Written by Heidi Wadsworth | 21st May 2021

21st May 2021

As offices slowly and safely start to reopen, employers will be thinking about the future of work. For many, this will be a mix of home and workplace – the hybrid working model.

If that is the case, businesses need to start planning now on how they will keep employees connected and stay productive in a hybrid working environment – remember that everyone will have experienced the last 15 months differently.

A third of employers now say working from home during the pandemic has boosted productivity, compared to just 28% in June last year, according to CIPD. So how do we keep these gains made while enjoying the benefits of getting together in person again?

The team at Reality HR thought it would be helpful to share some ideas to boost productivity in a hybrid world.

Communicate and set expectations

Communication is crucial for hybrid teams. Managers not only need to communicate with remote employees clearly and often, but they also need to ensure employees can easily communicate with each other – maybe thinking about a team build event using a psychometric such as Insights which helps understanding different styles using the 4 colour model.

Every employee of the company, whether they work remotely or in the office, will need clarity around their roles and responsibilities, and their working schedules (when they should be in the office or at home) to avoid confusion and conflict.

Schedule regular check-ins and one to ones to catch up with your team and see how things are going. This is a great way to see if your team needs extra support, have conversations around wellbeing and ensure that engagement is high – your extroverted team members may be more likely to verbalise what is going well and not so well but more introverted team members may be less forthcoming. Being able to adjust your style will help ensure that everyone is engaged and is comfortable being open in their meetings with you.

You may also want to rethink how you conduct team meetings. Having half your employees physically present in a conference room and the rest attending online may be uncomfortable for those at home. To improve the employee experience and have more productive team meetings where the whole team contributes, it’s best to have everyone attend virtually, even those in the office.

Use technology

Technology strengthens communication in a hybrid workplace. It can give teams constant access to each other and help minimise the gap between those who are in the office and those who are not. Otherwise, you could find workplace productivity plummeting as employees cannot work together effectively.

You should be able to continue using a lot of the technology bought in at the start of the pandemic. Any collaborative tools and software you use needs to allow for open communication and resource sharing. Employees need to be able to securely store important documents, track projects, and communicate with each other and customers consistently, wherever they are based.

Focus on achievement

As you can’t see what your remote team members are doing every minute of the workday, monitoring productivity can be tricky.

Also, in the office, just because an employee comes in early and leaves late doesn’t make them more productive. It may ‘look’ like they’re doing more work, but are they actually performing better than others?

Hybrid working should focus on the work done, ensure you measure (and celebrate) outputs and achievements rather than time spent on tasks. Some people will naturally work at different speeds and in different ways – most of the time it’s the result, not the process, that’s important. Also remember that different people are motivated in different ways – some will take satisfaction in the actual task being completed and others may feel motivated by supporting their team or delivering for the manager – neither is wrong or right as the results will be similar

If you create a culture in which you meet team members regularly to review progress, workload and update goals, it will keep their motivation and productivity up in the long run.

Don’t forget about wellbeing

There’s plenty of research that shows happy and healthy workforces are more productive and perform better. Employees that feel their best are more productive, committed and engaged in their jobs. They’re also more capable of dealing with the disruption of a new work routine.

In the longer term, hybrid working may support improved wellbeing through reducing commuting time and providing employees with more flexibility around their schedules, but you need to ensure this is maintained.

Keep on top of and actively push the wellbeing support you offer such as Employee Assistance programmes and Mental Health Leaders. Especially in the first few months of hybrid work as everybody is adjusting to the change.

Hybrid workplaces also present new challenges for equality and inclusion, which are two important factors in employee wellbeing, that can have a knock-on effect on productivity. Make time for fun, for remote and in-person teams, so that everyone feels included. You might host coffee breaks throughout the day or team activities once a week.

Make time for face to face

It’s a good idea to keep some sense of what the workplace once was. If possible, try to plan homeworking patterns to create days when the whole team are in the workplace together and avoid a situation where staff never see each other because different people are in the office on different days.

Don’t just think about work either. It’s essential to look for team-building opportunities and encourage employees to interact socially. Why? Building better relationships among your remote and in-house teams will benefit them when it comes to work projects – understanding different perceptions and approaches to decision making ensures that you maximise the skills of your whole workforce It will also build company culture and help employees working from home avoid feeling isolated and lonely.

Get the work/life balance right

We’ve all felt the struggle of balancing home life and work life when working remotely. Your employees at home may feel pressured to work overtime to prove they are working hard and get tasks completed.

If your teams are going to be working in a hybrid working environment, make sure they are having enough time away from work responsibilities, such as setting boundaries for answering work emails and encouraging people to take their annual leave. Managers need to set an example here and be seen to take breaks. Employees might want to consider going outside for short walks and eating away from their computers on lunch breaks to allow time to relax.

With the right support and procedures in place employees can remain productive and engaged no matter where they work. For further guidance on hybrid working, download our guide or consider our HR Toolkit which includes support from one of our HR Consultants. Contact info@realityhr.co.uk for more information.