How many surveys have you participated in or glossed over on the ‘return to the office’? My bet? A lot. Whether it’s internal staff surveys or LinkedIn polls, it seems that we’re all suffering from a Zoom-induced survey overload around the topic…
With the consensus unclear around the remote versus in-office preference, it seems that the only point we can agree on is that we don’t actually all agree on anything. The return to the office won’t be a simple or clear-cut journey as employers try to wrangle with the complex and bespoke needs of their employees' individual work preferences.
What we do know is that at least in the short term, ‘hybrid working’ is here to stay.
With everyone on a level playing field, getting full-remote or full-office right is easy. It is a mixed economy of both working in sync which can create inequalities between teams, ineffective collaboration and essentially, the worst of both worlds.
An effective hybrid strategy gives people the ability to do their work in the place that produces the best outcome for everyone: the organisation, for the customer and the employee.
We've put together our guidance on practical hybrid working strategies for 3 different company set-ups:
1) Hybrid with patterns at the whole company level
Optimised for: Inter-team communication
Perfect for: Fast-growing early stage businesses recruiting fast. (Pre-Series A), e.g. small creative businesses and consultancies
When you are growing a business at its early stage, my experience is that the off-hand communication and over-the-desk hear say can be extremely valuable. It’s not that your communication as a leader is not clear or concise enough, it is simply that everything changes very quickly, and every day brings new challenges and opportunities for learning about the customer, product and strategy.
Success in the early stage relies on an independent team empowered to move in a certain direction, unblocking issues at pace, and finding creative ways to do things that have never been done before. Remote working relies on information that is clear, concise and fully formed at all times. These foundations are simply not there for early stage businesses, and each team member is hugely important to the success of the strategic execution and culture shaping of the business.
A remote-first strategy in this dynamic is, in my view, dangerous, and companies at this stage should pursue an office-first approach with at least 2-3 days per week working together in person.
2) Hybrid with patterns at the project team level
Optimised for: Collaborative & creative teams
Perfect for: Stable businesses with project teams producing a creative output, and a high proportion of Creative Collaborators* e.g. publishing, media, advertising
Businesses that rely on their creative output to grow have found limitations on the success of their remote working strategies. On the one hand, it’s been fantastic for the “executing” side of the business, but on the other, the magic that happens with people gathering together to throw ideas around to kick off a new client brief, or marketing idea, just cannot be replicated on Zoom.
The key to building an effective hybrid strategy for this dynamic, is to ensure that you build flexibility around project teams are make sure office days are set with the whole team together, and collaborative meetings are set on office days.
3) Hybrid determined by roles
Optimised for: Recruitment diversification
Perfect for: More established businesses with a high proportion of Pattern Specialist workers (e.g. tech, finance with defined roles)
Plenty of businesses have a high proportion of their team whose work follows a specific pattern, process or structure that they are not responsible for changing. These businesses tend to be bigger with an established product and established execution practises.
Having certain teams located away from HQ is nothing new - from call centres to tech teams, off-shoring has been happening for years. COVID has massively increased the adoption of this approach and widened the net in terms of roles that qualify within this category.
Google plan to have 20% of roles as fully remote, carving out those whose work fits this pattern and distancing those from the hub of their office locations.
The key to success here is building infrastructure for these teams in a remote-first way, and not with an office-first mindset.
One area to watch out for is making sure your team is able to keep up with the early-stage disruptors who are collaborating and innovating fast. A fully distributed workforce may leave you behind.
At Kitt, we're helping a range of companies understand the hybrid model that works for them by ensuring their workspace is flexible, collaborative and optimised for their needs. If you want to learn more about how Kitt works, get in touch with our team or visit our website for more information.