Simon O’Kane, Head of International at Asana, explains how to build a sustainable hybrid working model that works for your business and your people
Over the past two years, many companies have shifted to a hybrid work model. Yet how we define this remains unclear and businesses can face very different outcomes depending on their chosen approach, from allowing staff to spend one day a week working from home to offering a fully flexible model.
‘Hybrid’ and ‘remote’ working have become familiar terms over the last two years, though it is important to acknowledge that these are umbrella terms covering a variety of approaches, each of which has its own nuances, for example office-centric hybrid, which requires employees to be in the office most of the time but allows them to work from another location one or two days each week.
At Asana, we are creating a synchronised office-centric culture, which adopts the best elements of hybrid work models. For example, we are evolving our No Meeting Wednesday into a day to work from home, paired with added flexibility on Fridays. By synchronising in-person collaboration and time needed for focus and individual flow, either at home or in the office, we are enhancing the value we get from both.
In contrast, a fully flexible hybrid model enables employees to choose when they’d like to work from an office and when they’d like to work from another location. It is this model that poses the greatest risk of creating status tiers and inequities between employees. For business leaders, it can be a real challenge to ensure the same opportunities are afforded to all members of the team regardless of their location.
Another option is the remote-friendly hybrid model, which places restrictions on remote working, such as specifying days when employees should be in the office or at home. A remote-first model, on the other hand, typically involves employees working remotely by default, either from their homes or elsewhere.
As a leader, it’s important to realise that there is a big philosophical difference between being remote-first and being remote-friendly; it is the difference between empowering employees to work remotely and merely allowing them to work remotely.
Effective team structure
Ultimately, every company will have its own individual solution to this complicated jungle of hybrid and remote work models.
Whatever approach you adopt, it is critical to have a coherent and effective team structure that aligns different teams and optimises transparency. Work management tools facilitate this by removing silos and keeping everything in one place. The entire team gains clarity on their individual roles, as well as insight into how their tasks contribute to a larger initiative.
Highlighting shared missions and goals is critical to team structure and overall performance. Goal setting helps to keep teams motivated by ensuring daily work is closely aligned with the wider efforts and achievements of the company and reinforces how an individual’s contribution positively impacts the success of the whole team.
According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work study, employees who are clear about how their work impacts their organisation’s mission are twice as motivated as those who aren’t. When everyone is motivated, organisations are happier and more productive places to work.
Through features such as goal tracking, work management tools like Asana can help individuals understand not just what work they are doing, but why they are doing it. They keep everyone moving in the same direction and working from the same source of truth; they stop individuals from feeling disconnected; and they help to improve team structure.
The wider issues
Though building a sustainable hybrid work approach is an important component of future working, we must not lose sight of other fundamental challenges, such as how to reduce ‘work about work’. Asana’s research shows that time lost to ‘work about work’ – tasks like status checks and unnecessary meetings – takes up the majority (60%) of the working week. The reasons for this are complex and varied but one common cause is a lack of effective work management.
Reducing ‘work about work’ should be a key priority for every business. To do it, business leaders and their teams should focus on strategies and work management tools that can provide clarity over everyone’s roles, responsibilities, deadlines and goals and, in doing so, give them more time to focus on the work they were hired to do.
In this context, the work management space can be used to ask quick questions without pulling the whole team into an hour-long status call; to provide better guidance on when meetings are necessary; and to reduce demand for them in the first place by ensuring that everyone knows clearly what work they need to do.
Hybrid working is a far more familiar concept than it was 24 months ago. Even so, many fail to recognise its nuances. Now is the time to connect with your team and identify the hybrid model that best suits your mission. By focusing on team structure and keeping sight of the wider issues involved in the future of work, organisations can be confident of striking the right balance and look forward to sustainable hybrid working long into the future.