Managing the hybrid of office and non-office work concurrently is the next challenge.
Success for companies and leaders in the next normal requires mastery of the hybrid workplace, one where opportunities, ideas, rewards, growth, and promotions are equally accessible to people working from anywhere.
Before March 2020, business culture was heavily slanted toward in-person, in-office work. Face time and being visible were keys to corporate survival and getting the best work. Employees in the headquarters of their companies had perceived and actual advantages. Working from a distance was a privilege that had to be earned and kept through extraordinary measures by employees.
Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic turned all of this on its head, and almost instantly, any work that could be done online went there. Knowledge workers laughed at bathroom Zoom calls and weird camera angles, but we are now as good at meeting and interacting on Web-based meeting platforms as when everyone was in the same virtual room.
Managing the hybrid of office and non-office work concurrently is the next challenge. Doing it well requires that you manage technology, discussion, and information.
A pandemic year of Zoom calls has taught us the importance of sound management, camera angles, and lighting. Check these when you return to the video conferencing (VC) rooms in your office. While you are at it, figure out how to vary the in-room images VC participants see.
If you don’t have or can’t get consistent access to VC rooms, approximate your own. Hook a combination speaker/microphone device such as a Luna Bluetooth speakerphone to an in-room computer. Then have every in-room participant: mute their microphone and speaker, dial into the video conference, and keep their camera on. Continue to encourage participants outside the room to keep their cameras on as well.
The small talk in a meeting room as people are gathering and departing is wonderful. Unfortunately, it is also maddening for remote participants who just hear noise. As an alternative, actively facilitate small talk that includes everyone. If you have established a section of your video conferences for this purpose, keep it. If not, start one.
Actively seek participation from participants outside the room and rotate presentation and facilitation responsibilities. Do so in a way that allocates time and responsibility roughly equal to the split of in-office and away from office participants.
Despite your best efforts to ensure all sharing happens in the meeting, some hallway conversations and meetings after the meeting are inevitable. Summarize and share anything that comes up before the meeting at the start of the meeting. For conversations after, make sure the key points are summarized and shared via your preferred collaboration tool. The use of agendas and meeting minutes was critical for in-person meetings, it is even more so for hybrid meetings.
Despite the success of virtual work during the pandemic, powerful company leaders have proclaimed that remote work is an “abomination” or that “everyone needs to get back to the office.” You can join them and require everyone to come back to one of your offices, and hire only people willing to work in one all the time. Or, you can access more talent and send positive messages about the flexibility and humanity of your culture by mastering the hybrid office. Which will you choose?