The Road to a Hybrid Workforce Future

Our recent Road to Recovery Roundtable series brought together leaders from across Australia, to share experiences and reflect on how we might best lead our organisations through these challenging times.

The discussions centred on how organisations can transition out of crisis management and select a path forward. It quickly became very clear that transparency and iteration are the core focus for the short term. Even so, longer term strategic goals are unchanged for many organisations – at least for the time being.

One of the themes that shone through the brightest was hope. All of the leaders that participated were impressed by the adaptability of their teams and organisations. People have become champions of change, not only stepping up to the challenge, but becoming more productive and humanistic.

Leadership styles have been challenged and rethought. The perception of what can be achieved in a work from home (WFH) environment has shifted dramatically.

Hybrid Work from Home

How do we maintain productivity over the longer term?

It seems like a hybrid WFH model is the long term path forward for most organisations. This hybrid model is typically structured as a scheduled roster of days each month in the office / workplace, with most work carried out from home.

It is also important to note that WFH is not necessarily the same as flexible work, and there are still many organisations where little flexibility is offered to employees, and further major adjustments may need to occur.

There has been a real recognition from leaders that teams should be managed based on outcomes, not presenteeism. Many organisations have actually seen substantial improvements in productivity as a result of the shift to WFH.

On the flip side, the current WFH model of working is combining with society-wide external stressors, and taking a significant toll on people’s mental health and wellbeing. It is clear that we should carefully consider people’s mental health and individual needs, while maintaining the positive changes that have been achieved.

Questions to consider when designing a hybrid model of working in your organisation:

  • From a policy perspective, what adjustments and flexibility are acceptable?
  • How does hybrid WFH impact work hours / shifts and productivity?
  • How do we build in appropriate mental health support?
  • How do we ensure equity and consistency of experience for people?
  • What does flexibility look like from a diversity & inclusion standpoint?

Seizing the opportunity

Accelerating innovation and making progress towards goals

Many leaders have indicated in our discussions that they see little or no change in their organisation’s strategic goals and key performance targets. But immediate priorities have clearly shifted, and pragmatism is the focus.

Leaders are still wearing two hats – balancing the triaging of basic operational issues under temporary measures, while working out how to course correct back to long-term strategy.

Rapid technology deployments and scale ups were necessary for many large organisations to maintain operations once government mandated office and workplace closures commenced.

While this was clearly a disruptive transition from an operational perspective, leaders almost universally indicated a “rallying to the flag” effect. Many leaders reported high apparent levels of workforce trust, collaboration, and willingness to adapt, as operations transitioned to WFH.

After the initial disruption, focus shifted from business continuity and temporary measures, to identifying the opportunities that these changes might offer.

One of the key positives from the disruption has been a shift in leadership decision making, and a re-calibration of risk management practices. Many leaders have now seen how rapidly innovations can be implemented within their organisation, and are now reconsidering what may be achievable.

Questions to consider:

  • Have our customer’s needs changed?
  • How fast can we make changes?
  • Which of our business processes need to change or be eliminated? Which adjustments should be prioritised?
  • How should management reporting and visibility be adjusted?
  • What workforce skills and capabilities do we need now?
  • Do job roles and classifications reflect current needs?

The Next Disruption

How do we transition to a new workforce reality?

A hybrid model of working has implications for all stages of the employee lifecycle. This is shaping up to be one of the most significant challenges in the road ahead.

Now that WFH is seen as essential by many in the workforce, how does this impact attraction and retention of talent? Will employee location become less important, and lead to increased opportunities for inclusion and diversity?

The realities of running temporary WFH models have already started to raise potential long-run workplace health and safety issues. Many organisations will need to also consider how WFH impacts remuneration, and workforce expectations. Now that WFH is not a “special case” situation, and applies to the majority of most workforces, policies which adjust remuneration based on employee location could become extremely difficult to justify, and counter-productive.

There are also challenges surrounding induction for new hires, and creating opportunities for team members to informally build social connections. The cross pollination of ideas between teams that occurs through social interactions in office environments can be very valuable.

It is already clear that many organisations have put these considerations on the back burner, and prioritised operational adjustments. There may not be easy answers for many organisations, and substantial amounts of HR policy and service delivery may need to be adjusted.

Drilling down to team dynamics, many leaders have already indicated that they have shifted to a much more rigorous schedule of check-ins with their teams and direct reports. It seems clear that this approach is proving to be effective for both team members and leaders.

Questions to consider:

  • What is your employee value proposition? Does it need to be adjusted?
  • Is employee location still relevant to your organisation?
  • Has your team / organisational culture changed? Does it still align with strategy?
  • How can we foster opportunities for less formal interactions and sharing between teams?
  • Will people who mostly (or entirely) work from home have lower feelings of attachment to an organisation, and higher attrition rates?

SpencerMaurice would like to thank all of the leaders who participated in our Road To Recovery Roundtable sessions. If you would like more information, please contact us at hello@spencermaurice.com or call on 02 8006 9790.


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