Leadership, structure and culture are key ingredients for a successful and sustainable hybrid work future, according to the “Leading the Next Hybrid Workforce” insight paper by tech company Dell Technologies.

The paper investigates the role of organisations in designing a hybrid work future and captures actionable insights and recommendations from four experts. The experts are Dr Julian Waters-Lynch, lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Organisational Design at RMIT University; management consultant Rochelle Kopp; Mallory Loone, co-founder of learning and engagement firm Work Inspires; and Dr Rashimah Rajah, lecturer at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, Department of Management & Organisation.

In terms of leadership, leaders have a defining role to play in assembling the building blocks of a hybrid work future.

They must establish fundamental and innovative changes in their organisations to move forward, yet demonstrate empathy and compassion towards the struggles their employees likely face – such as the lack of in-person communication and the blurred boundaries between professional and personal lives.

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Additionally, leaders must seek to establish trust with their employees and embrace an outcomes-driven mindset to avoid falling into the trap of micromanagement.  

“Trust is important for employee well-being and is strongly associated with high-quality performance, especially for more collaborative and complex tasks. [To build trust, leaders can draw on] the self-determination theory, which asserts that intrinsic motivation depends on three things: perceived automation, perceived competence, and sense of relatedness or belonging. Without them, employee performance will suffer,” says Waters-Lynch at a media briefing yesterday.

“With work today no longer anchored to a single place and moment in time, organisations must focus on outcomes and be ready to help their employees realise both their professional and personal roles effectively regardless of where they work. [This calls for leaders to] not only need to demonstrate empathy, but must also lead with intent,” says Andy Sim, vice president and managing director, Singapore, Dell Technologies.

To lead with empathy and intent, leaders should:

  • Make incremental changes to help employees adapt within a shorter time frame. Quarterly reviews should also be in place to ensure that their hybrid work strategy is closely aligned with the business, people and culture.
  • Focus on results and motivate employees to deliver their best work. They can do so by designing a system that allows managers and employees to work together to measure their productivity and tasks.
  • Stay close to the ground, encourage open conversations, and express care for employee needs – regardless of where employees are.

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Redesigning the organisational structure

The paper also encourages organisations to create a thoughtful hybrid work structure, instead of approaching hybrid work from an operational and technical standpoint and applying a one-size-fits-all model.

Leaders should have more open communication with employees to co-design an inclusive hybrid workplace that balances flexible working and regularity – in the form of dedicated time for team meetings, etc. – to preserve culture and social interaction.

They can do so by:

  • Partnering with employees to discern their individual characteristics, job scope and personal circumstances to determine the most suitable work arrangement for them.
  • Conducting open ideation sessions on an ongoing basis to allow employees to suggest changes, and enable the younger generation to contribute fresh perspectives and new ideas.
  • Redirecting the money saved on real estate towards new tools and devices that can help improve the hybrid work experience.
Making culture-building deliberate

Despite the advantages of providing work flexibility, experts cautioned against the risk of split cultures between home-based employees and those in the office, which may lead to tension in office dynamics and perceived imbalances between the two groups.

Organisations should therefore make it culture-building a priority. For instance, they can host dedicated and regular activities for social engagement, such as a team lunch or an interactive training session. This can create more opportunities for an organic exchange of ideas, and helps to foster trust and stronger working relationships between team members.

Waters-Lynch also highlighted the need to level the playing field by “ensuring the reward and decision-making systems keep up with the new hybrid work arrangement”. This calls for organisations to redesign the method of promotion evaluation and introduce fixed processes to ensure that all employees get regular facetime with their bosses and a platform to flex their skills.

With changes happening quickly, organisations also need to deliberately make learning part of employee engagement. They should explore the use of creative formats and platforms, and help employees understand how the new skills can help them do their jobs better.   

"Culture-building and learning have to be a deliberate effort to spark creativity, innovation and collaboration whilst remote working. To prevent the risk of split cultures between home-based employees and those in the office, organisations must also create opportunities to encourage an organic exchange of ideas and foster trust between team members through dedicated and regular activities for social engagement,” says Rajah.

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