Deep dive: Seven rules for ‘hybrid’ remote and office working

Tuesday 02 February 2021
When we do finally head back to workplaces and offices, managers and leaders should learn these effective lessons in remote, flexible and ‘hybrid’ working
Desk from above: with coffee, laptop, pens, mouse, notebook

There’s a chance that, come the spring of 2021, everything will just return to normal. Covid vaccines will be rolled out. City centres will fill up. Trains, skies and motorways will clog up. Pret will again run out of those nice duck rolls by midday.

But then that seems pretty unlikely.

“I think what we have learned this year is that we had a dysfunctional relationship with our workplaces,” says Bruce Daisley, a former Twitter executive and now a big-time business podcaster. “Commuting for an hour each way to sit at your desk answering emails – in hindsight that looks like an act of collective lunacy.”

Deloitte research into employees across seven European countries suggests that more than 100 million people in Europe have made the shift to remote working during the Covid-19 crisis, with nearly 45 million doing so for the first time. Many are not rushing to return to the office. Instead, employers are embracing “hybrid working”, blending on-site and off-site approaches.

The management challenges

CMI’s Management Transformed project has surfaced many of the management and leadership challenges that flow from this. To support that study, we’ve talked to a group of forward-thinking leaders about the emerging norms that they’re applying.

What’s apparent is that managers need to move quickly. Tim Oldman, chief executive of the productivity thinktank Leesman, warns of “sentiment drift” as the months wear on and employees struggle with fatigue, ever-changing rules, mental health issues and, often, an inability to switch off. “[Employees will be] expecting their employers to take the opportunity to make meaningful changes to the office environment that reflect their newly learned workstyle,” he says. “Inaction from employers now would be hugely harmful.”

And it won’t be easy. Leaders have a wildly diverse set of new skills to acquire: empathetic listening; cameras on versus cameras off in online meetings; whether to appoint a director of remote working (yes, this is apparently a thing).

However you decide to move forward, investing time and effort now will pay dividends in the future, because the new normal is almost bound to involve more remote working and less contact time in the office. So what are the new management behaviours that will be required? We’ve taken a deep dive into the future…

Want to learn more about the seven rules for 'hybrid' remote and office working?


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