As I noted in a recent ‘Tuesday Tip’ on Workology Co’s socials, the rise and rise of hybrid working arrangements has absolutely been one of the Very Best Things to come out of the pandemic. IMO.

However, this little workplace culture nerd is becoming increasingly concerned at hearing stories of organisations  latching onto the concept of hybrid work and thinking that by introducing it to their teams, they automatically move up the scale towards good / great or exceptional workplace culture.

Spoiler alert: they don’t.

Let me give you some real life examples.

My mate Mac works in a Business Development role that he started in during one of Melbourne’s long lockdowns. He hadn’t had an opportunity to meet his colleagues IRL until earlier this year. His new manager came on board late 2021, and despite being in the same city, Mac is yet to meet her face:face. Despite many requests to do so.

Because his manager prefers to work from home almost full time.

Just last week, Mac messaged his manager on Monday asking for some time to workshop ideas ahead of a client meeting Mac had scheduled on Thursday. Mac never heard back from his manager till after the meeting. 

Now if they had been in the same office one day that week – there’s a quick conversation in the manager’s office, via the proverbial water cooler, or even on a mutual walk to get coffee. Issue sorted.

What is missing in this scenario (apart from a probable lack of leadership training)?

Meaningful connection.

Which is one of the two crucial ingredients that ideally go hand in hand with hybrid working arrangements.

Humans crave connection at any time, but most especially after the last two years.

Which means if you are offering your employees a hybrid working environment, and especially if you offer a ‘remote first’ work environment, then you need to make sure you are helping your employees to maintain meaningful connections.

Oh and BTW, meaningful connection does not look like requiring all team members to be in the office 2-3 days per week – which they then spend on non-stop zoom meetings.

The other crucial element is flexibility. Measures like a four day working week to help employees maintain ‘work life harmony’. 

Case in point: this is one of the features offered to attract and retain staff (against the backdrop of an industry wide skills shortage), introduced by the newly minted AFR best Aussie place to work, InDebted.

Feeling a little pale at the idea of offering a four day week? How about starting with considering flexibility as a general principle.

Flexibility has tremendous benefits for employees, including reduced burnout and greater job satisfaction. HBR

If your employee wants to take a half day off to attend their kid’s athletics carnival (perish the thought, but apparently some parentals love this kind of stuff), then the answer should be ‘that’s cool’ – because you trust them enough to complete their tasks at another time.

Because yes, I know, one of the things that frightens you the most about flexibility, especially when combined with remote work, is the fear that your employees won’t maintain productivity to the level you require it.

But as Harvard Business review says:

To increase flexibility for employees without losing productivity — or sanity — managers will need to think differently about when employees work together, who works together, and how to share information and with whom, all while being careful to stay abreast of any changes and rapidly communicating changes in priorities.

Which in a neat segue, brings us back to the earlier point about meaningful connection.

How might this look in practice?

Well here’s a little infographic I prepared earlier to answer that question. Because as you, Dear Reader (said in my best Julie Andrews aka Lady Whistledown voice) know, I proudly hold the self-proclaimed title of Infographic Queen.

Oh and in case you are wondering, these infographic hacks include real life ones that AFR Best Employee Experience 2022 winner, Vistaprint, recently introduced.

It would be remiss of me not to mention boundaries in a blog about remote work. The risk of employee burnout is at an all time high, and what is one of the leading contributors?

Yep, you guessed it. Employees not maintaining boundaries between work and personal life. After all, it was so much easier to switch off from the day’s work when you used to physically leave the workplace. 

That’s not so easy to do when your laptop is sitting in the middle of your home, singing its siren song, until you inevitably answer the call and sit down to do ‘just another half an hour’.

Who are the people who should be championing maintaining boundaries?

No, not (just) HR. ALL leaders, from the Executive down, need to be clearly corralling those personal boundaries. Followed by ensuring they are sharing their stories of how they are doing just that.

Once organisations adopt some or all of these measures to ensure meaningful connection and flexibility within hybrid working arrangements, well then my friend, that’s when the magic happens.

Your culture is now on its way up the culture scale, inching closer to ‘good’ or maybe ‘great’.

Need some help moving your culture up the scale? Well good news for you – that’s exactly what Workology Co is all about.

Here’s where you can book in time to discover how we can help you do just that.