2020 came with a series of unexpected lifestyle changes, a major one being remote working for many people, non-essential workers or not.
Although the concept of working from home is not a new one, especially in software engineering, not many companies would have implemented it without the pandemic. Now with vaccines readily available and normalcy returning gradually, many Chief Technology Officers, technical HR managers are faced with the dilemma of bringing engineers back to the traditional fully in-office working structure or moving into a fully remote working model.
The third option, which many companies have already begun to implement, is developing a hybrid work model that incorporates both remote and in-office working for the employees. Dropbox and Quora are examples of companies that have successfully built a hybrid work model.
But as interesting as this sounds, there’s still the question of doing it right. These are some of the ways engineering leaders are operating hybrid work models to get things done.
Each company has its own organizational culture and the hybrid work model created should be based on it. The kind of work done and the needs of the employees should also be factored in.
A good way to start is by selecting an appropriate structure for your hybrid work model. It could be remote-first, that is the bulk of the company’s activities and operations will be carried out remotely with just a few required employees working on-site, office occasional (employees come to the office for a specific number of days and work home the rest), or office first, remote allowed.
The most important criteria for selecting the right model for your engineering team are flexibility and efficiency. Engineering leaders have to ensure that whatever model they select, allows for both. Getting your employees and other team leaders familiar with remote working communication and collaboration tools is a good way of ensuring effectiveness in your selected model.
Not all employees would be able to work from home, at least not for a long stretch, due to various reasons. You have to find a way to accommodate them. One way to solve that is by encouraging co-working.
Co-working allows remote employees working in the same location to meet at a particular space and work alongside each other. It could be an office space or someone’s home but most importantly, an environment that stimulates productivity.
The company could provide an office space with the right amenities for its employees to freely use. This can be done on specific days in the week and team meetings can easily be fixed during those days.
Replacing traditional private offices with open-plan space is another option. In such arrangements, a company typically provides team rooms and workstations in open areas. Some companies have embraced the concept of “hoteling.” As in the other shared-office options, “hotel” workspaces are furnished, equipped, and supported with typical office services. Satellite offices and telecommuting are also commonly recognized forms of alternative remote working. Companies like IBM and Peoplesoft have embraced this as a dominant style of work in their companies.
There is no rigid or fixed hybrid working model and so engineering leaders can experiment and provide alternative options for their employees, so long as it boosts productivity.
Remote working companies are often susceptible to distance bias and end up treating in-office workers differently than remote workers because they are physically present. This might happen to your engineering team also. Leaders have to be watchful of this and ensure that both in-office workers and remote workers are treated the same and have similar work experiences.
For instance, instead of having physical team meetings with remote workers joining online, the meeting should be made strictly online so each employee participates online. Lunch meetings at the office should also include remote workers.
This way, they would not feel left out. Engineers burn out too, or feel isolated, and making them feel left out again could complicate this – affecting their effectiveness.
If you’re leading an engineering team, let there be inclusiveness of remote workers and guiding the employees during the transition. Think of activities like quarterly or annual physical work retreats for all members of your team, or anything else that could serve as an energy refreshal.
This is the first step before introducing a hybrid model to how your team works. Start asking if there’s any reason this will be impossible to implement.
What about promotions, day-to-day workflow management, and interpersonal relations among team members? Is there a structure in place to support that when you go hybrid, or do you need to create one now?
It’s also essential to look at how your company will provide a level playing ground for providing in-office and remote developers, in terms of growth opportunities. Finding the solution to these problems early on will help you avoid many issues down the line when you’ve rolled out.
Understandably, the hybrid work model is a relatively new working structure for many companies and as such, could pose several challenges.
But then, this also allows for people managers, including engineering leaders, to be innovative in providing engineers with opportunities to work in ways they can be more productive. At the end of the day, this is all about creating productivity through flexibility.
Decagon provides technology companies and teams with world-class software engineering talent, who are prepared to deliver excellence in remote capacities. Our clients include leading companies across the US, Europe and Africa. Find out more about hiring Decagon engineers here.