1. Nicole, what values and what kind of corporate culture are important for a successful hybrid work model?
For a hybrid work model, the values of trust and reliability are particularly important. I need to have confidence that my employees will work reliably at home, even though I'm not standing right behind them looking over their shoulder. I have to be able to count on them to do the tasks I give them and to which they have committed. So the employees have a lot of personal responsibility.
What I also think is important is transparency in the company. Information is shared publicly. There are companies that record all meetings and write down all information to make it accessible. It's also important for people to be open, to always be able to share how they are doing right now as an employee and what their needs are. That's much harder to do when you only see each other on a screen or in person once in a while. We noticed this especially during the pandemic.
Also flexibility and experimentation are crucial. Most companies have not yet found the definitive solution, everyone is experimenting. This mindset is important for testing and finding the right working model for the particular situation and company. Then, it can also be adjusted again if it doesn't feel good or achieve the desired results.
2. What skills do employees need to develop in order to work hybrid successfully?
Digital communication, which is mostly written, is very important in hybrid working. Based on studies, we know that the tone of voice is misjudged in 50 percent of e-mails. This means that, especially in the beginning, you first have to get to grips with all the written communication that is increased by hybrid working. Especially at the beginning, employees can learn a lot in order to use the written form profitably for themselves.
Great self-management skills are also important for employees. Especially when working remotely, I have to be able to organize myself well: When do I start, when do I take a break, how do I motivate myself, how do I get help and support? I also need to be able to reflect on my own work: How am I doing? What do I need, what bothers me, what would I like to change about my situation?
Then there is digital social competence. Since I'm not in a room with my colleagues, I need to be able to express myself digitally and use the appropriate tools to do so.
3. One buzzword of many when it comes to New Work is New Leadership. What does leadership need to pay attention to now?
What I find most important in New Work and New Leadership is humanity, that is, closeness and connectedness. That means actively engaging with my employees as a manager, maintaining contact and asking how people are doing, what they need, where they can use help. It's difficult to establish this closeness via the computer screen. But it can be done, with the right tips and tricks, and you can really get a lot out of it, not least trust.
For successful remote leadership and closeness with employees, for example, leaders can use a check-in as an introduction to any workshop, meeting or conversation with an individual. To really find out how people are doing, what feelings they are there with, employees can share a personal or professional update at the beginning.
However, specific questions can also be asked at the beginning, but the word "good" should not be mentioned as an answer. The mood can be described instead with, for example, a weather condition. Managers should act as role models themselves and lead the way with their own open updates. Especially in a virtual context, too little is said about emotional and human needs.
In addition, results must be given preference over input. In the old world of work, people looked primarily at input. It was merely important that the employees were in place. What came out of it was not so important. Now there is a positive reversal!
Sensitivity to cognitive bias is also very important. For example, there is what is called "proximity bias," that managers unconsciously prefer the employees they see working in the office. They are therefore cognitively closer to them as opposed to employees who work in a home office. The latter are up to 50 percent less likely to be promoted than those who sit in the on-site office. Managers in particular should be aware of these cognitive biases.
4. How can I make the change to a hybrid working model sustainable and in such a way that it lasts for a long time?
In contrast to classic change management and top management, which previously determined the way of working, the change is now made in a participative, iterative and collaborative way. Small steps, everyone working together and experimenting to find out what works and what doesn't. Successful experiments can have a significant momentum effect and be adopted for the whole company.
The purpose is also important: why do we want change in the first place? Do we want to be better, faster or more profitable for our customers or do we want to be more sustainable, more efficient internally? Do we want to make the world a better place? What is our actual vision? These questions in particular are insightful so that every employee can make sense of it.
5. Now there are many stumbling blocks to the hybrid work mode, as you nicely summarized in an article on GoBeyond. Of course, if these issues are recognized and addressed by companies, that's ideal. But often they are recognized by individual employees. As an employee, how can you deal with this or how can you initiate a culture change?
The most important thing in this process is to communicate and share observations with managers. As an example, there might be a situation where all the hybrid meetings are missing out on home office employees, they are not being listened to. Even as an individual, I can effect change by sharing this observation and it being talked about. In an experiment, the current situation can be determined and together the team can think about how this can be changed. Therefore, if there are problems, I should not immediately resign, I should first consider myself, what bothers me, how could this situation be changed and how can I communicate this.
6. Where do Swiss companies stand in terms of hybrid work culture? Who are the pioneers, who are the laggards?
In Switzerland, hybrid work culture is handled very differently. Novartis or Swiss Post, for example, announced early on that employees are free to choose their work model (in consultation with their teams). They can specify where and how often they want to work remotely, which I find very progressive. Then again, there are other companies where a maximum of one remote day per week is allowed. For the company in question, this is already a step forward, but a very small one. In many Swiss companies it is the case that two or three days can be worked in remote mode.
I think that from now on hybrid working will be the most common model. The biggest difficulty is with companies that need their employees on the front lines, in production, in personal contact with customers and suppliers. More and more people want to work in a home office, so there will be a lot of need for discussion around hybrid working culture in the future.