Managing in a hybrid world needs clear leadership

Managers hoping for a return to ‘normal’ after the Covid-19 challenges have found themselves dealing with a whole new set of issues around hybrid working.  For the best part of two years, many managers were working in a primarily virtual context – it wasn’t easy.  But somehow, this new world of combining office attendance with WFH is proving even harder.   We know that some organisations are already on their third iteration of ‘hybrid working’, having typically gone through a) top down instructions about attendance in person, b) leaving it to individual teams, and c) realising that without some organisation structure many younger and/or newer employees cannot fully engage with the culture, colleagues or a career path within.

Furthermore, when each team is working to their own plan, it is likely to increase the ‘silo’ effect, and reduce collaboration between teams and colleagues.    It is vital that leaders and managers understand the risks of having teams operate independently, and that all colleagues see the importance of contributing to company culture, not just sitting at home with desk work.

Managers may find some of the conversations about WFH vs Office very challenging, for what looks reasonable to an individual can be problematic when played out across a team and an organisation.

To equip managers well, they need to have a clear view of what the organisation needs and is perfectly entitled to expect from colleagues.  This means clear written communications from leaders to the workforce that layout the full expectations of being an employee, and why that may mean that individual requests for WFH may not be possible all the time.

Without the backing of written expectations, managers are left having to formulate answers for themselves, which will inevitably lead to inconsistency, feelings of unfairness and even accusations of discrimination.  Alongside the written expectations, managers will need support to determine good hybrid solutions, as well as oversight to ensure they don’t simply choose the hybrid mix that suits them personally.     Whatever route your organisation goes down, leaving it to local managers to define and implement their own hybrid working patterns without proper leadership guidance and expectations is asking for trouble.