When you think of a manager, you think of someone responsible for overseeing internal work processes, executing projects, and reporting on results while making sure their team feels supported. After a period of instability, organizations around the world have been forced to adapt and remain flexible to meet the demands of societal circumstances.
This transformation requirement is no different for managers. As their employees demand more freedom to choose where and when they work, managers will need to focus on removing three key barriers to employee autonomy in order to fit their role in the hybrid age: social pressures , health problems and unequal access to technology. . If they address these concerns effectively, the hybrid working model will begin to drive itself.
Employee autonomy should be encouraged
Jabra’s latest hybrid working research showed that 66% of workers with full autonomy to choose where and when they work chose a hybrid model as their ideal work week. However, only 57% were currently working on a hybrid model.
Of this 9% gap, 2% work in the office more than they would like and 7% work from home more than they would like. This raises some important questions: if these workers have complete autonomy, why aren’t they working their ideal work week?
Why do they work full time at home or full time at the office when they could choose otherwise? Here are some possible explanations, including top tips managers should consider to empower their employees to work in the way that best suits their lives.
Empower, don’t punish
One of the reasons why employees may work full time in the office more than they want is social pressure. It can be a very powerful force in the workplace. Although an organization apparently gives employees complete freedom to work wherever they want, a culture that says “you need to be visible in the office to progress”, whether explicitly or implicitly, effectively negates any degree of autonomy afforded to employees. employees.
Jabra’s new research also found that it was relatively common for employees around the world: 55% of them said they feared their careers would suffer if they didn’t come to the office regularly. Of those 55%, almost half (49%) cited the lack of transparency in how performance is evaluated as their main concern.
The solution? As a leader, if you want to allow greater freedom for employees, where employees have the decision to come to the office or work anywhere else, it must be made clear through both communication and action. that employees will not be unduly punished for not working in the office. A good starting point is results-based performance evaluation.
It’s been talked about for a long time, but it’s clearly not considered enough to make employees feel comfortable working in the way that works best for them. Another key step is to train managers on location bias, or the unconscious bias that leads to preferential treatment of those with whom they have the most contact time.
Employees often mirror the behavior of their leaders, so one of the best ways to show that working from home is okay is for leaders and managers to lead by example and do it themselves.
Communicate, update and reflect reality
One of the reasons employees may be working full-time from home more than they would like is that, even two years into the pandemic, the virus remains a major health concern for many workers.
40% of all employees worldwide say they are reluctant to return to the office because of Covid-19. Similarly, 55% are reluctant to enter a small conference room due to lingering anxiety surrounding the virus. Workers understand that a return to the office means increased exposure to the virus, and it’s a risk many are simply unwilling to take.
How do managers solve this? It is difficult for employees to exercise their ideal work regime if it is hampered by existential fears about health and well-being. To ensure that employees feel safe when they return to the office if they wish, leaders will need to continually update office health guidelines, reflecting local realities.
Managers should also advocate for spaces where employees can choose to work alone with limited contact with others. This way, everyone wins; employees feel their concerns are heard and addressed, and as a result, managers reap the rewards of a more engaged and productive workforce.
Building an inclusive technology ecosystem
Over the past two years, many workers have optimized their home office spaces with technology that allows them to thrive in virtual environments. Along the way, they received a lot of help from their employers.
In fact, 83% of remote workers say their organization provides them with the technology they need for equal and inclusive collaboration, no matter where they work. For full-time office workers, that number drops to 57%. In a world where work increasingly moves towards virtual environments, access to technology will be crucial to ensure job satisfaction, inclusion and success.
So, for hybrid work, the answer is twofold. If leaders want to enable employees to work under their ideal working conditions, they need to consider how to optimize their office spaces for employees who work primarily in virtual environments.
Likewise, they will need to provide employees with personal and flexible technology to access these virtual environments from anywhere. This includes identifying collaboration technologies that will allow in-office and remote employees to collaborate on equal footing, and that will enable employees to move seamlessly between these locations without feeling left out. Only then can employees truly work under a flexible arrangement on their own terms.
Autonomy does not lead to redundancy
Although social pressures, health issues and unequal access to technology all play a role in the potential imbalance of a workforce, thanks to the rise of hybrid working, there are indeed ways for managers to counter this. High employee autonomy does not make managers redundant. In fact, the role of a manager becomes even more vital in an organization where employee autonomy is high.
However, this role is evolving. Managers must take a proactive stance to ensure that the team culture is conducive to high employee autonomy.
Now more than ever, managers need to lead by example, demonstrating that working from home doesn’t get in the way of progress. They also need to take post-virus safety concerns seriously, putting guidelines in place to reflect local reality.
Finally, leaders must optimize technology ecosystems to make the most of our physical workspaces, providing professional equipment to facilitate effective collaboration. These three pillars are fundamental to being a good manager in the age of hybrid work.