Over the last 24 months we have experienced so many rapid changes in the workplace. Flexible working, pandemic, jabs, RAT testing, and social distancing have all become part of our everyday life and vocabulary. These changes have highlighted the importance of skills such as empathy, adaptability, resilience, and the newest contender – welcome Hybrid.
According to Michael Brennan, Commission Chair of the Productivity Commission, the Commission found that after lockdowns and working from home “a hybrid model is tending to emerge as the model that many workplaces are gravitating towards because it combines the best of a bit of physical interaction with some of the flexibility from working from home some of the time.”
So, what does the hybrid working model mean for our leaders and what are the new challenges they face?
Pre-pandemic, hybrid leadership was defined as a style of management that blends the best of traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ leadership styles. It focused on developing leaders’ emotional intelligence alongside their business acumen.
In response to the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the workplace, hybrid leadership has evolved to encompass an even more diverse range of attributes to help managers get the most from employees in remote, in-person, and hybrid teams. In short, hybrid leadership requires a new range of tools and skills for our leaders to effectively manage dispersed teams.
Whilst during Covid-19 lockdowns, we saw workplaces where all / most staff worked from home for the entire working week, a hybrid workplace is likely to be one where employers and employees choose when and where they work with some employees co-located in an office whilst others are working remotely from home. This can create an ‘us versus them’ attitude, creating challenges for leaders when it comes to communication, team dynamics, engagement and coordination.
Hybrid working can also impact company culture. Doug Palladini, Global Brand President at global sports lifestyle brand – Vans recently discussed the impact of hybrid working on his organisation. He said that his company has lost something by being run through videoconference and written notes. Palladini said that before Covid-19, the company’s in-person culture was palpable and effusive. Everyone could feel the energy. “When you’re on Zoom, you cannot. It is not the same thing. The feeling of separation from the company culture, has been the biggest loss.”
Our leaders in this new hybrid world will need to be able to drive performance without close monitoring and supervision – this requires clear expectations setting and trust. Communication is key and incorporates new communication tools such as Slack, Trello and Teams that can be updated at any time and encourage clear communication and collaboration in teams without having to rely on team meetings.
In a hybrid world, meetings may be considered an antiquated concept, meetings will only happen when there is a strategic reason for them and some organisations may introduce ‘no meeting days’, encouraging employees to embrace communications tools such as Teams and Slack. No meetings days prevent heads-down work from being disrupted. Recent research undertaken by MITSloan uncovered that the optimum number of meeting-free days is three days in a week, leaving two days per week available for meetings; for two important reasons only; maintaining social connections and managing weekly schedules. Data showed that by having 3 meeting-free days per week, Employees were 73% more productive and 57% less stressed – statistics which are simply too significant to ignore.
In recent research on hybrid leadership in the USA, leaders highlighted a ‘hybrid paradox’. While in-person connection is becoming less frequent in a hybrid workplace, people skills are becoming more important than ever. The best leaders listen, show empathy, allocate more leadership time to team management and coaching, enabling people versus control, and invest more in building a culture that reaches out of the traditional office and into people’s homes.
As the workplace continues to evolve in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, so must our leaders. It is important that they are equipped with the right skills and tools to provide effective leadership in this new hybrid world.
Marana has recently been working with a number of clients providing leadership skills for the Hybrid Workplace. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you.