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Getting the Hybrid Culture Right

Most businesses were used to having people in the office five days a week. Occasionally, someone would need to work from home when an electrician came round, or would need a day off at the last minute, but this sort of flexibility wasn’t the norm. Then, during the pandemic, this changed to five days a week at home for many office workers. Two years on, it looks like the ‘new normal’ will be a hybrid working model with a high degree of flexibility.

In early 2020, the sudden change to remote working had businesses focused on just trying to stay afloat. As we get back to something that resembles normality, a key question to ask is how can businesses keep the same culture and retain talent with a hybrid and hi-flex workforce?

What is hybrid working?

The Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) found that most employees want a hybrid approach, so businesses will need to look at implementing hybrid working to keep up with other organisations and to retain their staff.

This could mean some team members work from home while others work from the office, and this will change day-to-day depending on organisational and employee needs. More than this, these arrangements will need to remain flexible up until the last minute. With work from home requests due to self-isolation and meetings cancelled when someone needs a PCR test, employees now expect a high level of flexibility (hi-flex).

What are the challenges with hybrid working?

While hybrid working has clear benefits, it also makes internal communications, managing team workloads, and supporting employees more difficult.

Technology can go some of the way to connecting teams, but it isn’t a complete replacement for face-to-face interactions. It also blurs the boundaries between work and home, making it harder for your team to separate their work and home lives.

Why good management is important for hybrid working

The pressure is now on business leaders to maintain a good culture in the face of new challenges. This is where good management comes in. Managers are the link between the board and the employees. They interpret the business direction from the board and disseminate it to the team, serving as a dual role as the custodian of both culture and company direction.

Managers need the appropriate training to enable this hybrid and hi-flex culture. After all, culture is lived, not dictated, so a set of rules won’t cut it. Instead, managers will need to look at how they can connect individual leadership, team dynamic and the organisation as a whole to support their team and help them navigate the new environment.

It might be a cliché, but the only constant right now is change, so these custodians who hold together organisations need the right toolkit to ensure everyone can do their job.

To find out more about how Alliance Manchester Business School can help your managers and organisation navigate change in the workplace, head to the Manchester Leadership Development Programme.

Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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