Flexible Work is here to Stay: How to get the balance right

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Women working on couch with child playing next to her

When it comes to flexible work, post-pandemic will be neither the death of the office nor a return to the way things were. Our new reality will be a hybrid.

Meetings, events, conferences and more where part of the team is face-to-face and part of it virtual will become commonplace. People will work from home more and the whole office dynamic may change. Many haven’t actually considered how a less populated office could impact certain individuals’ motivation, productivity, innovation and collaboration – for better or worse. 

Inevitably, hybrid work has the potential to cause biases and employees may lack social connection. To be prepared for what’s to come, managers need to understand how their employees think, so they can level the playing field for their teams. 

If we could get inside the minds of and ‘see’ how our colleagues prefer to think, then perhaps we could better understand how they work best and support them to get the most from their career. At Herrmann, we do this using Whole Brain® Thinking

Understanding employees with Whole Brain® Thinking

In order to thrive in a changing world we can use the lenses of Whole Brain® Thinking to understand what motivates certain people, and how we can help them do their best work. 

The HBDI® is based on the Whole Brain® Model, a metaphor for how people tend to use their brains and how their thinking works. In the Whole Brain® Model, thinking falls into four preferences of equal importance that everyone can access:

  • The Upper Left Blue A Quadrant specialises in logical, analytical, quantitative, fact-based thinking.
  • The Lower Left Green B Quadrant focuses on details and specialises in planning, organising, and sequencing information.
  • The Lower Right Red C Quadrant places a priority on feelings and the interpersonal, emotional and kinesthetic aspects of a situation.
  • The Upper Right Yellow D Quadrant synthesises and integrates information and is more intuitive and holistic in its thinking.

Herrmann four-colour quadrant graphic

The four-colour quadrant graphic and Whole Brain® are registered trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC. ©2021 Herrmann Global, LLC  

Is hybrid work really the future? 

Many remain skeptical how long the changes we’ve experienced during the pandemic will last. Take the changes to hygiene practices as one example – are you and others you know still washing their hands for 20 seconds multiple times a day? Are you sanitising your hands frequently? Have you switched hand shakes for elbow bumps? We’ve observed many things go back to the way they once were, but flexible work is different.    

As an example, Fujitsu’s 80,000 Japan-based employees were surveyed on working from home, the advantages and disadvantages of flexible work. A few months into the pandemic, only 15% of Fujitsu’s employees believed the office was the best place to work. 30% thought working from home was best and 55% preferred a mix of home and the office – hybrid work. 

The same applies in Australia. More Australians want to work from home an average of two days per week after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research by the University of Sydney Business School.

Similar statistics to these two examples are being seen across cultures, countries and the globe. 

Whole Brain® Thinking and flexible work  

Our work environment has changed significantly. Many of us are accustomed to ‘switching off’ from work when we get home, and enjoying time with our family, children or housemates. But given many of us are now working from home (at least in some part-time capacity), those same people are now our ‘colleagues’, and perhaps our biggest distraction! 

Leveraging the HBDI® and the awareness of your profile will help you be more effective in how you use your thinking to accomplish what you want to accomplish – for example, by paying more attention to what other people need or by paying attention to what the situation requires.

You could use your knowledge to undertake tasks that are least associated with your preferred thinking style early in the day to ensure you have the most energy available to get them completed. This can ease the burden of a less productive afternoon and stop the snowball effect of stress building up. Likewise, as a manager you can help structure your team’s day, allocate particular tasks and recommend certain days in the office depending on the thinking styles in your team. 

Using the HBDI® to find your balance 

The HBDI® can be used by both individuals and their managers to understand how they can get the best out of themselves and others in a hybrid working model. The HBDI® also gives your employees the tools to recognise that they’re not going to be great at everything (and that’s okay). 

Upper Left Blue A Quadrant: Needs accuracy, data, clarity of purpose, and logical and rational basis for doing something.

  • Generally, they are more process than people driven and will likely indicate they want to work from home a relatively even split. It’s best to guide them through which tasks to perform at certain points in the day to get the most from their day, and encourage them to work from home or the office more as the task requires. 

Lower Left Green B Quadrant: Needs order, structure, safety, rules, details, well-articulated plans, and consistency.

  • Generally, they are very process driven people and will likely indicate they want to work from home full-time (or close to it). You may need to have conversations with them if they benefit from a day or two in the office, or if they’re feeling overwhelmed at work you may encourage them to work extra days from home. 

Lower Right Red C Quadrant: Needs to “talk it out,” collaborate, express ideas, teach others, and understand the human impact. 

  • Generally speaking, they are very people-focussed and will likely indicate they want to work from the office full-time (or close to it). You may need to have conversations with them if they may benefit from a day or two at home to harness productivity. If the office is less full, they may struggle to feed off others’ energy for motivation – help them to be aware of this.  

Upper Right Yellow D Quadrant: Needs flexibility, simultaneity, creativity, non-structured environments, opportunities to experiment and take risks, and an understanding of the big picture.

  • Generally, they are more people than process driven and will likely indicate they want to work from home a relatively even split. It’s best to guide them through which tasks to perform at certain points in the day to get the most from their day, and encourage them to work from home or the office more as the task requires. 

The bottom line 

Flexible work arrangements will differ significantly from business to business, so however you approach finding the best solutions – likely with some trial and error – don’t take shortcuts. 

Start your process by engaging employees in the decision-making. Use surveys and interviews to understand their views on flexible work and use this information to provide tailored arrangements to get the best from each employee. 

Whatever hybrid mix you settle on, you may like to include a review of this with each employee every few months. This will allow you to understand how their current mix of work is impacting them, and what you can do to alleviate any productivity concerns.

Flexible work is here to stay, so put the time in and get it right from the get go – it’s an opportunity we don’t get often in business!

Interested in learning more about Whole Brain® Thinking and how it can help your team and business reach its full potential? Get in touch with Herrmann today.