Hybrid working in 2021

News that multi-nationals are drastically reducing their office space has made headlines, such is the adjustment we’ve all made to home working. There are of course pros and cons to home working. Not everyone takes to it like a duck to water.

On one hand it takes huge effort to make sure new joiners are welcomed, trained and can be successful. In the same way, concerted effort needs to be made to ensure people can collaborate, share ideas, make things happen and can the mentoring and emotional support we all need to feel fulfilled.

In the last eight years we’ve run with a model of work anywhere. We are not bound to London’s Silicon Roundabout. Instead our 50 strong team is based all over the world and we deliver cutting edge development projects to leaders in pharma, medtech and fintech through to the Big 4.

Initially our model was about access to skill. Now it’s abundantly clear it underpins agility. We get things done at pace and to a standard that companies simply can’t achieve in house. But it also allows for collaboration and sharing the emotional load.

What’s the secret then? These are the things we’d pass on to any company changing working practices for good:

1 – Develop the apps that will cut the red tape and help you grow or scale

The mad rush a year ago to Zoom, Teams et al showed how much importance is placed on having technology in place that helps people do their job. Roll on a year and ‘Zoom fatigue’ is creating as many headlines. It’s a reminder that people work in different ways so you need to find tools everyone will get on with.

There’s also a notion of tool fatigue. I’ve seen lots of companies trying out lots of different tools to help collaboration, knowledge sharing and work allocations. It’s great to experiment but it can get a bit overwhelming when people are using one tool for one thing and one tool for another because no one tool does exactly what you want.

So as part of this think about the apps that don’t exist but if they did, you’d use them. Remember, not all useful tech is shiny. If you could cut out a manual process with some clever development then consider it. It will help people get on with the stuff that will help your company grow.

We’re on Google Workspace and use App Script to drive a lot of admin and workflow in the background without the need for new tools.

2 – The online office hub

We use a dedicated Slack channel called ‘The Office’ to give people a tangible sense of being part of a team and a few other all hands channels as well. We’ve found it best not to push this too hard, we tried some ‘always on’ networking tools but people found them intrusive and irritating. The most successful has been the ‘off_topic’ Slack channel, which is a place to post silly stuff that makes you smile. We all need that.

3 – The Virtual Water Cooler

But it’s not enough. That’s why we encourage people to contact other colleagues for no reason. The worst thing about homeworking is that often people only contact you if there’s a problem. This makes communication feel like a negative thing. You should spend at least 10% of your day stopping other people working. It sounds counter intuitive but we’ve seen the benefits and so have our clients.

Using some simple App script, we’ve created a sort of ‘Chat Roulette’ that arranges a 15 minute coffee break between two people that work in different teams. Not only does it help with the sense of being part of a team but we see innovation come out of it too.

4 – Give Something Back

Homeworking is not a perk. It sounds like fun at first, but a year in and the reality is you’re asking people to work with less support, recreation and interaction. Some people will thrive but most won’t. We’ve seen a big increase in productivity at VDP since we created ‘YooDoo’ – 4 hours a week that employees can take off if they need to work on their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual health. You don’t need to pre-agree it, you can just take it. Since introducing it we’ve seen sickness drop and positivity increase. People recharge without feeling guilty and everyone respects each other for looking after themselves – it’s the oxygen mask analogy in the workplace.

  1. – Sometimes simple ideas are the best

We have a team working different hours across different time zones. That’s great because we are not bound by geography to find the best people to do a role. But it’s also hard to make sure we’re honing on the niggles of working life that could become a big deal later on. So, understanding that Zoom isn’t the best format for sharing how you feel, we’ve borrowed the smiley/frowny face buttons that airports use to get people to rate how easy it was to get through security.

Now every Friday everyone is asked to click on a face that represents how they are feeling. It’s anonymous but we do know what team the results come from. Options range from “I’m so happy I could kiss you”, our equivalent of the bright green button, to “I’m mega unhappy” which would be the red button.

We then use this to focus on trouble spots and put the help and support in place exactly when and where it is needed, which could be short term help to ease problems with the project, or longer term problems that potentially others might feel too.

Combined, these things have a positive impact on individuals, their families, and our clients. But we’re always looking at other ways we can make work fulfilling. What are yours? I’d be really interested to exchange stories and see if there’s more we could be doing.

Likewise if you think there’s a way we can use our team’s collective knowledge and skill to transform your working world, then get in touch. Our developers can create and deliver in days.