Hybrid working practices are here to stay. This seems to be the message from the recently published IOD survey of 600 businesses, of whom 60% plan to adopt hybrid working.
This survey, and others like it, show disparities between businesses as regards the pros and cons. Some report productivity increases, others that it reduces. Some report people thrive on freedom and control, others report loss of creativity and increased alienation.
Most of what is being discussed on this topic, in my view, misses the point. How reliable can it be to compare the experiences of the past year with what is to come? So far, the home working experience of most of us has been laden with fears, uncertainties, and extra problems, such as home schooling and home hairdressing to name just two. Take those away and add the freedom to congregate and come and go for reasons other than daily exercise and hybrid working offers huge possibilities for getting the best of all worlds.
The past year has enabled us to get the technology in place. Now we need to tackle the organisational culture and its support structure.
My biggest fear is that, as we go forward, hybrid workers are written off from promotion, either because they are viewed as ‘less committed’ or for the very real and practical reason that they are less visible. There is after all a precedent for this with part-time working which has often been viewed as only for junior levels.
To get the most from hybrid working for both the business and individuals, we need to put it at the top of the agenda for firm-wide discussion. Following the views of Edgar Schein, the recognised thought-leader on organisational culture, to change the culture you must talk about it, extensively, throughout the organisation with the aim of changing and aligning values, assumptions, and beliefs. At the same time, you must align what Schein calls the support structure, that is your people processes so they drive the new behaviours.
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©Janice Caplan 2020