Article

The “new normal” is not a foregone conclusion. Hybrid collaboration must be actively designed.

When and whether the Corona crisis will ever be completely over, no one can say yet. But its effects on the world of work are already visible. A year-and-a-half of home office work has changed people – it’s given them more freedom, self-determination, and personal responsibility. What initially looked like “pandemic pragmatism” now seems to be ushering in the “New Normal.” This is because the mindset of employees and managers has been subjected to a natural process of change and, for many, a new understanding of work has emerged. A return to the old normal is hard to imagine – not least because withdrawing trust already granted and stifling newly acquired competencies would be counterproductive and result in demotivation. And this reality is reflected in current studies: according to the “2021 Work Trend Index” by Microsoft, 73% of those surveyed would like the mobile working option to continue into the future.  

With the above in mind, companies should be open to their employees’ wishes, as well as welcome and promote hybrid collaboration as a future form of working. Of course, new areas of tension and challenges arise when all employees are no longer physically in one place. But this change also offers enormous opportunities. That’s why now is the perfect time to rethink old ways of working and to actively shape a new, better normal. Forward-thinking companies already understand this – for example, 66% of executives surveyed by Microsoft said their companies are already preparing offices for different work models and will enable hybrid working. 

 

Embracing a holistic view of the world of work is now more crucial for companies than ever before. Only in this way can they establish a “New Work” approach as well as a generally positive and motivating work experience at all levels. Change should therefore take three factors into account: a “New Mindset,” a “New Toolset,” and a “New Skillset.”  

 

1. New Mindset

Man and culture

A common attitude offers orientation

2. New Toolset

Space, Processes & Technologies

Creating optimal conditions for hybrid collaboration

3. New Skillset

Further Education & Trainings

New competences as “New Work Booster

1. New Mindset: A common attitude provides orientation. 

At the People & Culture level, an essential question is: How or to what extent should the desire for home office, or hybrid and self-determined working, be met? Does it make sense to give employees complete freedom of choice, or are department-specific or company-wide guidelines and benchmarks for the proportion of office work and home office necessary? This is where areas of tension often arise – because the personal needs of employees must be reconciled with the intentions and goals of the company. Which is why, at this point, it is important not to think in black and white, but to consider all needs as comprehensively as possible and take them equally seriously. For example, in teams that work in an environment where regular and creative exchange is crucial to success, different guidelines may apply than in teams with predominantly concentrated, individual work. A universally applicable guideline is almost impossible in this instance. Rather, a shared attitude should be cultivated – along with transparent frameworks for action and decision-making that provide guidance on how to reconcile the needs of individuals with the company’s goals. Above all, it is important that everyone understands what motivates the given scope for action. Open, transparent, and honest communication to and with employees should always accompany decisions. It should be clear whether new draft concepts are about focusing on the needs of employees – or whether the company’s desire to better control employees or save on office space costs is behind them.  

 

2. New Toolset: Creating optimal conditions for hybrid collaboration. 

Spatial, organisational, and legal issues offer further important perspectives on the topic. For example, there might be lack of clarity as to whether more home office also means less office space and what the ideal environment for hybrid working should look like. However, the frequent assumption that office space can be reduced if employees no longer work entirely in the office is deceptive. That’s because, on closer inspection, space requirements have merely changed rather than gone away. If we assume that focus work will tend to take place in the home office in the future, then there will be a greater focus on interaction, collaboration, and exchange in the traditional office. Thus, in the future, a business will probably have to provide fewer individual offices and standard workstations and more creative areas and meeting spaces of various kinds. But companies will also have to pay attention to the home office – where it is particularly important to prevent damage to health that might be caused by a lack of proper workplace equipment.  

Working in flexible, hybrid work environments also places new demands on work processes and structures. For example, more frequent coordination meetings are becoming necessary, as there is no opportunity for natural team exchange and knowledge transfer in the office. To create clarity on availability, it is advisable to set guidelines on the use of appointment calendars such as Outlook or the active use of status functions in communication tools such as Teams or Zoom. With rules of the game for hybrid collaboration established, answers to the diverse questions and challenges of employees can be provided and transparency created.  

 

In the hybrid world, standard procedures become particularly important: the right technologies and tools must be in place to support productive collaboration and optimally integrate all participants. In the future, large screens, cameras, and powerful speakers will be needed in all meeting rooms to properly bring virtual participants into the space. Mobile, large screens can offer optimal flexibility here. With the right selection of tools available to support communication, sharing, creative collaboration, and onboarding hybrid teams can create “almost real” togetherness. 

 

3. New Skillset: New skills as a New Work booster. 

Hybrid collaboration is far from a “no-brainer.” Doing something new also involves changing old habits and behaviours. This takes time – and know-how. New knowledge and the skills needed to deal with more freedom and responsibility, operating in new spaces, and using innovative tools and technologies in the change process are therefore of great importance. They enable employees and managers to fully exploit the potential of New Working methods and spaces and, critically, to live New Work successfully. 

All the above considered, at workingwell we do a lot more than support our customers within the framework of our consulting services in the areas of cultural development, change support, strategic workplace analysis and consulting. We also pay particular attention to the transfer of knowledge and the development and expansion of necessary competencies.

workingwell academy: Building the right know-how for the working world of the future

Our workingwell academy offers a comprehensive training and coaching programme focusing on New Work, New Culture, Deep Work and New Leadership.

In order to gain a fundamental understanding of the success factors of the working world of the future, we are currently offering our customers training courses on the topic of hybrid collaboration. Get yourself and your team fit now and get to know our versatile training offer: