As more businesses pivot to a hybrid working model, Lydia Kothmeier, Vice President of Operations at Storyblok, a headless CMS for enterprise, explores the pros and cons they have experienced by building a fully remote company, and how to make it work for your business. 

Commercially, there is no doubt that hybrid working makes sense. There are significant savings on office overheads if your employees work from home some of the time. It can also boost productivity levels, with numerous studies suggesting that hybrid working helps employees work better and quicker. 

Crucially, it’s what many employees now want. Employees have become used to deciding how, where, and when they work. They also have shown that they are able to manage their own workday. It gives them more autonomy, a better work-life balance and if managed well, raises engagement.

The upshot is that many businesses are now left mulling over the question – what exactly is the optimal hybrid arrangement? One that achieves structure and sociability on one hand, and independence and flexibility on the other.

Having operated on a remote basis since starting out in 2017, at Storyblok we are in the unique position of being able to provide first-hand insights for those seeking to take a mid-way step to the hybrid working model.

It sounds obvious, but to begin with it’s about ensuring team members have the right tools. 

Whether working at home, in the office or on the move, employees will need to be able to access their work quickly and easily wherever they are. Therefore, making the most of the latest technologies to maximise their output is essential. For remote workers, this may include better Wi-Fi, headsets and webcams. It is also important to consider the unique needs of each team. In the case of highly collaborative teams, such as design or product development teams, it can pay to take advantage of tools such as Slack, Notion and Trello which can help ensure a regular line of communication and that everyone is working toward the same aim. Another good tip for hybrid teams is to set up a laptop and webcam in the office to ensure remote team members are ‘there’ for all ad-hoc conversations during working hours and feel involved.

Next, it’s about maintaining the lines of communication. Here at Storyblok, it’s not uncommon, for example, for some employees to choose to work earlier, some later or take an extended lunch break. While we know this flexibility is hugely important for our employees, it is crucial that it is underscored with a clear framework of communication. For example, most teams will have a daily stand-up meeting to check in and update on key actions. This is supported with clear rules of engagement. Team members, for example, will know what type of questions or responses warrant an impromptu meeting and which ones should be diverted to an instant message or email, and who is responsible for what.  From the offset, it is important that these details are clearly defined and everyone is on board to ensure seamless collaborative and optimum productivity. 

This prevalence of processes cannot be underestimated either. In the absence of the traditional verbal and physical cues afforded by the physical office or chats over the watercooler, it can be difficult for employers to gauge state of play. To address this it’s important to establish and maintain regular processes such as monthly employee check-ins, performance reviews, annual reviews and even buddy programmes as a way to ascertain how employees are feeling, address any issues and keep development goals on track. This should be supported with regular company updates to ensure everyone is kept in the loop and feels impassioned to meet future goals.

Finally, it sounds obvious but it is crucial not to neglect team culture. Inherently, when your workforce is split between virtual and in-person, establishing a real team spirit and energy requires special attention. As well as virtual-enabled team building activities like Zoom happy hours and quizzes, it can pay to pencil in impromptu coffee catches, in-person on virtually, and make the most of each team meeting for catch up. It goes without saying too that in the rare chance that your entire team is at the office or at an event, how you use that time should be carefully considered.

Reduced cost. Happier employees. Productivity gains. It’s no surprise to see why more and more businesses are making the move to the hybrid model. Although this may initially require extra work and resources, amid an emerging digital world where the longevity of the  physical office looks decidedly uncertain, it’s an important step change which will help companies remain competitive and future-fit.

 

 

About the author

Lydia is the VP of Operations at Storyblok, a headless CMS for enterprise.