Work from home v/s work from office v/s Hybrid work environment – Bringing accountability into focus

Work from home

ORGANIZATION

noun

1. a group of people who form a business, club, etc. together in order to achieve a particular aim

In a recent interview with Harvard Business Review, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft said – “Organizations want people together”

Enough has already been written on the pros and cons of working from home v/s working from office. There are thousands (if not more) articles, making attempts to ascertain the fruitfulness of both scenarios. However, the question will continue to stay in our minds forever – which one is better, more productive and happier? Not just for employees but for organizations as well.

In his interview, Satya Nadella mentioned some study results which explained the “Hybrid paradox”. The study mentioned that 70% of employees wanted to work from home but then 70% of employees also wanted to feel the connection with other people. It is futile, then, to be overly dogmatic about it.

The traditional framework

We’re living in a diverse economy and yet, traditionally, organizational frameworks have remained the same for close to 200 years. Companies were founded and run with the explicit objective of wanting to bring people together in a working space that would allow them to collaborate, activate and accomplish company goals. The company genomes have more or less remained the same with changing work spaces being the norm. Throughout the years, companies strived hard to create workspaces that bred leaders, facilitated innovation and brought about productivity.

The pandemic definitely changed everything. Companies were forced to think differently and work from home had to be necessitated. More and more organizations realized the value through such a working model. The waning of the effects of the pandemic spawned a growing debate about both work models. A new work culture has also supposedly been discussed – the ‘Hybrid work model’. As more and more companies attempt to find middle grounds, more and more studies are being unearthed. The dynamics continue to increase with every passing discussion and debate.

For and against 

Companies have found it hard to take strong stances for either of them. As mentioned earlier, the diverse dynamics that determine work productivity are hugely complex and depend on many factors. Researchers are using all their might to understand these dynamics so as to come up with numbers that would allow companies to take a stand – one way or the other.

Accountability – The conundrum and challenges

The advantages & disadvantages of either models are a no-brainer and have already been documented through many studies globally. While these continue to be debated and discussed, what’s most important to note is that every organization needs to realize what works best for them.

Similarly, managers too, need to realize what works best for their teams. With the growing trend of WFH and Hybrid work models, the basic framework of meeting goals/objectives/targets were getting more and more challenging. The challenges included;

  • Cyber security, risks and mitigation protocols
  • Connectivity issues
  • Communication channels & processes
  • Lack of clarity in terms of timelines
  • Inaccurate effort estimations
  • Unknown costs of working in hybrid environments
  • Recruitments & onboarding
  • Mental health and wellbeing of team members
  • And many other such challenges

Under such duress, accountability happens to be the key to performance.

Managers who held themselves accountable found ways to re-think and re-structure project / product / assignment cycles. The toughest part though, remained getting ‘team buy-in’. Hence, managers had to also re-structure time and effort manifestos to get team buy-ins and at the same time ensure productivity. A majority of the organizations – one way or the other – had to rethink and restructure employee expectations, considering WFH / Hybrid work models.

Bringing accountability into focus

As mentioned earlier, taking a stand for any organization becomes increasingly challenging for organizations, especially when bringing accountability into focus. It is well known thought that accountability can bolster a company’s culture, as mentioned in a recent Forbes article. Author Pete Lowe adds, “When an organization’s culture is embedded in honesty and integrity it enables people to acknowledge mistakes without fear of blame and to work with the team to reflect, learn and move forward positively.”

It is imperative then, that organizations embark on strategies that are rolled out, keeping in mind the empowerment of managersand all other team members accountable. Accountability endorses ownership as it allows everyone to know about what their responsibilities and expectations are.

The diversity and dynamics involved are different for each organization, considering industry type, work ethic, geography, culture, hierarchies and many others. It is for organizations then, to determine the need for empowering ownership among all levels of employees, managers and leaders.

Accountability may be all about setting and establishing purposeful goals and getting teams aligned towards them and eventually owning them. Organizations need to build trust through empathy, continuing support and encouragement. A lot of these traits might become difficult (nee improbable) when teams function in an isolated state with few of individuals working from home while others working in offices.

What are your thoughts on this? Can accountability be established in Hybrid work environment?

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