Enhance productivity in a hybrid work environment

Recent studies suggest that the current workforce appreciate and value the flexibility that hybrid and remote working has to offer. The result of this appreciation is a positive mindset and work culture.  A hybrid work environment entails combining remote and office work and thus providing optimum work flexibility to employees.

The question that arose was whether employees would still be as productive and efficient as when working solely in an office space.  From personal experience, it seems as though a habit needs to be formed.  In only a matter of two weeks, it should be possible to function working from almost anywhere (with access to effective work resources of course).

There are, however, a couple of things that can be done to make sure that work efficiency and productivity is optimal, without jeopardising the employee’s work-life balance.  Here is a list of ways to enhance your team’s productivity considering a hybrid work environment.

Set clear objectives and goals

Working collaboratively in a hybrid work environment is key in obtaining work goals and objectives. Since the workforce is scattered in various locations, not everyone is aware of what others are doing, therefore clear objectives and goals are key to ensure that everyone works together. If one person or team is out of sync, it could halter the synergy and cause targets and goals to be missed.  Being accountable will ensure that your team will work together and meet their deadlines.  Be sure to provide them with clear goals and deliverables so they can know what to expect and what to work towards.  A lack of objectives and goals will most likely lead to forgotten tasks or even doubling up on work unnecessarily.  Making goals and responsibilities clear from the get-go, will provide the team with clear objectives and direction.

Have the right tools and people

Since the team will not be in the same space, it is essential that the company provides them with the necessary tools to be efficient.  This includes a stable internet connection, an effective computer system, collaboration software, and other tools depending on the job at hand.  Where the company might be saving on office costs, could be invested in the right setup for its hybrid workforce.  Check out this article by Jill Duffy from PC Mag regarding their top picks of collaboration software.

Considering that hybrid working entails the need for employees to be comfortable with working almost anywhere, it is essential that the company invest time in hiring the right people as well.  Not everyone is equipped and disciplined enough to work in these circumstances.  Employees who are independent and self-motivated will most certainly excel in this type of role.  Another consideration is that the right employee will need to have effective communication skills and be reachable during working hours.  It is easy to just walk over to an employee in an office setup but it’s a different ballgame when working remotely.  With this in mind, it is also a priority to invest in collaborative software and effective communication channels, especially if your employees are situated across the world in different time zones.

Have a dedicated workspace

Most have been in the situation where working especially from home leads to early mornings and late-night computer sessions.  It is great to have an independent and self-motivated employee but discipline is just an important factor to avoid burnout.  As an employee, create a dedicated, isolated workspace that can be disregarded if and when necessary.  With parents having children around, it will assist in fostering an effective work-life balance and ensure optimum productivity during working hours.

Desk ergonomics is another factor that should be considered irrespective of location, especially for those 8-hour office jobs. Spending most of your day at your desk is not normal for anyone, therefore, refer to this video by the Wall Street Journal on setting up effective desk ergonomics.

Recording and transcribing of onboarding and meeting materials

Since workers are not necessarily office-based, chances are that new staff might not always know what to do.  Training videos and supportive material not only serve those who are remote but office-based too.  What makes training material even more effective than having physical onboarding is that you can create the material once and share it multiple times.  Yes, onboarding will still take place, but this ensures that everyone goes through the exact same process and that everything is covered with all employees.  Also, employees will have the option to recap and locate these materials if saved to a collaborative software feature like Google Drive.  While you should be saving these resources in one place, be sure to use naming conventions that will enable the team to easily locate and identify these resources if and when they need them. Go the extra mile and be as inclusive as possible by adding subtitles to videos enabling these resources to be accessible by deaf and ESL employees too.

Allow for socialisation

Even the most introverted employees will yearn for some company. While working in an office setup, employees have the opportunity to go for that 10-minute coffee-break chit-chat or even smoke break.  Working remotely does not necessarily offer this.  It is thus crucial that social activities be a priority. One simple way of doing this is by creating a non-work-related communication medium where fellow employees can get to know each other and share relatable feelings, motivation or simply funny office jokes.  Alternatively have a weekly virtual get-together for employees in the form of team building like a quiz or game meeting.  Not everything needs to be formal and strict.  Allowing employees the freedom to feel comfortable to socialise will not only enhance their well-being but is great for employee retention as well.

Offer flexibility

With hybrid working, flexibility is almost a given.  This freedom however still needs to be disciplined otherwise employees can lose themselves.  Don’t fall for the trap of getting up, working and never getting out of your pj’s as it happens with so many remote employees.  Create a schedule and stick to it: make sure to take that shower, brush those teeth and get dressed, even if leaving the house will not be an option for the day.

On the other hand, this flexibility assists employees in doing those ordinary tasks like doing the dishes or laundry during breaks assisting in getting more done. The mere fact of having flexibility, irrespective of what your spare time is used for, creates a sense of control and allows employees to produce better work.

Focus on staff well-being and support

For team members to feel valued, it is important that trust is the foundation of your work relationship. Popping over to a fellow employee’s desk is not always possible with hybrid working, so setting up regular one-on-one meetings to simply connect with your team and to check in on their wellbeing is essential.  This not only allows for trust and connection to be built but enables a clear picture of the team’s individual and overall performance. Well-being is becoming a trend with companies currently but it is necessary to live up to this promise. Try to check-in at least once a month or even more with remote workers if possible. This allows your employees to feel valued and motivates them to reach their full potential.

Encourage feedback & appreciation

Feedback goes both ways. To allow giving feedback, you should be able to take feedback as well. Working remotely, it can become quite easy to feel disengaged from the rest of the team or even the company. Feedback does not have to be positive but should be constructive.  When providing feedback, it can be done in numerous ways from peer-to-peer, manager-to-employee, anonymous or even public.  Feedback allows for team members to feel heard and assists in identifying issues or unnecessary tools or features that might cause production issues.  Feedback allows workers to understand what is expected of them and work on areas that need improvement.

Conclusion

The Covid-19 pandemic has fast-forwarded hybrid work conditions and companies did not have much of a choice when most of the world was placed in hard lockdown.  For some occupancies, this is obviously not possible but a lot of technology-based office work is able to function in a hybrid work environment.  This has compelled companies across the world to look at alternative ways of working. At first, scepticism and disbelief were huge concerns but this evolved into problem-solving a situation that is out of your control.  Currently, it looks like hybrid working is here to stay, so make the most of it.

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