A CEO’s New Hybrid Work Reality Amid Times of Uncertainty

Everyone is well over having to talk and write about uncertain times and the impacts of the pandemic.

But for CEOs, stumbling into a new year of uncertainty comes with the responsibility of navigating the new hybrid work structure and the impact that could have on the business and its people. New government guidelines across Europe as a result of new variants are bringing a pertinent question to the table:

What must we do to effectively adapt to a long-term hybrid work structure?

This adds significant complexity to question business leaders everywhere have been asking for years:

What will it take to be an employer of choice that retains staff and attracts new employees?

Here are some tips to help CEOs answer both those questions, and to support the change that needs to happen within their organizations: 

Don’t Make It All About Work

Feeling like your company needs to make up for the lost time is understandable, but that’s no reward for employees that have been working hard to keep the business going over the past two years. Rather than expecting 100% of work time to be all about work, make sure to provide opportunities for relationship building and team building, even if these must be digital interactions to replace water cooler conversations. If your staff has missed being around one another, allow for this to happen in a way that makes sense for them and for your business. A Friday drinks or trivia Zoom call isn’t the right fit for every company, and that’s fine. It’ll take some imagination, but create something together that works. 

Accept That Priorities Have Changed.

Many employees and job seekers have come to new decisions about what truly matters to them and what they need. The latest Digital Etiquette Study revealed that nearly one in every five global office workers want to be asked for their feedback on the way work and productivity have changed and that management is out of touch on these matters. 

CEOs and managers that truly want to avoid the “Great Resignation” will be prepared to negotiate individual and team agreements that balance the needs of the organization and stakeholders with those of individual employees — rather than try to make one size fit all.

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Work Done at the Office May Be Different Than Work Done at Home

“What this year’s Digital Etiquette Study clearly demonstrates is that while hybrid working is the way forward, there is still work to be done to maximize the opportunities that hybrid working can bring to both employees and businesses alike,” says Haighton-Williams.

So it is important to understand, first of all, what employees missed most about the pre-Covid work environment.

Here are the top three, from this latest research:

  • Working side by side with their team (31%)
  • Chance meetings with colleagues they don’t work with directly for social reasons (23%)
  • The ability to celebrate success / special events and give and receive recognition (20%)

Will your employees prefer to use digital collaboration tools from home vs collaborate with in-person meetings because that’s what they’ve gotten used to? How much team and culture building will your team want to see happening when they are finally working side by side and face to face at least part of the time? 

Will they want to accomplish different tasks from home than they do when they are at work? Some companies have already found out the answer to that is a resounding yes. 

A CEO’s best impact on their company’s hybrid work strategy will be to lead from the top with empathy, a willingness to listen, and the necessary agility to adapt to the needs of the staff as well as the business. Those are the fundamentals needed to design a work environment that makes the most of face-to-face and remote work hours.

“Good Enough” Isn’t Good Enough. Work Needs to Work Better.  

When a CEO asks for a report or the data necessary to answer a critical question to inform a business decision, it comes with the expectation of a rapid response. But this latest research shows that more than half (58%) of employees spend at least 30 minutes or more every day looking for information in digital tools and emails in order to get their work done. Nearly half of employees said their companies have too many tools and, worse, too many that do the same thing.

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You’d think they’d want fewer tools but, more importantly, when asked what they need most from the business, the top response (35%) was better tools, software, hardware to do required tasks. One in every five office workers wants to be asked about the tools they use for work. They want to be heard.

Since the old model of the majority of work being done in the office will never come back, a CEO must ensure the business has the right tools and processes in place so everyone can work well, regardless of where they are working.

Be Prepared to Negotiate

Employees understand that the concept of productivity has changed, whether employers are prepared to admit it or not. The pandemic proved it because the level of productivity was more or less maintained despite the fact that the 9-5 office workday couldn’t be maintained. Be prepared for the smartest, bravest, most proactive employees and job seekers to negotiate their work hours, KPIs and even their contracts accordingly.

The reality is, there’s no time to worry about the “future” of work. It’s already here. In the “now” of work, the best managers and leaders navigate a long-term hybrid work reality by changing how they view and measure productivity and performance. The best leaders will make work, work better, and they will reward for outcomes rather than inputs, tasks or time at the desk.