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Picture this. You’re assembling a piece of furniture from a box, but the instruction manual is missing. You have all the tools, all the parts, but you’re at a loss about where to start. This is what a hybrid work model without proper documentation feels like. It’s like being in a spaceship without a navigation system.
Recent research conducted by McKinsey has shown that a whopping 68% of companies lack a structured “playbook” to guide their hybrid work model. I was surprised to see this, as I always work with clients who I help develop a hybrid work model on a clear and transparent playbook for them to use going forward, which later formed the basis for my best-selling book on hybrid work.
With the Covid-19 pandemic sparking an unprecedented shift to remote and hybrid work environments, it is paramount for businesses to iron out their approach. The old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” holds true now more than ever.
Dissecting the survey
The McKinsey survey assessed how well companies implemented 12 identified key practices for an effective and sustainable hybrid work model. Interestingly, a major pitfall for most companies lay in creating an equilibrium between on-site and remote work — a “true hybrid” model, if you will.
In a sense, it’s like trying to play a symphony with a missing sheet of music. The performers have their instruments, they’re keen, they’re talented, but without the conductor’s guidance, they’re unable to synchronize their efforts. It’s a clear miss on performance improvements and efficient real estate utilization, akin to leaving money on the table at a poker game.
Related: Why Employers Forcing a Return to Office is Leading to More Worker Power and Unionization
The value of documentation in a hybrid model
Think of the documentation of your hybrid work model as your secret recipe, your blueprint, or even your company’s unique fingerprint. It outlines your organization’s approach to work — who does what, where and when. More importantly, it creates a unified vision of how work is done, facilitating smooth communication and transparency across all levels.
The failure to implement a well-documented process, according to the McKinsey survey, has tripped up even the most progressive of companies. It’s like attempting to construct a skyscraper without a foundation. The result? A teetering structure that may crumble at the slightest tremor.
A step toward a more effective hybrid model
Documentation is the linchpin that binds the entire system. It allows for a more informed approach to designing effective workplaces, resulting in better capital allocation, and ultimately improved productivity. Documentation facilitates flexibility and dynamism, allowing businesses to easily adapt to changing work patterns and trends. It’s like having a high-quality GPS system that reroutes you when a new path appears.
The most compelling evidence of the impact of proper documentation can be seen in the strides made by remote-first organizations and post-pandemic startups. Documentation has enabled these entities to efficiently navigate the complex labyrinth of the hybrid model, creating structures that support efficient workflows and strong communication channels.
The influence of cognitive biases on hybrid work model documentation
As we grapple with the realities of the hybrid work model and the necessary documentation to support its effective implementation, it’s critical to acknowledge how cognitive biases can influence this process. Specifically, we’ll examine the impact of status quo bias and anchoring bias, and how these can skew our understanding and handling of hybrid work model documentation.
Status quo bias is a cognitive bias that promotes the preference for the current state of affairs. It stems from our aversion to change and the discomfort associated with unfamiliar scenarios. In the context of the hybrid work model, status quo bias can present a significant hurdle.
As per the McKinsey survey, many companies are struggling with creating an effective hybrid model. This difficulty is compounded by status quo bias, where employees and management alike may resist change, clinging to traditional methods of working and documenting work processes.
For instance, the idea of documenting specific processes or protocols for remote work might be dismissed, with a preference for existing, office-centric methods. The bias can lead to poor decisions such as retaining ineffective processes simply because they’re familiar, causing inefficiency and communication breakdowns.
Overcoming status quo bias requires conscious effort from the entire organization. Encouraging open discussions about the changes, providing training on new protocols and processes, and highlighting the benefits of the new system can help neutralize this bias.
Anchoring bias refers to our tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information (the “anchor”) we receive when making decisions. In the context of a hybrid work model, this could manifest in several ways.
One such scenario might be in the initial drafting of the hybrid work model documentation. If the first draft is created with an overemphasis on either remote or in-office work, it may serve as an “anchor,” biasing all subsequent modifications. This could potentially lead to an unbalanced hybrid model, one that does not optimally leverage the benefits of both work environments.
Similarly, organizations might anchor to pre-pandemic norms, expecting employees to adapt their home environments to mirror traditional office setups. Such anchoring could lead to overlooking innovative solutions that leverage the unique advantages of remote work, such as flexible scheduling or individualized workspaces.
Counteracting anchoring bias involves encouraging diverse input during decision-making processes and challenging assumptions based on the first information. Creating multiple drafts of the documentation and gathering extensive feedback can help prevent anchoring to an unbalanced or suboptimal hybrid model.
Recognizing and mitigating the effects of status quo and anchoring biases can dramatically improve the process of creating a hybrid work model documentation. It allows for a more balanced, efficient and forward-thinking approach that maximizes the benefits of both in-office and remote work. As we navigate the evolving landscape of work, being aware of these cognitive biases is an essential step toward crafting a successful hybrid work model.
Related: Debunking the 5 Myths of Hybrid Work
Practical steps to an effective documentation strategy
An effective documentation strategy begins with identifying and understanding the various elements of your organization’s work model. It’s like designing a complex jigsaw puzzle — every piece has its unique place and purpose.
First, organizations must pinpoint the critical “moments that matter” of the work process. This could range from identifying key stages of project development to determining which activities are better done in person. A clear, well-documented outline of these moments provides a roadmap that guides employees in making smart choices about their work.
Next, comes the implementation of advanced workplace technologies. Tools such as video conferencing, digital whiteboards and even augmented — and virtual-reality technologies must be integrated seamlessly into the system. The aim here is to create a virtual workspace that rivals — or even outshines — its physical counterpart.
Lastly, it is vital for organizations to realize that their documentation is not a “set-and-forget” playbook. It’s a living, evolving guide that should be updated periodically to reflect changes in work processes and new technological advancements. It’s like maintaining a garden, requiring constant care and adaptation to the changing seasons.
If there’s one thing we can take away from the McKinsey survey, it’s this: The future of work is hybrid, and its success hinges largely on our ability to craft a well-documented approach to this model. The road to a thriving hybrid work model is akin to a symphony performance. It requires well-orchestrated efforts from all players, each playing their part at the right time and in the right place. As we navigate this new terrain, let’s ensure that we’re armed with a well-documented plan — our conductor’s score, if you will — that will help us hit all the right notes.