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How businesses can maximise the effectiveness of hybrid working and facilitate growth in home workers
June 15, 2021
As more restrictions are being lifted in our day to day lives, many of us are now looking to our offices and workplace for guidance over what’s coming next in the return to normality. While most workers have been enjoying the flexibility that has come with homeworking, discussions on LinkedIn are suggesting that workers are feeling coerced back into office working.
But, is there a place to meet in the middle?
At ClickThrough Marketing, we’ve decided that a hybrid working model is here to stay. We want to support our employees with their work life balance and mental health and, as part of that, we are committed to fully flexible working in the future, with people working from wherever they feel most comfortable and most productive.
We do recognise, however, that the switch to remote working over the last 15 or so months has led to some challenges, particularly in creative and fast paced industries such as marketing. These include an increased difficulty in collaboration between teams, challenges with levels of creativity (with teams being apart and not being able to bounce ideas off each other) and calendars getting over filled as 5 minute over the desk catch ups become longer Zoom meetings.
For some businesses, addressing the challenges that have come with homeworking may seem easiest by simply ending employees’ ability to work outside the office. But, with careful planning and communication with employees, a hybrid model can be adopted to work for all. In this article I'm going to detail some of the ways we are working to tackle these challenges ourselves.
For us, we feel the role and purpose of our office space has completely changed. We no longer need to fit as many desks as possible into our office to avoid taking on additional space, so we are changing how we use what’s already available to us.
As a result we're looking to do is invest in our existing office space to ensure it's completely set up for collaborative working on those days that people do choose to be in the office. This includes far more collaborative working spaces, flexible working areas and just generally trying to make it a more inspiring environment that’s exciting to visit.
Businesses should accept that people don't need to be in five days a week anymore. However, by fully maximising the space they have available, brands can still maximise the “office buzz” for when employees do drop into the physical office, and pick up that boost of creativity and inspiration that will still be felt in the days when they're working remotely again.
Supporting a hybrid working model goes beyond making the most of your space. Businesses can adapt their working practices to support hybrid working and ensure employees feel supported wherever they choose to work. We have launched several of our own new working practises to try and support people during hybrid working and help to maximise their effectiveness, ensuring everyone working within the business is happy, and we’re maximising our output.
In order to help support people in building relationships between teams we've launched a buddy system for new starters. This helps them navigate working life at ClickThrough, give them someone they can talk to outside of their team and helps them build relationships across different team functions which has become increasingly difficult in a remote world, as those impromptu office conversations aren’t happening as frequently.
We also encourage our teams to run and use masterminding and ideation sessions in order to help foster a team ethos to problem solving and encourage people to, again, expand their network and invite opinion and influence from other members of their team in areas of the business. This is a great way to use a hive mind to solve challenges, despite not always being together in one place. These sessions consist of people sharing their challenges to the group and group members discussing different solutions.
We've also seen some fantastic results from using breakout rooms in larger zoom meetings. These give attendees an opportunity to participate and make them far more interactive whereas, previously, Zoom meetings with the wider business were becoming a little stale, with people just being talked at for lengths of time they’d rather be doing work in. They are a great way to collate opinions and get input from a broad spectrum of people within the business, along with putting attendees in groups they wouldn’t normally interact with.
Change Your Expectations
When people are in the office, we encourage them to make the most of this time and therefore coordinate with other channels or client teams to be in at the same time and to ensure as much of their day as possible is free from regular scheduled calls and meetings to allow them to work together and collaborate. Though some employees have fed back that they don’t always feel as productive in the office as they do at home, this time being spent talking to their colleagues and building a rapport face to face is still a valuable use of their working week.
While working within an office usually encourages natural screen breaks, working from home can mean being absorbed into your computer screen without distraction. Emphasising the need to still take plenty of fresh air breaks lays down the expectation that they are not at their desks all day, and they are still getting the break and refresh they need to produce great work. One way to incorporate this is to have walking 121s (using a good old fashioned mobile phone!) away from computer screens to get some much needed exercise, fresh air and a break from sitting at your desk. It also has the added benefit of being less formal, and helps team members be honest and open with a manager they may not see very often.
It's also important to remember that in the new world of Zoom and Teams meetings not every member of the team will feel this confident and comfortable to just speak up in front of their peers so we encourage our meeting moderator's to use the “raise hand functionality” in Zoom and in Teams to allow those that possibly more introverted and less confident to speak up in a busy discussion to still be able to give their valuable input into a conversation. Quieter members of the business shouldn’t have their voices go unheard simply due to a move to digital working.
To summarise, I feel that a shift to flexible or hybrid working has been a real success for us as an agency and something we will continue to embrace in the future. A move to hybrid working was a serious shift compared to our old office practices, but the measures above have ensured our team get the most out of their working day, and that we’re not in the position of feeling forced to summon the team back to the office on a permanent basis.
Chris Roberts is ClickThrough Marketing's managing director. He originally specialised in search marketing at The Search Works, Tradedoubler and Phones4u, and has since been focused on client and employee performance, operating at iProspect before joining ClickThrough Marketing in 2019.