With the increasing popularity of hybrid work, and an undeniable trend towards innovation and flexibility, the question is no longer whether remote work is beneficial to companies and their employees, but how do you set up a hybrid work culture that fosters innovation and works for everyone?
Hybrid Work Paradox - Is innovation decaying?
A new Microsoft study has found that while remote work can be fine for plowing through day-to-day work, it has the potential to put a serious damper on collaboration and innovation long term.
This study, which was just published in Nature Human Behavior, analyzed data on the communications of approximately 61,000 Microsoft employees. What they found was that when people started working from home, their communication dropped significantly.
The researchers worry that the shift to remote will lead to “collaboration decay” and keep teams from engaging in informal contacts and corridor chats that could help them think outside of the box.
The study finds that remote work has caused employees to rely less frequently on synchronous communication, such as conference calls, and more frequently than before on asynchronous communication, such as email.
So what steps should a company take to foster workplace innovation? Here are four ways to help your company adapt to the future...
Digitization & technology focus
The workplace is evolving at a faster pace than ever before. More employees are now working remotely, part-time, or on different schedules. As technology becomes more advanced, people are taking advantage of new capabilities that are available to them. The trouble is that the workplace isn't keeping up. The traditional model of an office has changed little over the years. Most offices were designed for workers who were in the office from nine to five every day.
Organizations need to provide the right technological support for their workers, but they also need to understand that security, privacy, and other concerns are vital.
In a digital world, organizations must find a way to ensure that their employees can work from anywhere at any time while ensuring security and privacy. The most effective way to manage a hybrid workforce is through connectivity.
Connectivity can be described as a continuum that goes all the way from communicating only within the same physical location to communicating freely between locations and time zones to being connected 24×7 wherever you are. This continuum should be applicable for all kinds of businesses, regardless of whether it is a manufacturing facility, an advertising agency, or an investment bank.
The key point here is that IT departments should make sure they have established processes in place to deal with the whole spectrum of connectivity issues faced by employees in a global workplace. This will ensure that all employees remain innovative regardless of where they work.
Cherish the company culture
To foster a culture of innovation:
Lead with your values: Identity what values are most important to your company and then promote them overtly. Make sure you practice what you preach! Humility, authenticity, and curiosity are great values to promote.
[QuoteText]“Determine what behaviors and beliefs you value as a company and have everyone live true to them.”
– Brittany Forsyth, Chief Talent Officer at Shopify[/QuoteText]
Promote collaboration: Instead of forcing employees to work independently, encourage collaboration between teams so they can bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other's successes and failures.
Encourage cross-pollination: Cross-pollination is so important in the hybrid environment because it allows one team to learn from another team's success or failure. It also promotes open communication between different departments, which fosters creativity.
Create a safe place to fail
Innovation is a process of taking risks and learning from failures. Creativity thrives on the ability to try something new, fail fast and learn from mistakes.
If you want your employees to innovate, create a safe environment where they can take risks without fear of retribution. That means a culture that accepts criticism and failure as part of the learning process. It's also about collaboration with peers and managers who will help them develop their ideas rather than shoot them down out of hand or simply ignore them.
The best way to foster innovation in your hybrid workplace is to create an atmosphere of transparency and honesty. Encourage your employees to share their ideas with others in the organization. Doing so will give them confidence that others won't judge their ideas too harshly, allowing them to take the necessary risks when developing new solutions.
Promote healthy competition
Innovation is not a one-man show. It can be developed by the entire staff and the company as a whole. By instilling healthy competition in your staff, you can foster new ideas and encourage creativity within your company. A win-win situation all around for everyone involved.
The key is to make sure that you aren't creating a cutthroat environment where only the top dog wins. Make the stakes realistic and encourage team members to help each other out when they're in a jam. For example, if you're running a contest based on the best idea, be sure to reward the people whose ideas contributed to the winning idea.
According to Ashley Merryman, co-author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, competition drives creativity:
[QuoteText]“Whether professional musicians or school children, studies have shown competition fuels creativity and even improves the quality of the work produced. More than that, the skills that make you a great competitor – such as a willingness to push boundaries, trust one's instincts, problem-solve – those are the same skills needed for innovation.”
- Ashley Merryman [/QuoteText]
If you want to encourage cooperation rather than competition, consider setting up a "cross-pollination" program where employees actively pair up and learn from each other by sharing their knowledge and expertise. These programs allow team members to work together and learn valuable new skills while also forging valuable working relationships that could lead to future collaboration on projects, problem-solving, and decision making.