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I am pretty sure most would say yes but are you a real hybrid?

Many of us started working from home for the first time during the pandemic. This unique experience opened our eyes to the possibilities of the future of work. Fortunately!

It is a little sad that it took a pandemic for the world to see the benefits of hybrid work, but it is never too late. The world is reopening, and the global workforce making its return to the office. It may be no coincidence that having adjusted to working from home, many of us are wondering about the role and purpose of the office in the world today.

At Veldhoen + Company, we get asked many questions on hybrid work and return to work strategy. I would like to share a few views in this article with you based on our client experiences and learnings from other thought leaders in the field. Above all, we think about hybrid with a human-centric approach.

We recently participated in WORKTECH APAC 2021 where we spoke about Navigating Uncertainty in the Future of Work and Emerging Stronger from Disruption. There were also many interesting topics and learnings about hybrid working that I picked up from the conference. In particular, Jeremy Myerson, Director, WORKTECH Academy & Research Professor, prompted me to think and dive deeper into what would emerge more and more in hybrid ways of working. Additionally, James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, as mentioned by Jane Young, Director of Workplace Innovation & Experience, Smartway 2, deeply resonated with me on how tiny habits can become behaviours.

First things first – I jumped out of my chair with joy when I saw this slide:

Agile Space - Activity Based WorkingCredit: Jeremy Myerson Director, WORKTECH Academy & Research Professor

Endorsing Activity Based Working – what could be better for a true advocate like myself?

And the second jump out of my chair was because of this slide: Credit: Jane Young, Director of Workplace Innovation & Experience, Smartway2

Radical Transformation! Yes! 

Real hybrid is about:

  • Aligning the workplace with the workstyle.
  • Achieving the sense of personal control in choosing where and how you work best.
  • And focusing on outcomes instead of presenteeism in the office.

These are but some of the characteristics of hybrid work. They may sound simple but can be challenging to put into practice. However, we find that by adopting an activity based working approach towards hybrid ways of working, we can be better equipped to plan our activities in the most productive and efficient manner.

Now, what does Activity Based Working mean?

Do this exercise with me. Think about some activities you do over the weekend and put them down on paper.

For me, I am super excited as I will be going to the movies, spa, dog park and cooking my favourite Romanian dish, sarmale (cabbage rolls). If I think about these activities and categorise them into different buckets, I could group movies & dog parks under Entertainment, spa under Personal Care and sarmale under Cooking.

Work activities are no different. Some examples of how we can categorise them include:

High Focus: Heads-down type of work where we need to focus with no interruptions
Coordinate: Meetings with colleagues to align on the different moving parts of the projects and the updates on it
Create: Meetings with colleagues where ideas come to life!

So now, simply put, you can do a real Hybrid if you are aware of your different work activities and know how to choose the best place to perform them from.

If your current office does not have spaces where you can be alone and do uninterrupted work, but the home does, arrange to work from home whenever you need to do High Focus activities.

Say, your office has interactive rooms with post-it notes walls, moving boards and whatnots, get your colleagues in there for a great afternoon of brainstorming. There might be Miro and other online tools for individuals to brainstorm asynchronously, but we can all agree that the experience is not the same. In this case, choose to go to the office for Create activities. If you cannot make it in person, Coordinate with your colleagues to join online and make sure you participate as actively as the other ones in the room. You are in the room too, just not physically.

Many people find it challenging to coordinate activities and to accommodate fellow teammates on their schedules. However, the idea here is that by being aware of the different activities you need to perform, you prepare yourself to be in the right mind frame to organise them. Our brain naturally works like that! We crave order as chaos brings stress and a fight or flight response.

One of my favourite points in Atomic Habits is that it reinforces the idea of starting small, atom-like small, with habits that will, later on, become behaviours. This philosophy is similar to our training at Veldhoen + Company.

I will quote James Clear on the steps here:

  1. Make It Obvious 

James shared an example of placing healthy fruits in more obvious places to make it easier for the habit to form. In the context of developing certain work habits, choose a specific environment that is best suited for the activity, say a phone booth. Your brain will then be primed for the activity.

  1. Make It Attractive

By increasing the appeal or motivation of a habit, your brain will prompt you to perform it more often in expectation of the habit. For example, if you see a cake on the kitchen counter, you expect it to be a tasty and sugary treat. If you want to form a habit of exercising more, choose an exercise type with a positive expectation. Yoga does that for me, but not the gym.

When it comes to hybrid work, look at some of the work habits you want to form and start grouping them according to the types of activities. You can then coordinate with your colleagues and also think about the best places to perform them.

One helpful tip that works especially well for me is looking at my calendar and moving similar activities together, then up and down throughout the days and left and right throughout the week. (see example below). This way, it becomes clear on how the week looks. It makes it easy to plan when I could work in the office, meet with colleagues or do high focus work.

Example on Batching Activities

  1. Make It Easy

These all boil down to the idea of atomic habits – start really small, atomic! If you want to build a habit of doing yoga every day, you do not have to do an hour of it from the get-go. Just take your mat out and that’s it! This is why I love James Clear’s suggestions so much. I am now a self-proclaimed yogi, and all I do is take the yoga mat out every morning, look at it, smile and put it back – genius! Joke aside, he hooked me with this trick. I now do 5 or 10 min stretches and sometimes even longer.

So, how do you apply organising your work according to the different activities you perform and where to perform it best from?

Like I said, yes it is difficult at the beginning. You might even think that it requires too much coordination so why not just go to the office and let work come to you? The reason is simple. This practice is empowering. It allows you to take back control of your time to work effectively and live a happy, balanced life with your loved ones.

  1. Make It Satisfying

Behaviours that are positively rewarded get repeated; behaviours that are punished get avoided. You might just want to nudge yourself with some form of positive reward till you establish the habit and it becomes part of your identity.

So, how do we make being in control of how we work in hybrid ways of working, satisfying?

Well, for one, I enjoy the satisfaction of having a clear vision of my activities after I organise my work and agendas for the week. I can plan for personal time and chores easily. Things will only change if something important comes up. It is satisfying to be in control, knowing I am not a slave to work tasks that just come to me, but I am the boss of it.

And that is what Activity Based Working and Hybrid Work is all about – giving back the control to every employee to choose when, where, with whom and how they work best. By empowering them with trust and autonomy, we make it easy for employees to bring their best self to work.

Why is inclusivity an important consideration for organisations as they shift towards adopting hybrid ways of working? Read Hybrid Working and Inclusivity by Jon Gausden.

We have just launched our whitepaper On the Leading Edge of Hybrid: Lessons from the Australian Experience. Keen to find out how your organisation can embark on its transformational journey? Get in touch with me at sorina@veldhoencompany.com.

For more about this project please contact Sorina Catuna

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Eoin Higgins - Hybrid Through the Lens of Activities