The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in China towards the end of 2019, and the worldwide spread of the virus in 2020, forced changes in companies’ operating models. Severe restrictions hindered onsite work. Today, despite it being possible to return to the office, employees prefer – at least in part – to work remotely. For organizations, the new conditions mean new challenges. So how can the effectiveness of hybrid work be ensured?
Remote work and the organization
When employees swapped the conditions of office work for their own homes, it turned out that it was much harder to achieve good cooperation. In pre-covid times, shared space supported numerous social and business processes within the organization, including by facilitating the flow of information. People were conveying messages to each other more effectively not only by formal means, but also through natural, day-to-day interaction.
The formula of remote work meant that face-to-face meetings were ruled out. Gone were corridor conversations, the exchange of information at the desk, and discussions over lunch. It also turned out that hybrid work – as a compromise between work in and away from the office – did not solve the problem. It brought about the phenomenon of asynchronous communication, while the processes of information flow, exchange of knowledge, and transfer of experience suffered severely.
Problems not only with communication
Colliers decided to check what problems the forced and increased proportion of remote work had entailed in companies, conducting a survey among almost 150 organizations. The questionnaire asked them, among other things, to indicate what impact remote work had had on their organizations.
Adverse consequences were indicated in areas such as:
Maintaining a sense of belonging to the team – indicated by 63% as having a highly or moderately negative impact
Information flow within and between teams – indicated by 57% as having a highly or moderately negative impact
Information flow within the organization (strategic level) – indicated by 33% as having a highly or moderately negative impact
At the same time the hybrid work model clearly dominates – functioning in as many as 89% of the companies surveyed. In addition, an analysis of the report clearly reveals that it is most probably unlikely for this statistic to change in the foreseeable future. The questionnaires returned show that only 21% of companies want to switch to a model of work based to a larger degree in the office, while as many as 55% indicate that the current scope of remote work is not ideal. Simultaneously 66% of the survey respondents claim their organization encounters resistance when encouraging employees to return to the office.
If organizations operating in the hybrid work model is an enduring trend, then the challenge of maintaining a suitable level of performance under the new conditions becomes more important.
The devil is in the cooperation
The new conditions under which companies are operating are forcing a change of approach in entire organizations and management. In hybrid work, as a result of limited face-to-face contact and growth in the share of technology in communication and interaction, social processes (e.g. communication) and business processes (e.g. the quality of procedures in action) are particularly vulnerable, and with them – cooperation.
What is cooperation?
Cooperation is a social process, based on the interaction of people, teams or organizations, in which alignment is generated between individual and team goals, of the different departments of the entire organization. A key issue here is building consensus in the interpretation of what is happening inside and outside of the team, the department, or the organization as a whole.
Source: A Small Book on Cooperation, Victor Wekselberg, Jacek Wasilewski, 2021
Measuring the quality of cooperation is a litmus test of the effectiveness of hybrid work in an organization. If cooperation is taking place properly, it means that the company is coping well under the hybrid work conditions. If not, and the assessment is poor, then the organization is suffering, employees are displaying a lack of satisfaction and engagement, and the detrimental effect of this is reflected in the financial results.
We know from research by McKinsey that companies paying attention to the quality of cooperation, and operating on the basis of a clear strategy and goals, are more resistant to various kinds of crisis and shock. The increased proportions of remote work and later hybrid work forced upon them caused problems with cooperation within organizations, consequently exposing companies to extraordinary losses including of a financial nature.
The conditions for good cooperation:
The relationship between goals
In cooperation the goals are most important. There are many goals, on several levels, and we have to have a common understanding of them. People may have compatibility in their attitudes, have knowledge of one another, but without social goals there will be no cooperation.
Interaction is meant to bring organizations and groups closer to achieving their goals, but it also allows them to perfect how they function in practice. Thanks to interaction, organizational, group and individual goals are agreed upon.
Mutual knowledge and attitude compatibility
Knowledge of one another among group members is necessary for efficient cooperation from a practical point of view; if we don’t know the competencies, motivations, habits or stress-resistance of the people we’re working with, then achieving optimal task distribution will not be possible.
Source: “A Small Book on Cooperation”, Victor Wekselberg, Jacek Wasilewski, 2021
How to increase the effectiveness of hybrid work in an organization?
Wrong decisions in the management of hybrid work in an organization ultimately affect the standard of cooperation. Poor cooperation in turn can manifest itself in numerous areas that make up business and social processes. The best way to make hybrid work more effective is to monitor the quality of cooperation, and identify factors impacting cooperation quality in a particular company, in particular circumstances, and at a particular time.
How (not) to measure the level of cooperation?
Asking employees in a survey for their individual assessment of the quality of cooperation is not the right way to draw conclusions for an organization. It breaks the fundamental rules of designing survey tools and leads to unwarranted conclusions. The quality of cooperation can be assessed by measuring the relationship between how employees perceive aspects of the organization’s operations and how they rate the organization’s effectiveness and the quality of cooperation.
One of the research modules available in the Hinter.ai system is for measuring cooperation. The tool will not only deliver diagnostic information (on what the level of cooperation is in an organization and regarding its individual components), but will also suggest what exactly to do in order to increase it. In addition, the system will assess how the quality of cooperation might react once the suggested steps have been implemented.
The regular monitoring of cooperation quality will enable effective response to the changing situation. And a good level of cooperation gives an organization the internal strength for weathering the worst kinds of shock, if only to give the Covid-19 pandemic as an example.