Implementing a blended work model in your organization can be a powerful method to more effectively personalize each unique departmental duty and the individual employees. But diving into blended work can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult even to decide where to start.
First, it’s important to understand exactly what blended work environment means for your specific company. While there is no term in the current space to define blended working spaces or jobs, it is important to state out the definitions before progressing further:
Personalization: The employer and employee collaborate to ensure all tasks and goals are determined, planned and delivered.
Blended work approach (BW): A mix of technology and face-to-face task deliverables. It combines traditional physical presence set up with online working, and employees have some control over the time, pace, and place of their work.
Note that in the above, “personalization” is understood as a process or an ongoing action, and “blended working” is a specific approach or model. While both exist on a continuum of practices, and can take shape in a variety of forms, BW is an excellent way to more effectively drive towards your goals in the journey to personalizing working terms for your team.
BW is flexible, and can be implemented in a variety of ways. When examining blended learning models, it’s important to keep the employee needs, comfort, and available resources in mind. Ultimately, your blended working model — or models, depending on your preference! — should boost engagement, give employees control over time, place, and pace of delivering, and drive towards deeper personalization.
A brief overview of existing work procedures includes online, or physical presence. Teams meet virtually for several reasons too such as; conferences, partnerships, etc
While there are many ways to implement blended working, we’re going to focus on three here: station rotation, whole group rotation, and flipped offices. The three approaches are adopted from blended learning models
In station rotation, the team leader breaks a room of team members up into smaller working communities. Each small group of members collaborates on a single task in each station, and rotates to complete each task in the allotted room time. The station rotation method allows team members to easily adapt tasks based on task needs, and use technology in a variety of ways in single office time.
Whole Group Rotation
Whole group rotation is similar to station rotation, in that it allows team leaders to move from task to task, but does not require that rest of employees or team to form small groups. This approach is appropriate for employers who don’t feel that they have the resources or staff size to actively facilitate multiple small group tasks happening at once. However, it still enables the employer/team leader to creatively and purposefully use technology and face-to-face meetings.
A flipped office really focuses on the use of online and remote work. In a flipped office, the managers rely mostly on emails and chats, calls to contact the team. The team members engage by performing tasks with the set instructions as well as software from home -using technology and later on explore the deliverables through face to face meetings with the rest of the team.
However, transition and implementing this approach comes with redesigning, strategy, and adopting methods that accommodate the whole team. In this section some will be highlighted;
- Clear Expectations: It’s crucial for all team members to understand how they fit in. Ensuring that on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis team members know what is expected of them and what the tasks are for the major projects they are focused on can eliminate confusion and increase productivity in a hybrid work setting. In this work setting, you’ll very often have team members working different time zones that do not include the full team. Making sure any team member can productively work independently on delegated tasks and projects is key to keeping productivity high throughout the workday.
- Flexibility: Life happens. While it is helpful to have team members working similar hours, allow for some flexibility during the day and week. The team is able to attend to personal responsibilities as well as deliver timely. It is a win-win for the team.
- Well outlined structure: While being flexible is one of the keys, it must also be paired with structure (remember flexible structure?). Ensuring that there are working norms, like common work hours and days, provides stability and ample collaborative working time. Have organized vacation, sick days, and encourage team members to take advantage of that time. Encourage remote employees to update their calendars when away for some reason. This enhances transparency and accountability.
- Regular Communication: Communication is the key to this hybrid working setting. Set aside days to allow project managers to raise questions and inform the team of updates. In addition to the full-team meeting, each project group touches base on a daily and weekly basis as needed.
- Daily Check-Ins: This can enable a manager to quickly learn working styles, preferred feedback methods, and the desired workload. If using technology use features that would insinuate a real office. When someone is unavailable, they simply put their meeting window on “Do Not Disturb” which we equate to shutting an office door.
- Face-to-Face Time: As blended working has suggested, for most people you cannot replace face time. Having a great process for working remotely, it is essential to have time in person with your team members. Sometimes this means in small working groups, meeting at conferences or entire staff retreats.
- Video Meetings: With remote team members, face time does not happen as often as they should. However, with FaceTime, Skype video, and Google Hangouts, there is more connected than ever. Just being able to see a person’s facial reactions during a conversation can be extremely helpful. Understanding that a long pause can mean someone is thinking and not that a call has dropped has proven helpful for our team.
- Collaborative Programs: the teams use a mix of programs and products that allow them to collaborate in the cloud. Use DropBox for storage of shared documents. Google Drive allows us to collaborate with on-call notes, timelines, and written work. Creating an (almost) paperless office has allowed remote team members to have as much access to company materials as anyone onsite has.
- Encourage team members to take breaks from technology: Both work and personal life for me and many others are increasingly becoming centered around devices. While team members may be encouraged to be reachable and responsive, it is important to have time away. The tricky scenario like in a remote working situation where a team member is home-office based, it’s important to encourage time away from the computer, TV, and phones or tablets. Engage in other activities such as cooking, walking cleaning the house, to refuel your brain and rest your eyes.
- Get together: Work is engaging and may take away one’s social life if not well implemented. It is important that the team is able to maintain “normal” fun activities too. To foster a collaborative and fun environment we’ve set up for example in an organization I have worked with we had virtual lunches lasting 30 minutes where the teams met and engaged in fun conversations, played games like jeopardy. The activities were structured to ensure everyone was involved and connected with the rest. So, there is hard work and fun for the whole team.
As a software engineer and blended learning specialist, I have found the current situation hitting closer home than I would have otherwise imagined. Early in the year, I began my new role by helping my organization roll out blended classrooms, checking technologies, finding the right learning management system(LMS), training users. We had projected it would take a whole year to complete over 12 sites across the US. By the first of March, everything changed Covid-19 was knocking at our doors non-stop; it was time for a sudden transition from a pilot software engineer class of 44 to moving over 500 students across the country in various training areas to a blended learning set-up. There was a two-week intensive training for the instructional team on all the software and virtual classroom practices. Mid-April team was all set working remotely, classes resumed , some students graduated, and new lessons were rolled-out.
- Remain spontaneous leave room for adjustments
- Learn and learn more
- Technology evolves faster than the blink of an eye
- A supportive team and management makes everything worthwhile and effortless
- Take enough rest at all times to be more productive.
We are ready for the new future!