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Hybrid work environment: back to the basics?

15 December 2022

Far from being a product of working from home, hybrid management has always been a reality for companies with several premises. But it has a new face in the post-COVID world, through its mass adoption, shaking up organisations and their managerial levels.

Hybrid management is not a new phenomenon

Since the 2020 lockdown, companies have become familiar with new organisational methods. Many have gained efficiency by giving their employees greater independence. Now used to the flexibility of working from home, teams are able to manage themselves in hybrid work environments, combining life at the office and work at home. But this gain in independence inevitably leads to changes in management. 

Although it has gained momentum with the spread of working from home, hybrid management is not a new phenomenon. All the companies with employees who work on several sites or have roaming jobs have always operated through hybrid management, because above all, it involves managing teams working remotely and asynchronously. A manager supervising employees who do not work at the same place operates in a hybrid work environment. Only, when life at the office was standard, this scalable team management just concerned a handful of them. With the increase in working from home, it has become widespread.

Hybrid management is based on techniques that many companies know. It’s not therefore the ‘exercise’ in itself that seems new, but its amplified effects and the proportion of the different rituals. Just as the number of managers concerned by this issue is increasing, companies’ smooth operation is coming to depend on it more. Employees are scattered which requires greater thoroughness in relations between managers and those they manage, with moments for discussion that should be more structured, formal and systematic, both for individual and collective meetings and for informal chats. Provided that you avoid the trap of meetingitis, organising these rituals enables you to maintain a close relationship, despite the distance.

The need to support managers

It’s important that companies support their managers in this new work organisation. In the best case scenario, they can expect efficiency gains. Although if they refuse to take on the challenge, they may lose efficiency. Whether they want it or not, hybrid management reveals organisational weaknesses: any lack of thoroughness or rigour in management may have very concrete consequences on employees’ daily lives (such as a lack of information, discouragement, loss of motivation, the feeling of being devalued, a tendency to disengage, isolation, a difficulty to disconnect, etc.).

For managers to maintain their teams’ motivation and involvement, they need to be able to offer a favourable environment. Yet, more and more often, the work rules are personalised according to each person’s needs. They are also constructed jointly by the manager and their team. Supervision is the manager’s responsibility, but it’s the company's role to support each person in becoming independent and taking responsibility, with total confidence.

How can companies adapt to hybrid management?

What means does the company have to promote the success of hybrid management?

First of all, the implementation of suitable tools, chosen to meet the needs of teamwork that is collective, remote and asynchronous. Thanks to their digital properties, these tools meet three fundamental needs that managers have:

  • facilitating the management of activity despite the distance (e.g. through better data exploitation to monitor projects’ advancement),
  • encouraging collaborative work (in particular by sharing documents and online versions)
  • organising collective meetings (remote, formal or informal).

All these tools supplement in-person interaction, like the friendly break at the coffee machine!

Employees must also take ownership of the tools so that they are used effectively. Here, one of the critical challenges is to avoid a digital divide within the organisation, with unoptimised use of tools, not because of a lack of willingness from users, but due to a lack of knowledge or skills. Furthermore, even hardworking users may need training, in particular when new features are integrated. 

Finally, the business culture is an essential driver to facilitate hybrid management. By clearly stating their values, companies offer their employees a reference framework enabling them to manage themselves. Individual behaviours and decisions therefore observe the organisational principles determined by the company, which is also a guarantee of efficiency. The communication of values is even more key for new arrivals who, although they can’t adopt the codes within the first days, are soon able to work from home nowadays.

Photo of Valerie Benoit, Group people Development at Manutanby Valérie Benoit, Group People Development at Manutan group

published by BEaBOSS, on November 22nd