Simon Phillips looks at the broad range of areas leaders must consider when implementing hybrid working – from cyber security to mental stability – and says that doing it well will reap benefits for you, your organisation, and it’s people.

If Home-working – the naked truth

In this article, I look at ‘Hybrid working – from cyber security to mental stability’ and share some practical suggestions to assess the current situation.

I’m not naked as I write this, but I could be. Admittedly, it would be a bit chilly as I am sitting in my converted workshop in the garden. Meanwhile, 100 miles away, a colleague of mine is probably walking her dog. Another is probably hugging a mug of coffee in the kitchen, contemplating her first meeting of the day. Working from home can be idyllic and whimsical. Equally, it can be isolating and stressful.

The mental health impact of enforced home-working, brought about by Covid-19, is significant. In a recent study, only a third of respondents had been offered support with their mental health (34%) from their employer. The study by the Royal Society for Public Health continues; “Home working is having an impact on people’s mental health, with 67% saying they felt less connected to their colleagues and 56% saying they found it harder to switch off.” The Change Maker Group has been writing a series of articles on ‘Hybrid working’ and you can find more here.

The Lure of the Office

An office setup is consistent. Everyone has a similar desk, chair and work materials. The start and end times are similar. The lunchtime routines blend into one. For you, as a leader, there is comfort in knowing who is where, what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. You can share news quickly, you can bounce ideas around sporadically, you can switch tasks and reallocate resources efficiently. Compare that to being the manager of a virtual team.

  • You organise an online team meeting, however, that will give you limited information when it comes to body language. (If cameras are switched on!)
  • To assess all the work underway, you have to call the members of your team daily – risking the accusation of micro managing.
  • Attune yourself sensitively to the emotions of the members of your team. This is not easy with limited information.
  • Facilitative communication between team members is vital, so they can reach out and support each other without constant interference. Create smooth communication channels by being involved.
  • Accepting technical interruptions and delays is a new competence!!! The digital infrastructure of a remote team, with varying levels of wifi bandwidth, is often unfit for purpose.
  • On top of all this, you have an expanded level of detail to absorb. You must ensure you remember the various appointments and interruptions your team are juggling as they deal with the nuances of hybrid working.

Small wonder you may want your team in the office.

 From Cyber Security – the Challenges

Effective IT, in part, enables hybrid working. I say, “in part” because the mindset of the leadership is the biggest enabler of hybrid working. However, when you, as a leader, commit to hybrid working, then all of the other aspects, such as IT, become challenges to overcome rather than show stoppers. Similarly, the very different environments created for home working is the obvious issue with everyone working from home. Some work in a designated space with great connectivity. Some others are in a different make-shift space every day, with little opportunity to maintain daily security routines. For instance. hybrid working staff face many challenges with IT, such as:

  • Lost hours resolving simple IT issues when if you were in the office, someone across the desk could answer the quick question. IT departments are becoming overwhelmed and many of the issues could be quite simply fixed.
  • New technology and new access protocols create an immediate barrier for staff trying to setup effective hybrid working.
  • Moving staff around, means that equipment is more easily lost, broken and stolen.
  • Switch on encryption, it is usually built-in to modern technology. Not doing so adds to the fear of significant cyber threats.

For more on this topic and useful guides on supporting your staff, see this excellent UK government guide.

To Mental Stability – A Complex Challenge

In other words, enable your people to adopt new ways of working without getting too stressed and overwhelmed. This is one of the biggest challenges you and your organisations face when trying to establish hybrid working. For many, the options are not great. If you are summonsed to the office, it means commuting to a building that may be either filled with people or relatively empty. The former may raise levels of anxiety about infection. The latter reduces morale and does nothing to enhance team working. You and your employees may experience a sense of isolation. This prevails because of some staying at home with the same technical issues mentioned above. And that is just the work location issue.

The much bigger challenges are on their way from across the Atlantic. “The Great Resignation” is affecting all types of organisation across the continent. Individuals have had plenty of time to consider what they want from life and consider “if they want to” keep working for their employer. Employers who fall short of empathy, care and career support are seeing people leave in their droves. For instance, I heard of one company in the UK that lost 10% of its workforce almost overnight.

Hybrid working – from cyber security to mental stability if you want it to work

Tune in to the seismic changes already in society already, and you’ll have a significant advantage in the recruitment marketplace. This can assure your success in the years to come. Being able to address all these issues in Hybrid working – from cyber security to mental stability are necessary for it to work.

If you’re a little behind the pace, and are researching “What is hybrid working?” Drop us a line. A truly attractive hybrid workplace with aligned processes, technology AND people strategies requires comprehensive culture change. If you haven’t changed yet and have no intention of buckling under the pressure from employees to be more flexible… it was nice knowing you!

Simon Phillips

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