Workforce 4.0

How to Manage Hybrid Work

As today’s workers expect flexibility and balance, asking them to come into the office every day could be met with an outcry. That’s exactly what happened when JP Morgan mandated managing directors to return to work five days a week. Other companies, including Tesla, met similar fates.

Still, many workers appreciate the chance to connect, in-person, on occasion. As such, the hybrid workplace model is gaining momentum. To effectively manage these arrangements, companies must acknowledge their workers’ expectations and create a collaborative atmosphere. They’ll need to evaluate costs and the role of data. They’ll also want to set up a system that fosters ongoing communication and proper meeting structures to keep everyone informed.

Consider these best practices to manage hybrid work in today’s environment:

Understand Your Niche

Certain sectors that require face-to-face interactions may not be optimal for hybrid work. Construction, manufacturing, restaurants, theater, and hospitality generally need in-person presence to operate. For industries that can carry out many tasks digitally, the question may center on how much remote work to include. Asking employees for feedback and holding brainstorming sessions could provide valuable insights.

Know the Costs Involved

While office space must be leased or purchased for in-person work, companies may need to provide the right equipment for remote workers. This might include security features and stable internet connections, along with computers and cameras for online meetings. If regular face-to-face meetings are held, there could be other expenses related to conference rooms and refreshments.

Regarding data, there is a shift toward decentralized systems, which include upfront costs. With decentralized data architectures, data is not consolidated in a single, centrally-managed system. Instead, with decentralized systems, domains manage their own data and make it accessible to the rest of the organization.

For companies with in-person work environments, it will be important to evaluate migration fees and potential sponsorships. For startups or firms unencumbered by legacy systems, a cloud-based, centralized arrangement could work. This option cuts upfront costs and uses a pay-as-you-consume model, thereby reducing capital expenditure. Having a centralized management with a decentralized operational model could provide efficiency without significant financial commitment.

Create Solid Meeting Structures

To ensure discussions include both in-person and remote workers, it will be essential to have an organized structure and cadence for meetings. Managers will want to make sure that information is flowing through the proper channels. For instance, if in-person workers have a cup of coffee together on break, they might discuss an issue and come to an agreement on how to handle it. If remote workers are not included in the conversation, they may miss out on the decision. To avoid miscommunication, managers could hold regular meetings on a disciplined schedule, with an agenda and the right tools to keep everyone updated and well informed.

Look for Efficiencies

When it comes to shaping dynamically successful and efficient hybrid workspaces, three cardinal elements play a pivotal role: data accuracy, data availability, and the right stack of work and communication tools. Data accuracy depends on well-structured workflows. Data availability refers to having the right data available to the right individuals at the right time. Ideally, information needs to be continuously shared with the team well before a meeting begins, thereby minimizing the task of juggling multiple screen shares and different data chunks during the meeting itself. Post-meeting data from tools like whiteboards or mind mapping utilities can be immediately transferred into the operating system to increase efficiency.

Communicate Individually with Employees

By and large, remote workers will prefer to not be heavily supervised. They’ll likely crave the freedom and the chance to deliver work at set times. This gives them a sense of freedom and makes the focus of the work on results.

That said, regular check ins to see how team members are handling their responsibilities could be valuable. It will be necessary for managers to communicate regularly with employees to address any concerns they may have. Asking about team members’ wellbeing and addressing their needs could be helpful too.

Managing hybrid work arrangements effectively will largely depend on gathering the support of team members. If staff feel that they can set up a schedule that provides them the balance they seek, the arrangement could be a win-win. Workers will have the flexibility they crave, while organizations will have the results they need to remain competitive.

The Role of AI and the Human Factor

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has immense potential in optimizing hybrid workspace meetings. AI tools can analyze these meetings, offer insights about efficiency, and even discern the relevance of participants, ensuring that every individual's time is respected and used optimally.

While AI can improve productivity in hybrid work environments, the ultimate catalysts are the employees themselves. They are the human touchpoints that ensure smooth collaboration, optimal use of tools, and effective data usage. This integration of technology and human elements is what will drive future business success in an increasingly digital world.

Gerard Szatvanyi

Author: Gerard Szatvanyi

As a founding member and CEO of OSF Digital, Gerry has more than 15 years of experience managing start-ups and medium-size IT businesses and driving them to peak performance. With background in Enterprise Applications, IT Services and Consultancy, Gerry's impressive client and business portfolio sets him in the new breed for global entrepreneurship.