Most departments adopting hybrid working will use their existing accommodation for their on-campus activities, and many have already adapted their physical space, equipment and working practices. It is important that moving the furniture is accompanied by a refreshed agreement about how colleagues will use the space in terms of everyday behaviours.
Designing the space
While there are many benefits to working in proximity to colleagues (for example informal learning, sense of belonging, getting advice and support), the guiding principle should be to design space for the activities that are best done in the office. Hybrid workers commonly report they need to feel their journey to the office is worthwhile, in the sense that they can do things there that they cannot in a remote location. In addition to dedicated and shared workstations, consider informal discussion (creative) space, meeting rooms and social areas.
IT equipment should be standardised wherever possible so hybrid staff can “plug and play.”
A team charter for shared space
Team members, and customers, need to have a clear understanding of the practices, norms and expectations for using shared campus facilities in a hybrid way. Such a charter is most likely to succeed when it has been co-created by the team members and is actively supported by the department’s management.
Areas to consider
- Use of shared workstations: booking systems and attendance patterns
- Working practices in shared rooms (e.g. Teams calls, quiet areas)
- Planning meetings and other collective and collaborative work
- Culture and communications
- Processes for embedding and reviewing the charter
A process for co-creating a shared space culture
Engaging the whole department will be the fairest way to create a clear set of norms and expectations, although it may not be practical to involve everyone in a single meeting or conversation.
One approach that has worked well is to gather thoughts about what would not be acceptable behaviours and invert them into statements of commitment to positive norms. A sample text for such an exercise is given below:
“Culture” is often defined as “what’s normal around here,” in other words the things people see and experience on an everyday basis. We want to set up a charter that describes these everyday experiences when it comes to hybrid working, so all team members know what is expected and what to expect. It’s important that any behavioural agreement is built collectively using accessible language, which can then be used as a basis for plans and communications.
[Get people thinking in advance of a meeting, which may be among a smaller representative portion of the department]
Thinking about hybrid working – both the process of organising work and using different spaces:
1. What would be the worst thing we could experience in terms of other people’s behaviours?
2. What would be the worst thing we could do in terms of impacting on others?
The purpose of the subsequent meeting is to prioritise these “antinorms” into 8-10 main themes and turn them into statements of what would be acceptable behaviours.
|Leave faulty equipment – it’s not my responsibility||If we find faulty equipment, we will report it to the relevant service and put a note in it to warn other users|
|Use language that “judges” how people are working, e.g. “he’s available on Teams today but he’ll be at work tomorrow”||We will be respectful of individuals’ working arrangements regardless of location (eg. Using the terms ‘working in the office/working on campus or working off campus/working remotely/working from home’)|
|Assuming everyone is equally flexible and not thinking through the implications of organising virtual or in-person meetings||We will think about the most appropriate timing and format (in person, virtual or hybrid) when planning a meeting, and will give attendees the opportunity to express their preference. If there is only one possible option for the meeting, we will make expectations clear to attendees and provide adequate notice to make suitable arrangements to attend in person|
Note that the charter commitments are written in clear, first-person language which states what we will all do.
The department should be given an opportunity to hone the final phrasing of these norms, but there should be a point where the consensus is set out and the department’s managers make it clear that this is how we will all now be expected to behave.
The route to having a department that lives by these principles includes:
- Communication: ensuring everyone knows what the principles are (a launch event may be appropriate), how to feel safe and supported to challenge non-adherence, and how people will be held accountable for living by them (leadership role modelling foremost among them)
- Establish which processes and practices need changing or developing to embed the principles. (e.g. changes to equipment and physical space, policy statements and skills around setting up meetings, use of calendars etc.)
- Design in a way of reviewing whether the principles are being followed and whether they need updating, perhaps with a scheduled review after 6 months.