Boosters : Leading a Hybrid Workforce

Working in a hybrid team

With schools returning, there is something of the familiar about the routines many are now adopting. As the phrase circulated widely on social media early on in the pandemic stated, we were not working from home but rather at home, during a crisis, trying to work. But now, with fewer competing priorities for our time, attention and space, will our attitudes to working from home change?

A hybrid workforce – one where some of our teams are at home, some are in the office, some are working remotely and some do a combination of these – is undoubtedly on the cards. But what does this mean for engagement, collaboration and culture?

Recent research from the World Economic Forum found 98% of people said that they would like the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers but 22% of respondents said that unplugging from work was the biggest challenge they face, with 19% stating loneliness and 17% citing ability to collaborate effectively.

33% fear their contributions will be overlooked when seeking promotion if they work remotely from their leader and leaders have their own concerns around lack of focus and lack of productivity. ⬇

So how are you preparing for being part of a hybrid workforce? What opportunities and challenges do you anticipate?

Leading through a crisis

This might sound familiar. It’s early March, pre lockdown, and there’s a sense of urgency intermingled with the unknown. Yet, leaders are showing signs of being galvanised, of having a clear focus, of all working towards the same goals. Indeed as lockdown was introduced, people reported feeling more energised, more productive, clear about the organisation’s strategy and more focused on what action to take – attributed in part to being a welcome break from the usual routine of work.

Fast forward a month and things weren’t so. Problems were tiring to resolve and more complex. Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg wrote in the HBR that crises follow a rough pattern : Emergency, Regression, Recovery.

In emergency, team energy rises and performance increases. Almost all of us have unknown reserves. There’s little challenge to instruction, people get on and do and rise to the challenge.

In regression, people tire, lose their sense of purpose and don’t pick their battles well. Boredom, not knowing and uncertainty are big stressors. A dangerous phase for teams.

In recovery, we reopen, rebuild and prepare for the future. Setting a new day one, calibrating emotions and aiming beyond BAU.

Which phase are your teams in?

Cut hours not people

The biggest impact on mental health of job loss is not what you might think.

Cambridge University Business School have completed their first wave of Understanding Society COVID-19 Study, which looked at the impact on employees of suddenly stopping working vs working reduced hours. In short, the study finds that people working reduced working hours or being furloughed do not have poorer mental health than those who continued to work their regular hours – but leaving paid work is significantly related to poorer mental health.

This simple but powerful finding underscores the researchers’ call for employers and the government to cut hours, not people.

Interestingly, loss of income makes up a small proportion of this reported decline in mental health. Other factors, such as lack of enforced activity and social contact outside the family, were the predominant causes highlighting again just how important routine and relationships are to our wellbeing.

In a separate study, conducted pre-covid, it was found that the mental health gains of being in work are found in those who work one day a week and then plateau regardless of the number of hours worked on top of that.

Cut hours not people.

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