Three years on from the pandemic, which accelerated the move to hybrid working, many organisations are revisiting their approach.
Some organisations maintain the great hybrid working experiment has failed and are demanding a full return to the office, often facing significant resistance from workers who have enjoyed the benefits.
Others have shifted to an entirely ‘work from anywhere’ (WFA) model or have given up significant amounts of office space. Meta, owners of Facebook, WhatsApp and more, recently paid £150m to be released from an office lease arrangement with British Land, recognising that hybrid working – for Meta at least – is here to stay.
A more significant number, however, are beginning to formalise their approach to hybrid working. The short-term arrangements established in the peak of the pandemic are being revisited and new arrangements and agreements are being put in place.
At the time of the Pandemic, Change Associates’ research report, How to Make Hybrid Working Work, proposed ten ways to introduce and embed hybrid working.
In this new series of blogs, Anne Broome revisits and updates these ideas for organisations looking to revisit their hybrid working arrangements for the long term.
And the first idea concerns how organisations manage the change in any existing arrangements.
Treat any change to your hybrid working arrangements as a change programme
The introduction of hybrid working in the face of Covid was a necessarily rushed affair in many cases. The fact that so many of the schemes worked so well is a testament to the adaptability of many businesses.
However, given there is less urgency in revisiting hybrid working for the long term, there is an opportunity to reintroduce and embed the idea using solid change management techniques.
But before I start, it’s worth establishing what we mean by Change Management.
One more time, what is Change Management?
This is my preferred definition
“Change Management is the structured use of processes and tools to support the people side of change in an organisation. A change programme drives the successful adoption of change and increases employee engagement and satisfaction.”
So the focus is on the people side of change in order to secure a successful outcome.
Change Management and hybrid working
The introduction of hybrid working will impact employees in a variety of ways; from where they work, to how technology is used, to how they work and interact with managers and peers. It might even encompass changes to when people work, providing the opportunity for some to choose to perform their roles outside of traditional working hours.
Applying Change Management principles will create a structured approach that will enable the successful implementation of these changes.
Research from the Corporate Research Forum (The realities of the new working environment) shows that organisations are struggling to persuade people to return to the office. According to LinkedIn research, more than a third of UK workers have said they would quit if forced to return to the office full-time.
It is crucial to engage employees in such a significant change to how they work. A change programme will create a structured approach to introducing hybrid working; helping change leaders to understand employee motivation, regional variations and business requirements. This helps tailor approaches to the needs of different groups, which in turn bolsters adoption and support for the change.
According to Prosci’s benchmark study of 2,000 change initiatives, effective Change Management gives a 95% chance of success, while poorly managed change projects achieve their desired outcomes only 16% of the time.
The Microsoft Work Trends Insight report found that employees who feel their companies use employee feedback to drive change are more satisfied (90% vs. 69%) and engaged (89% vs. 73%) compared to those who believe their companies don’t drive change.
And the employees who don’t think their companies drive change based on feedback? They’re more than twice as likely to consider leaving in the next year (16% vs. 7%) compared to those who do.
The creation of an overarching change strategy will address both what needs to be in place for the change to happen, and how to win support for the change.
The Change Associates approach to Change Management has 8 areas of focus:
1. Case for change
The Case for Change defines the compelling reason(s) for the change at the beginning of a project, including key measures of success. Clarity on why an organisation is changing to a hybrid model and what success looks like will ensure alignment both amongst its people and to its strategy. It will also provide the foundation for other change activities such as consistent communications.
2. Stakeholder Management
Structured stakeholder management identifies who the key stakeholders are, understands their level of influence and support, and takes action to improve support. The level of support and understanding of an updated hybrid work policy is likely to vary across stakeholders. Senior Leaders will be crucial to its success, through supporting the rollout and modelling expected behaviours; therefore, it is necessary to understand their current views and practices in order to plan relevant activities (e.g. leadership alignment discussions or coaching).
3. Change Impact Assessment
The Change Impact Assessment is used to identify and analyse the impacts that a project will have on the organisation and the individuals within it. A change to the hybrid work policy will impact individuals and teams differently across the organisation. Not everyone will have the same drivers and priorities for working from the office, home or another space. For example, research shows that junior members of staff prefer in-office working, driven by the desire to connect with their managers, senior leaders and gain on the job learning, as well as the more practical factor that they may not have the necessary space to work comfortably from home.
3. Change Plan
The Change Management Strategy & Plan outlines the approach to change management and summarises everything that must be done to ensure the change is successful. As with any change project, the plan will form a crucial tool in managing the change to hybrid work; providing a clear roadmap for stakeholders, ensuring the resources are available to achieve the change, and creating accountability for activities.
5. Communication plan
The Communication Plan outlines the key communications activity for the project to prepare the organisation for changes. Effective communication of a new hybrid policy will be a crucial element in ensuring the policy is well understood and well received by employees, ensuring the right messaging is shared at the right time in the right way. To build engagement, communication should be two-way and include opportunities for feedback from employees.
6. Change Readiness Tools
The Change Readiness Assessment provides a framework for assessing both how capable the organisation is to implement the change, and how prepared individuals are to adopt it. Understanding any resistance to proposed hybrid working changes, as well as practical elements (readiness of workspaces, technology solutions, processes), will allow an organisation to plan relevant remedial activities.
7. Training and Upskilling
The Training Plan outlines the key training deliverables and timings required
for implementation. In preparation for a change to the hybrid work policy this may include line manager training to provide guidance and practical tools for the way they manage a hybrid team, including performance management in a hybrid workplace.
8. Benefits Delivery
Focus on achieving the benefits of any change ensures identifying measures of success and robust tracking of progress. Following any change to hybrid working, it is important to track benefits and celebrate successes. Tracking a set of pre-determined KPIs, which could include retention, employee satisfaction and productivity, will allow the organisation to monitor the success of implementation and take corrective action if required.
We find that applying this structured approach above for any change results in more successful outcomes for our clients. It is particularly relevant when adapting an existing hybrid working model because it places winning the hearts and minds of those affected at the heart of change.Talk to us about helping you change your approach to hybrid
1 Work Trend Index Special Report. Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong? Sept 2022 and What have the past three years taught us about hybrid working?. The Guardian, March
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