How to Make “Work from Anywhere” Work For You
When you have some employees in the office, others at home, and the rest somewhere in between, extra thought and care needs to be taken to ensure the culture is consistent for everyone. Leaders will need to create, foster, and nurture the employee experience regardless of where people are working by implementing a well thought out hybrid working model with technology at its core.
Why? Because giving people the freedom to choose where they work boosts effectiveness and commitment to the work.
Reconnecting in a Remote World
With a workforce that’s closer to family, culture has always been crucial at Arcane. But with over a year on the WFH books and 38% of our employees hired remotely, the natural connection and relationships that are built in an office environment have taken a hit.
When you’re working remotely, it takes extra effort to build the same kind of connections and be embedded in the company culture. And once some people start coming back into the office, it won’t be as easy a fix to get them working together as it once was. The key will be all about “intentional leadership”.
Based on research and studies on human connection, one of the most important factors of a relationship is proximity. The people we see the most and interact with frequently are the people we tend to feel the closest to. You can see, then, how a hybrid working model could suffer when some of the team is working together IRL and some is dialling in from a distance. That’s why leaders need to carve out time to ensure their team members feel close, connected, and engaged, whether they’re in the office or not.
Easier said than done? Maybe. But these four tactics are a good place to start.
Leaders who want to be sensitive to employee needs or challenges can sometimes go too far in providing “space” for them to work through problems. While people certainly need empathy and understanding, they also need to be accountable to results and own their work. Accountability is key to an effective culture because it reminds people that their work is important to the company and their peers.
Purpose has always been key to organizational performance, but with a hybrid work from home model, it’ll be especially critical. In the office, people can feel the energy of being together. Something as simple as running into a colleague to chat strategy has the power to build a common sense of purpose. Some of this may still occur virtually, but it’ll be drastically impacted as the nature of Zoom meetings decreases the potential to discuss items outside of the virtual agenda.
Leaders will need to be intentional about articulating purpose, ensuring people feel their work is connected and necessary to the success of their team and the organization as a whole. This is imperative at Arcane, since we work in Squads. We will need to remind people often of mutual dependencies because these will be less obvious if teams aren’t in the office together to collaborate and talk through the client work.
Closely related to accountability is the topic of fairness. If people don’t have a sense of equity, they will quickly lose the motivation to succeed and be engaged in the work. This dynamic is also especially important when you’re nurturing a hybrid working model. When people aren’t in the office, they may not have as many opportunities to learn about the goings-on of the company. So, building a hybrid culture may require more communication about how work results in outcomes that are fair and equitable.
It will also be important to ensure you’re not unintentionally setting up “have” and “have nots.” For example, if some members of the team come into the office more than others, be sure they’re not favoured or have more access to information than others. On the flip side, if some people are away from the office more, ensure they’re not perceived as getting more of the technology advantages that will help them connect.
While “working remote” may be an accurate description of where someone is working, you don’t want to inadvertently communicate that they’re a “remote” teammate or that the team isn’t unified. Leaders need to be sensitive and inclusive about how they refer to team members and how they are treated.
When people aren’t in the office, they won’t have the automatic opportunities to pick up on what might be going on in the company through hallway conversations or water cooler chats. As a leader, be sure you’re keeping people up to speed, sharing constantly, and making a point to ensure your hybrid working team members are in the loop about as much as possible. This openness is a primary ingredient of trust, which is critical to constructive cultures and a committed team. A distributed-first structure will challenge us to improve our communication and collaboration practices, processes, and tools.
The most important thing to realize about a hybrid working model is the intentionality and effort necessary to maintain culture. Nothing will be automatic, and it will be nearly impossible to have a positive culture by default. Culture has always been a challenge to strengthen and sustain, but with hybrid work models the level of difficulty will be increased many-fold. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it to grant employees the freedom to work in the environment in which they thrive the most.