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  • Writer's pictureGena Mazreku

Is Hybrid Working the solution we’ve been looking for?

Hybrid working is a flexible work model that supports the blend of working from home and working in the office. Over the past 2 years, we have seen the challenges and the opportunities that hybrid working has brought to us, including online collaboration, working off-site, being in-sync and sometimes a-sync (out of touch with others). It is evident that we are seeing a shift to hybrid working and it being the “new norm” and let’s just say that we are here for it!

If you remove the team from teamwork, it’s just work. Now who wants that? The continued move to hybrid working means that we need to redefine what teamwork actually looks like to ensure a high-performing and productive team. Developing and maintaining a high-performance team is no easy feat, however over the years we have found that different industries have adapted to the hybrid working model in different ways.

So how does the hybrid model differ? The effectiveness of the hybrid model depends on the context of the job. Individuals working in the IT sector or anyone working in management positions, have been deemed to be the most productive whilst working from home. It was determined in a recent study by McKinsey Global Institute (2021) that knowledge-based and computer-reliant jobs display equals amount of productivity when working remotely. Yet legal and finance firms, such as JP Morgan, are more likely to restrict or not promote remote working, encouraging more employees to travel into the office. Law firms and IT companies are very different and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges.

In the US, law firms have an office occupancy rate of 55.7%, which is higher than the national average, which currently sits at 34.5% for other industries. However, in the UK, the BBC reported that a London law firm was willing to let their staff work from home permanently, but they had to take a 20% reduction in salary. It came as a surprise just how many people were willing to take a reduction in salary in order to work from home permanently. This poses a question to all; what would you sacrifice in order to work from home?

If we think back to pre-pandemic times, one size never fitted all in the workplace. Historically, the legal industry was moored by tradition and ethics. What would usually take decades of change, law firms were suddenly “forced” to rewrite their company strategy to accommodate the new flexible working style. Fast forward to the present time and more firms are reassessing individual needs vs. the demands of the business. This is beginning to show us that hybrid working can be the solution for many more industries than ever thought. So many more organisations are now rethinking their physical work environment to better complement the hybrid model. Offices are becoming a space to collaborate, build relationships and connect with others, rather than a place containing desks where you undertake formal tasks.

Yet we still find that the hybrid model puts pressure on leaders to adapt, lead and sustain a high performing team. As such, changing the leadership culture to fit the hybrid workplace is essential to being able to drive success. An effective team leader has a firm commitment to achieve results that can benefit both the organisation and the individual team member.

Changing the leadership culture to fit the hybrid workplace

Good leadership has always been a moving target. Whether in business, sports or politics, a good leader can respond to changing conditions with attentiveness. Many leadership theories suggest the ability to have and display empathy is an important part of leadership. Interestingly, pre-Covid, feelings were not recognised as an asset to the workplace. Whereas now, as team leaders, your feelings affect the success you have and the ability to retain key members of the team. Therefore, mindset shifts are necessary to drive empathetic connections with team members and to build trust and drive team performance.

Shifting mindset to drive performance

Leaders are now beginning to track and encourage high performance in new ways through adopting an agile and growth mindset. Agile leaders are not just resilient, they seek change to spur innovation. Growth mindset in leaders can also help people to learn, grow, and expand their skills. Shifting mindsets will enable leaders to sustain a high-performance team.

In general, IT firms are the epitome of agility and efficiency, whereas law firms are more constrained by rigid processes and instructions. So, what can law firms learn from the IT sector? Agility. Agility drives innovation and change. New talent is entering the world of work with higher expectations around flexible working. Being able to adapt requires strong leaders that have an agile mindset to sustain a high-performance team and against changing circumstances surrounding the labour market.

Yes, it is hard to break old habits, but we see that the hybrid model can be a solution for many - not only for computer-reliant jobs, but also for industries that are historically anchored around rigidity and processes. We know adjustments are going to be continual however, and that in order to thrive, organisations must learn to adapt and lead their hybrid teams during this period of adjusting to new ways of working. Many law firms are certainly benefiting from seeing work from a different perspective and having strong leaders will anchor how a leader views the success of the hybrid model in their organisation.

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