HYBRID WORKING AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
Hybrid is on everyone’s lips as the new model of working, but actually working in a flexible way is no new thing. Since we launched Shine Offline in 2016 we’ve been supporting businesses who have introduced a flexible approach to work for their staff. Digital technology has enabled this flexibility and it got us through the coronavirus pandemic. And now that we’re working in a hybrid way, digital will enable us to continue doing our jobs, whether we’re working from the office, home or client side. Although flexible working has many benefits, both for employers and employees, it also comes with potential downsides. The technology that has allowed us to work in this way can also create unprecedented stress with staff finding it hard to put boundaries in place between work and home and use the tech in an efficient and effective way to maintain and develop colleague and client relationships.
TRUST AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY IS KEY
For this reason businesses need to ensure employees understand the need for healthy digital workplace behaviours, understanding of individual differences when it comes to working styles, personal responsibility for digital boundaries and an open dialogue so trust can be built amongst colleagues when they spend less time together in an office environment.
SMALL ADJUSTMENTS REAP HUGE BENEFITS
Since Covid, the team at Shine Offline have been busy helping organisations and their people make the necessary adjustments to digital habits to ensure performance, collaboration and the potential to rest are maximised. As we enter this new normal, there are very simple things people and their teams can do to take control of the digital technology that is central to their work.
HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME AT WORK
73% of people have told us in the past 18 months that they feel overloaded by their work technology – most work with their inbox open, instant messenger chat live and their phone on the desk throughout the day. Digital presenteeism, feeling the need to stay connected to work through digital communications, is a real thing and more prevalent in remote workers. This results in employees being distracted and not being in control of their focus and attention which impacts performance, collaboration and the chance to recharge. Encouraging staff to work out how they can manage their digital distractions during the working day to get focused work complete is essential. Spending home-based days working on solitary tasks without the distractions of the office seems like a good idea for most. But putting your phone on flight mode, working offline on email and starting to use do not disturb on instant messenger can be done whether working remotely or in the office to ensure people’s are able to truly focus and work at their best.
COLLABORATING WITH OTHERS
When it comes to collaborative work an obvious rule is to encourage team members to plan office-based days together to avoid wasted commuter time and maximise their time together. Great, but digital presenteeism and distraction can also impact this. With nearly two years having passed with colleagues not working side by side it’s imperative that team rapport is built on in-office days and people start to really learn from colleagues and managers and collaborate well together. The phones and laptops that usually accompanied people into meeting rooms pre-pandemic may be best left at the meeting room door if colleagues are to reconnect and build trust face-to-face. Most people suffer from what psychologists have coined ‘continuous partial attention’ and find it hard to fully focus at any given moment because of the digital distractions around them. With hybrid working video conferencing and other digital communications will still be used more than they were pre-pandemic. Colleagues still need to connect with each other when some of the team are at home and others in the office and video conferencing seems like the obvious answer. Having smart meetings, not too many, breaks in between, capping attendee number and being clear on meeting objectives will all help. But encouraging people to minimise digital distractions when on video calls will be a game changer to keep morale and team spirit up. We all know when our colleague is answering an email during a video meeting. So let’s be present with each other virtually on those days when we’re not sitting together.
REST IS NOT FOR THE WICKED
Digital presenteeism is paramount in the majority of employees’ personal time. 69% tell us their work life balance has been negatively impacted by remote working, with people working longer days and struggling to put boundaries in place for themselves and switch off at the end of the day. Open communication around this topic is vital if we are to make the most of a hybrid working style and avoid the potential for burn out due to an inability to rest. Understanding individual preferences for people who like to manage their work schedules in a non-traditional way; empowering people to own their own digital management and not be “on” because their colleagues are; pulling up those members of the team who habitually send non-urgent communications past 6.30pm. If we can bring some real consciousness to these behaviours and the impact they’re having then hybrid can work.
LEADERS MUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Managers must lead by example and take the time to think about their own digital habits and improvements and understand the impact their behaviours have in creating the culture of the team. Digital technology is here to stay and so improving the role it plays for us in our jobs needs to be top of the agenda for any business wanting to reach their full potential and care for their people.