This week, Cerys writes about the emerging hybrid future of organisations and the challenges facing managers and leaders as they learn to both function and support others in the new hybrid world.

The Unbearable Lightness of Remote Working

The wants and needs of employees have never been so central to companies’ strategic decision making. To understand more about this emerging reality, Slack have founded the Future Forum, a new research community that they hope will help unpack the intricacies of our current predicament, stuck between the onsite, face-to-face old reality, and the 100% remote ways of working that are not yet operating as well as they could.

Companies would do well to keep the preference for a hybrid working environment top of mind, even as they plan for more months of remote work. The data reveals that 83% of those already working from home expect to keep doing so for at least the next three months. Given that most knowledge workers aren’t interested in returning to the office full-time, companies can start investing now in the hybrid environments employees prefer.

Their new Remote Employee Experience Index highlights five key elements of the remote work experience. Of these five (work-life balance, satisfaction with working arrangement, stress and anxiety about work, productivity and sense of belonging) the final element, sense of belonging, is the one that appears most negatively impacted by a remote-only strategy.

How do we encourage a sense of belonging? Whose responsibility is it?

Inspiration for Creating a Sense of Belonging

Increasing an employee’s sense of belonging isn’t a once-and-done effort, and with leaders and managers scrambling to complete their own work, getting creative and supporting others can feel like more of an overhead than ever. What we know is that teams need more than an overarching vision to connect to – with our span of control shrinking before us, it can be hard to escape day-to-day priorities for long enough to connect with a sparkling, bright, future state. Creating more purposeful interaction time – more 1 to 1 time, pinging people to have a coffee break – just like you would if you were in the office – all cater to that need.

Some groups are leveraging the experiences of video gaming to improve the sense of belonging and kick their collaborative meetings up a gear – there is plenty inspiration out there to be found if a team is so inclined, especially in open world game environments:

We need to work hard to counter the potentially bleak remote-only future predicted by commentators and analysts alike, reminding ourselves of the quintessential humanity of the workplace, whilst embracing a more technological future.

What Makes a Great Remote Working Leader?

One of the key shifts we are seeing right now inside organisations is in the recognition of what makes a good remote leader. And the list of positive attributes is significantly different to traditional models. This great read from Erin Casali shares not only the attributes in question, but crucially how to work on growing those attributes that are most needed in a remote or hybrid context.

The first is that the traits aren’t a continuum, so one doesn’t have to stop doing something that for them it’s working — which might be disruptive and challenging for the individual. The second is that part of the traits that work for in-person leads provide a good starting point to acquire the new traits more easily.

As we move from remote organisations towards hybrid ones, these attributes will need to blend, creating a new situational leadership tool box that everyone needs to have ready. Ready is better than perfect – of the many things 2020 has taught us, managers are learning that, however perfect, activities don’t matter unless they happen.

Inspiration isn’t always Shiny and New

Finally this week, an article that reminds us that some of the most thought-provoking, inspiring management thinkers are not always to be found in today’s organisations – an excellent summary of the work and influence of Mary Parker Follett, decades ahead of her time:

The simple thrust of Follett’s thinking was that people were central to any business activity – or, indeed, to any other activity. “I think we should undepartmentalize our thinking in regard to every problem that comes to us,” said Follett. “I do not think that we have psychological and ethical and economic problems. We have human problems, with psychological, ethical and economical aspects, and as many others as you like.”