4 Ways Business Leaders Can Increase Workplace Efficiency in a Hybrid World Leaders have the power to turn the phrase "work smarter, not harder" into a reality.
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Work is never going back to the way it used to be. Today, three-quarters of U.S. companies are using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid model. It sounds amazing, but at the same time, workplace trends like "quiet quitting" and "bare minimum Monday" have been getting viral attention. So the office is getting more flexible, but people are still burning out.
Both business leaders and employees have a shared goal of making the hours people work count and not waste time. That means we need to think through our hybrid policies to ensure we get all the pros while minimizing the cons of this new way of doing business.
I've been working in hybrid environments for more than ten years. In that time, I've found several ways to ensure my businesses, and our employees, succeed – no matter where they are.
1. Get clear on office days
Leaders need to develop a clear policy so that when employees are in the office, they get all the benefits.
Managers should establish core days where everyone is in the office and prioritize person-to-person interactions on these days — that means more collaborative meetings and less independent work. For a 3/2 hybrid format, many companies do Monday, Tuesday and Thursday as core office days. Another popular option is to be in the office Monday through Thursday and have Fridays remote. Whatever the format, employees will develop a newfound appreciation for the office if they get the most out of the days they are there.
Related: Hybrid, Remote Work or Flexible Hours? Know Your Team and What Motivates Them
2. Make meetings efficient again
One of the top tips for workplace sabotage in the 1944 CIA pamphlet "The Simple Sabotage Field Manual" is to "hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done."
Many teams today have too many meetings and too little productive time. To cut down on unnecessary meetings, companies like Shopify are establishing policies like "No Meetings Wednesdays." For smaller and more collaboratively structured companies, these sweeping policies may not be feasible, but they can certainly find ways to make their meetings shorter and more efficient. Managers can require that all meetings have a clear purpose and not let the agenda get sidetracked.
At Kizen, we began requiring employees to create an agenda before they set a meeting. This policy has cut standing meetings by half and eliminated much of the noise on our calendars while helping meetings finish quicker and be more impactful. It has also cut down on the common workplace issue: this meeting could have been an email.
Elon Musk advises employees to "walk out" if they're not contributing to the meeting. This is an awkward and unrealistic ask, but the thinking behind it is sound. A more realistic policy is to encourage employees to decline meetings if there isn't a clear reason and value for them to attend a meeting.
It is also acceptable for a meeting host to follow up with the individual and clarify why their time is needed then. This discourse is valuable.
Related: Once a Skeptic, Elon Musk Now Embraces This Divisive Workplace Policy — and You Should, Too.
3. Learn from your metrics
Quantitative data can give managers the necessary insight into how businesses are doing and allow them to analyze and identify emerging issues among their staff quickly.
Metrics help leaders track productivity, performance benchmarks and project timelines, and employees should be able to report these numbers quickly. Using statistics like sales closed for a sales team, leads generated for marketing, and Net Promoter Score for customer success will help leaders paint a picture of workflow across their company. At Kizen, we've seen that when the metric reports start to get murkier, it usually indicates an underlying issue that needs addressing. However, employees need to understand that tracking metrics doesn't come from a place of mistrust.
Managers need to know to look for these warning signs early, investigate any anomalies or inconsistencies, and ultimately, provide the necessary support to their employees.
4. Consider your legacy
In the recent global health crisis, new technology and company policies were deployed on an emergency basis. Now, rather than forcing employees into productivity theatrics or pretending that work is the same as it ever was, leaders need to decide where they want to land in the future of the work landscape and what policies they need to keep or implement to get there.
Leaders need to reconsider the legacy tools they have been using for more effective, streamlined alternatives — and in doing so, consider how they want to be remembered. Do they want to be the leader stuck in an outdated workplace full of policies and technologies that no longer serve their mission or the open-minded leader who led their employees and company to its next chapter? Every good business leader should say the latter.
By reevaluating workflows and identifying opportunities to streamline processes and maximize efficiency, business leaders can take control of their narrative and influence their legacy for years to come. The details will look different for every company and depend on factors such as industry and staff size, but the goal is the same: make the workplace work for us.
At many companies today, there is a lot of wasted time and energy, a lack of clarity and stressful systems that are causing employees to dislike work and increase burnout. In this model, everyone loses. By taking the time to evaluate your current workplace and ways to make it better, we can turn this into a win.
As leaders, we have the power to turn the phrase "work smarter, not harder" into a reality. Doing so involves learning from our experiences and taking tips from other industry leaders to ensure we are performing at our best. Taking these simple steps is what will ultimately allow us to achieve the efficient, effective workplace we want, and in doing so, make our workplace better and give us more time for the rest of our lives.