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  • Writer's pictureClaire Aston

Homeworking? Only Connect...

This blog is a longer version of a post written for the Albright Special website.

Only Connect

Ever-changing Covid regulations mean it’s more important than ever to be intentional about the way we meet and work together. Partnership advice is more critical than ever.

Just as we were all getting used to be being back in the office, a new Covid variant emerges, bringing with it the possible return to more regular working from home. It’s a reminder that the pandemic is far from over, but also an opportunity to re-assess how we work together.

Writing towards the end of 2021, the latest ONS data [see image] shows that around two thirds (67%) of working adults in Great Britain reported travelling to work in the previous week. We’ve been enjoying the opportunity to ‘Grab a coffee…in real life’, and in the case of some clients, to see more than their head and shoulders on Zoom for the first time!

Hybrid working is here to stay

Those months of home working introduced us to new ways of communicating with each other that are here to stay, and it’s clear that hybrid-working is part of the future, with 85% of homeworking adults telling the ONS that they want a mixture of both home and office, and almost 50 firms reporting in a BBC survey that they would embrace this mix.

In such a world, partnership working requires careful thinking as we all find our feet.

It’s more important than ever, for example, to consider the different cultures of two organisations / teams coming together in partnership. One might be encouraging everyone to work from home unless asked otherwise; another might take the view that the office is still the place for 90% of the working week to take place.

Then there’s the question of what task you’d like the partnership to tackle together. Ones that require energetic interaction and discussion are indeed much easier face to face, but some - concentrating quietly on a spreadsheet or sticking to a tight meeting agenda with people from around the country – still work brilliantly online.

Asking ‘WHY?’ remains a critical question…

As ever, asking the right question is a good place to start. Just as my previous blog referenced this in the context of change, the why question needs to be asked now.

Why do you want a group of people from two different teams / organisations to meet? Why do you think that task can be best done online?

Make that clear, and the task of building, and retaining, a new hybrid working model for the partnership will be much more straightforward.

There are tools to help move decision making away from a common situation where influencers from either extreme – it’s more efficient at home vs collaboration is simply only possible in the office – sway the discussion and planning.

A recent article in MIT Sloan Review explored one - ‘organisational network analysis’. A methodology that maps employees’ working relationships, it enables a company to work out which collaborations are critical to innovation, execution, and overall business performance. Decisions about meeting styles can then be made.

‘Many…have become hesitant to incur the personal costs of going to the office if they think they’ll have exactly the same interactions that could have been done virtually,’ comment Rob Cross and Peter Gray, the authors of the piece.

‘Showing… that the more precious in-person time will be used only for interactions that really do have more value in person than virtually can make it worthwhile for employees to endure a lengthy commute’.

Here’s what one company discovered when they asked their teams to clarify which method they wanted to use for different types of tasks:

Making the most of partnership specialists

The bonus of working with partnership specialists like Albright Special is that we can take the time to map the connections across companies / teams and help to build a new hybrid working pattern that brings out the best in the partnership.

It will be specific to the partnership members involved. Once a new pattern is agreed, clear policies and regular communication between parties – which many have developed through the ‘online only’ months - can help embed the new reality.

As we continue to journey through Covid, it’s clear that stepping back to think about how, and why, we connect with each other, will remain a very important exercise.


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