Matt Fairhurst is sitting on steps and looking into the camera. He is wearing glasses and a dark T-shirt and jeans.
Matt Fairhurst. Image: Skedulo

Hybrid working: ‘Don’t assume all employees will react the same’

20 May 2021

Matt Fairhurst of Skedulo shares the tools and tactics he believes will help businesses transition to hybrid working.

Companies across the globe are preparing to return to offices. An Ibec survey released earlier this week suggested that almost 80pc of organisations in Ireland could be back in the office by September – but 81pc are expecting some form of hybrid working, with staff dividing their time between remote and office work.

But whether there are hybrid working arrangements, staggered lunch breaks or plexiglass dividers between desks, offices are bound to look very different to the ones we left behind more than a year ago.

With all this change, leaders will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them. Matt Fairhurst, co-founder and CEO of work-management platform Skedulo, believes that the right mix of technology, communication and flexibility will be key.

Here, he shares some of what he has learned leading teams across Australia, Vietnam, the UK and the US during the pandemic.

‘We’re not trying to go back to normal, rather establish an even better new normal’

What aspects of hybrid working might be overwhelming for staff at first?

At the core, the biggest challenge is behaviour change. People are creatures of habit and routine is vital. A shift to hybrid from 100pc at home to 100pc at the office is yet another adjustment.

Technology like high-capacity scheduling platforms can help manage yet another way to work, taking some of the guesswork out of where people need to be when. Automatically placing the right resource in the right place not only makes businesses more efficient, but also makes employees and customers happier.

When planning a return to a newly hybrid workplace, what are the most important things leaders need to keep in mind?

As with any new project, initiative or step change, leaders need to prioritise investments across the ‘people, process and technology’ methodology. Clear communication is essential, such as around why hybrid matters and what it means exactly.

Leaders also need to make sure employees are equipped with the right tools. Covid taught us a lot about what’s needed to keep productivity up; we need to make the best of the past year and build on it.

Remind employees of the efficiency and trust that comes from in-person meetings, physical whiteboard brainstorming and team building. We’re not trying to go back to normal, but rather establish an even better new normal.

What steps do you recommend leaders take to help their employees adjust to hybrid working?

There are several things leaders can do to help employees adjust back in the office.

That includes hosting regular all-hands meetings and Q&A sessions for employees to share their experiences, enhancing virtual or in-person happy hours with more structured group activities such as a wine tasting or a cooking class, encouraging an open, candid dialogue to build trust, and keeping the environment psychologically safe where leaders and their employees acknowledge one another’s vulnerability.

Don’t assume all employees will react the same to yet another adjustment. Recognise the fundamental differences between extroverts and introverts and leave room for their preferred way of being productive. Don’t force a one-size-fits-all approach; provide structure, but allow for flex.

Be mindful of cultural differences or preferences. As an example, our development teams in Vietnam prefer more time in the office than other regions.

Are there any specific technologies or tools that could help?

Try collaboration tools like Miro. Utilise video in creative ways using Loom. Keep people connected with virtual coffee chats using the Donut App in Slack. Experiment with ‘no-meeting’ days or audio-only meetings on Fridays.

While the pandemic has been painful in so many ways, we believe most businesses will actually benefit in the long run as a result. Entire industries have been forced to digitally transform in months instead of years, and the pay-off of those investments is still ahead of us.

Productivity has already surged for many companies as they’ve discovered whole new ways to work, and we’re optimistic there is more to come.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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