Hybrid way of working: from foe to friend
- In a nutshell: Discover how we’re making the shift from a classic office-based workplace towards a hybrid way of working. Find out about crucial considerations you have to make when going hybrid.
- For who? For everyone who's responsible for teams and interested in organizational design.
Pre-covid times, In The Pocket wasn’t exactly the most remote-friendly company. We believed the office was our cathedral where the miracles of collaboration took place. To keep the miracles rolling, working from home was limited to 15 days a year: not exactly what you would call an abundance. The pandemic shook things up in a way we’ve never seen before, but at least it taught us how to do things differently. Post-pandemic, our way of working will never be the same.
Leaving the cathedral
It took a stubborn virus to suddenly chase us out of our sacred space, but we were persistent in keeping that special office spark alive. Thanks to boiler zooms, an optimal IT infrastructure, remote onboarding plans and an asynchronous communication strategy we managed to keep the magic going for the better part.
Working from home was a welcome change for a lot who experienced a never seen before focus. But for others craving decent coffee and even more decent conversations, their home office became a drag. As the lockdown continued, all colleagues started wondering how the new situation would look like. “Will we still be able to work from home?” became a FAQ during company zooms.
Discovering what our new way of working should look like has been an interesting ride. Working at the office and working remotely: we see the value of both options and that is why we decided to evolve towards a healthy, hybrid way of working.
How to hybrid?
The decision to opt for a hybrid model did not come out of anywhere, nor did it arise top-down. A survey was sent out to the entire In The Pocket Team and several workshops took place to assess what the future way of working ideally looks like.
For one, working from home was a blessing, for the other it was a curse. Our internal research clearly showed that there was a high willingness for both returning to the office as well as having the liberty to work from home.
Some big questions definitely needed answering. How can we give the freedom of choice to all employees, without losing that water cooler effect, company-wide cooperation, Friday beers and team events? And what about the team and tribe leads? How can we support them in their guiding role in this new situation?
As we started working on the rollout of our new way of working, we bumped into some topics that needed solving before installing a new, hybrid way of working. If we know one thing for sure, it’s that the devil is in the details.
The office as our home base
The first bullet to bite was deciding on our main operational base. Will we have an office in the future? Yes. Will we go back to the old ways? No.
Returning to the as-before situation definitely was a no-go, given the shared enthusiasm for a combination of working remote and at the office. This organisational resilience and flexibility are likely to be the future of not just our business, but of most other businesses too.
Our offices remain the place where colleagues connect, workshops are hosted, clients are welcomed and team brainstorms are all over the place. These real-life interactions are an integral part of our DNA, of our culture, and they are exactly what makes us the Digital Product Studio we are today.
No, we won’t be closing our offices or downsizing them, we just need to look at them through a different pair of lenses. Thanks to earlier investments in our office, we now see it as a venue with more room and opportunity for collaboration, brainstorming, flexible working spaces, closer connection with colleagues and even a room to make podcasts or to unleash any other
Team or crunch time?
Every individual in our company has the freedom of choice. Employees choose freely where they work. Their choice no longer depends on the company’s policy, but rather on the nature of their work. Is being physically present relevant? Or are we talking about some personal crunch time? Making the distinction between these types of work is a crucial step towards a
well-functioning hybrid environment.
In our case, everyone is expected to work at one of our locations for a minimum of two days a week, a suggestion made by our own teams. On at least one of these two days, the entire team will be present. These moments are perfect for more “qualitative” work that enhances the employee’s, the team’s and the company’s spirit. The “quantitative” work - more dedicated and focused tasks - remain perfectly possible from the home office. Naturally, everyone is welcome to spend more time at the office than the required two days.
Tuning in with the company
On a personal level, the advantages of hybrid working are crystal clear. But what about company level? Companies largely thrive on cooperation, information exchange and group culture. The same counts for us. That’s why we couldn’t neglect to keep the company spirit alive when making the shift to hybrid.
Our company culture is what makes us thrive. Making sure everyone is up to date with what’s living on a company-wide level, creates a crucial connection. Inspiring lunch talks, external speakers in our Arena, management updates, new releases and celebrations… It’s just something we want to share in person. We firmly believe these moments tie our colleagues together with what’s happening in the company. That’s why we decided to ask everybody to join us in the offices on these special, monthly occasions.
Our own hybrid Bible
This should go without saying, but when introducing hybrid working into your company, you need to have a set of clear guidelines and expectations for your employees. Taking into account all of the above, we internally wrote our own hybrid Bible to share with all our colleagues. Still, we keep a flexible mindset, always open for improvements and adjustments, because nothing is set in stone.
Shifting to a hybrid way of working only works if you’re willing to adapt your strategy, but it’s crucial to smother misunderstandings right from the start. Don’t just impose this new way of working, but explain the reasons for this changeover and let your employees know when and how the hybrid way will be implemented. Listen to their pains & gains and take time to evaluate and adjust.
Finding that sweet spot
Our journey towards a hybrid way of working has taught us valuable lessons. It’s easy to say that you’ll embrace the hybrid way of working in the near future, but actually making the shift requires a lot of thought and consideration. Don’t underestimate the impact your choices have on your business. Try to find that sweet spot between keeping the company culture alive and giving enough freedom of choice to your team. But most importantly: don’t be afraid to turn over your working culture.
We’ll let you know how we’re doing once we’ve started!