, automation, and government policy, but one important area of focus was working from home and hybrid work.
The report cited research by three economists, Jose Maria Barrero, Nick Bloom and Steven Davis, who surveyed thousands of American workers to ask how they wanted to work after the pandemic. The research found: “the average employee would like to work from home nearly half the time.
“Employers are less keen, but their expectation that a fifth of working time will be spent at home (one day a week) is a big change from the previous norm. It also presents a huge opportunity for office-based workers.”
In recent months I have seen several similar studies and the focus is usually on the difficulty of managing hybrid workers. A typical question will focus on the value of being at the office in-person if your colleagues are working from home.
The difference with this report from The Economist, though, is that they got to the heart of the matter. The big difference with everyone permanently working from home, or partially working from home in a hybrid arrangement, is how to build and manage teams.
Some investment banks and other professional service companies have claimed that their work processes require in-person employees, but the vast majority of companies across all industries have learned that working from home is possible – and is often preferable. For this reason, it is essential that HR leaders and managers understand that their workforce management processes must evolve.
Every company will have different plans and a different approach – especially if going down the hybrid path – but I think there are a few golden rules that managers need to remember:
- Delivery Not Time: presenteeism does not work when managing remotely. Your focus is on guiding team team members, communicating clearly, setting expectations, then measuring them based on deliverables – not time at a desk. Performance management needs a complete review to embrace remote workers.
- No Twin Track: it’s likely that everyone from the CEO down will be spending some time at home, some in the office, and some in shared meeting spaces. There is no room for a group that predominantly works from the office and another group that rarely leaves home. Everyone on the team has access to the same information and opportunities.
- Blended Communications: you need better and more open communication systems so teams can use technology to really feel like a team and this needs to embrace social conversation as well as business related matters.
Building a remote team is a very different process to building and leading an in-person team. You need to think carefully about the recruitment process, create clear and open guidelines and expectations, engage regularly, and give the team reliable communication systems that can draw them together.