By Nabila Salem, President at Revolent Group. If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that employees are clearly capable of working productively and remotely, without being in the office five days a week. Yet it has also taught us that, for some people, an office-based structure is incredibly valuable, especially the much-missed social aspect that comes with working in a designated office.
With many employees having invested heavily in a home set-up – including money spent on computers, desks, and other equipment – and many others keen to return to their office environment, it’s clear a one-size fits-all approach simply won’t work for every single employee.
That’s why many employers are turning to a hybrid model of working as their solution to the future of the workforce location problem. In its essence, hybrid working is a model that allows employees to work across a range of different locations at different times and often blends a combination of home working with regular, office-based working, based on the needs of each employee.
As many organisations move over to a hybrid working model, managers, team leaders, and business leaders alike are left wondering – how do we manage our teams in this new working landscape. And, perhaps more importantly, what can we do to support our employees to increase their productivity, during times of peak demand?
With that in mind, here are five ways to increase productivity in your hybrid team.
- Start at the top with training
Firstly, you should train and upskill existing managers in your organisation to support them to manage remotely. And you should start at the very top and work your way down.
While on-the-job training is important for everyone, it’s crucial to first ensure your managers and team leaders know how to support their teams effectively in a new hybrid working model. The last thing you want is leaders resorting to inefficient or outdated methods of leading that can negatively impact workers and productivity.
So train your managers to lead remotely, in a constructive way, as this will be beneficial to the productivity which will trickle down into your wider workforce.
- Upskill, upskill, upskill!
Now that your leaders feel comfortable leading, you should absolutely prioritise ensuring your employees feel comfortable with the “doing”. As people will likely be spending more time working on their own, away from their managers, look to equip them with the skills they need to be both efficient and self-reliant, when needed.
Alongside this, you should make sure that your training is personalised to the individual, as a one-size-fits-all approach will not account for the wide range of contexts that employees find themselves in.
So invest heavily in training programs, equipment, resources, anything your employees need to thrive. Have an employee that overpromises and struggles to deliver? Support them with project management, even in a personal capacity. Adding more capacity to someone’s workload? Make sure they have a training course that supports them to deliver exactly what you need, when you need it.
If you want your staff to be more productive, especially when working away from the office, you simply have to structure your training in a way that is unique to the aptitudes and upskilling needs of their role.
- Standardise your processes
As your employees will be working with more autonomy, sometimes with no managers around to quickly ask for help, it’s important to get your processes 100% right. This means they have to be simple and consistent.
Discuss with each employee exactly what their task list is and figure out exactly what they have to do each and every week. Then create a bible of processes that are common across your team. Make sure they’re visible, easy to understand, and easy to follow, and you won’t go far wrong.
Then – and this is the really important part – get your team to give feedback on them. These are documents that are important for their daily success, not just yours. Ask them to look at these processes as if they were a new employee and try to complete relevant tasks based solely on the information you have provided in your processes document.
Can they do it, with ease? Then your document is ready to be shared across the team. Don’t forget to check that the processes are actually working – if you forget to do this there is a chance for these to stop working or not be used at all.
- Use trust as a tactic, not just a part of “culture”
When we talk about the trust between an employer and an employee, or an employee and their manager, we often discuss in in terms of “workplace culture”. While trust is an important part of the culture of a team, I also believe we should see it more tactically.
Ideas of “workplace culture” are often woolly and difficult to measure, meaning employers and managers can be less concerned with it than the cold hard facts of growth, revenue, targets, etc.
While this is understandable, especially if you or your team are under pressure to get things done, I believe we need to start seeing trust as something that is vital to the way we work. Trust, in my opinion, is a tactic you can employ to manage your team and potentially improve their productivity.
Hybrid working itself should be borne out of mutual respect, and the needs of both business and employee. If you have implemented a hybrid working option for employees, based on their needs, then you have already extended a greater deal of trust than many employers have had for their employees in decades.
So use this to be honest with your team. Perhaps more honest than you’re used to. Have a crucial project with important deadlines coming up? In the busiest quarter of your financial year? Tell them that, and explain you have high expectations of this work being completed on time.
You’ve already removed some obstacles to potential success, by allowing them to work flexibly; it’s only fair to expect a good ROI in return.
- Increase your communication, drastically
Finally, you have to increase your internal communications, both in groups and individually. In trust, for any of the above to work, it has to be complemented with regular, meaningful feedback from your employees and leaders alike.
You have to know exactly what challenges an employee is facing to truly help them upskill in their role, you also have to understand what their homelife is like to implement meaningful hybrid working.
To aid in this, prioritise listening to your staff alongside any initiatives you implement. Workplaces are not the same all around the world, or even just within the UK – and each home environment is different too. What works for one person may be a terrible idea in another! The true magic bullet to increasing productivity is to complement initiatives with meaningful and regular feedback from the people you’re hoping to get more out of: your employees.