By Peter Boolkah, a corporate, award winning business coach with over 30 years experience helping companies, here and in the US, scale up and grow.
The pandemic has forced organisations to re-evaluate the way they work, with many companies adopting hybrid working models. This means that employees are split between working from home and working in the office.
Government figures show that the proportion of people in the UK who are working to a hybrid model continues to rise, while the proportion of those working from home exclusively has fallen. However, implementing hybrid working is causing a headache for many large companies in the UK with senior leadership teams under increasing pressure to make it work. Implementing hybrid working can be a challenge for many large companies despite it being often beneficial for both employees and employers, because it requires careful planning and execution as well as having financial implications. Whilst there are potential cost savings to be made in terms of office space and overheads, there are also new costs associated with setting up remote working infrastructure and supporting employees in both locations. If preliminary decision making does not take these factors into consideration then it could have a significant impact on business growth.
Founders or CEOs may feel like they’re losing control over their team or that they’re not getting the same level of productivity from their employees. Another common concern that managers have about remote and hybrid working is that they won’t be able to build the same level of rapport with their employees as they would if they were in the office together. Suzi Read, director of talent development, diversity, equity and inclusion at Kindred Group, the online gambling company, told the FT: “People are fundamentally changed. A lot of organisations are underestimating what people have been through and [they need] the chance to take stock, to find out what their values are, and make sense of stuff.” That same FT article reported that more senior leaders in large companies are working with independent business coaches to navigate this change in the working landscape. This is because traditional methods of management are no longer as effective in the current climate. Hybrid working is not a one-size-fits-all solution which can mean more time and resources spent on management. Conversations which include financial and growth issues may need to be secured with help from an independent source such as a business coach. Business coaches work with businesses and individuals to create a plan and hold that person accountable. They also provide support and guidance along the way.
Many CEOs are frightened of letting go of the reins. They rely on presenteeism (being visible within an office setting 9-5 every day) as part of their management style. The danger is that refusal to adopt these working practices as a company could mean they do not attract the best talent for the job as there are so many other opportunities within most industries which accommodate this way of working. This gives your competitors an advantage. Undoubtedly, hybrid working can throw up problems when it comes to communicating with a team. It is important for CEOs to set clear expectations for both in-office and remote employees, as well as being available to answer any questions their team may have. A flexible management style is needed to support this more flexible way of working. Some employees may prefer more hands-on supervision, while others may prefer to work independently.
Figures show that outside of the US, Western Europe and in particular the UK is the highest growth market for business coaching with over 370,000 business coaches registered on Linkedin. Many CEO’s and leaders find it unhelpful to have difficult, complex and often confidential discussions with members of their team. Working with a coach to bottom out any issues relating to team core values can put CEOs and leaders in a stronger position when it comes to navigating decisions and having those conversations about managing hybrid working and productivity. Business coaches can provide a fresh perspective for dealing with the challenges that senior leaders face. They can provide guidance on how to build relationships with hybrid working employees and help manage them effectively.
Other key ways in which coaches can help CEOs and senior leaders navigate the hybrid working landscape is to enable them to develop a clear vision and strategy for their management teams, as well as providing guidance on how to effectively manage those employees, for example, who are spending three days at home and two in the office. Another one of the biggest challenges facing senior leaders currently is managing their own time and energy levels. Creating a healthy work-life balance is paramount.
The figures indicate that hybrid working is here to stay. Along with a difficult economy and supply chain issues, CEOs and leaders may find that if they fail to navigate hybrid working then it could have negative implications on the running of their businesses and subsequently their profit margins and growth.