Leading the next Hybrid Workforce Model

(Photo by Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)

Leading the next hybrid workforce model

Leadership, structure and culture are the three critical imperatives to redesigning the workplace to a hybrid model, according to a Dell Technologies report focusing on organisations in Asia- Pacific and Japan (APJ). In the “Leading the Next Hybrid Workforce” paper, four experts from Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore shared their insights for the future of work in the region.

“With work today no longer anchored to a single place and moment in time, organizations must focus on outcomes and be ready to help their employees realize both their professional and personal roles effectively regardless of where they work. While eight in 10 employees across APJ expressed readiness for long-term remote work, there are still a number of factors that need to be addressed,” said Jean-Guillaume Pons, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Client Solutions Group Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China, Dell Technologies.

While remote working is a common phenomenon globally, its manifestation in the APJ region varies from highly prepared – as is the case with Malaysia and Singapore, where technology adoption is high even before the pandemic. 

While Japan, only 20% of employees work remotely due to their deeply ingrained traditional work norms, such as placing importance on being physically present in the office, a heavy focus on manual paperwork,  and having unspecified job descriptions and duties.

Yet, going hybrid is poised to be an inevitable outcome in an intra-pandemic world and changing expectations of younger generations shaping the future workforce. As such, businesses have to be intentional and mindful in constructing and nurturing their hybrid workplace.

Are Hybrid work models sustainable?

“Now that we’ve accepted the fact that this is our new reality, the question is: how do we ensure that our hybrid work models are sustainable and set up for long-term success? Employees will be looking to their employers to help them redefine what the future of work looks like. In turn, the decisions made by organizations today can have a drastic impact on productivity, culture, and wellness,” Pons wrote in the report which drew actionable recommendations from Mallory Loone, co-founder of learning and engagement firm Work Inspires in Malaysia, Australian RMIT lecturer Dr Julian Waters-Lynch, Japan-based management consultant Rochelle Kopp, and NUS lecturer Dr Rashimah Rajah from Singapore.  

“There are three things that we need to make hybrid work successful. The first is leadership – what kind of signals are leaders sending to give employees confidence in a hybrid work future? Secondly, structure is essential as we cannot have flexibility without structure. The third point is culture, because as teams work remotely, we need to dedicate time and effort to building culture and trust between managers and workers and between employees,” Dr Rajah said in the report.

Here’s a quick briefing on the three core foundations for a successful and sustainable hybrid workforce arrangement:

Imperative 1: Leading with empathy and intent

A top-down and a more personal approach is required from the leaders to establish clarity, confidence, and trust with their employees to navigate the challenges of the shifting work landscape and the blurring boundaries between professional and personal lives. Go forward with a big vision, but start small with near term wins and a focus on output, not input. Take a leaf out of the start-ups’ playbook where the leaders work closely with their employees in the trenches allowing for more direct contact and guidance. 

Imperative 2: Creating a thoughtful hybrid work structure

Scrap the notion of having a one-size-fits-all model and seek the employees as co-designers of the hybrid environment. Understand their preferences and needs by giving them a platform to weigh in on shaping their future workplace. Channel budget towards new tools and devices to assist the employees in assimilating and adapting to the hybrid office.

Imperative 3: Making culture-building deliberate

It is better to devise a thought-out strategy to minimize the risk of creating split cultures between those working remotely and in the office. Make learning part of the engagement to preserve and spark creativity, innovation and collaboration. Level the playing field to eliminate perceived imbalances between the two groups and plan a budget for effective team engagement and ideation. 

With that said, the hybrid workforce model is still pretty much in its infancy stage for some organizations, despite the pandemic enforcing remote working conditions since early 2020. For organizations, they need to understand that hybrid work is no longer an option but a necessity in today’s tech driven world.