Børge Astrup is the CEO of Techstep ASA, a mobile technology enabler. With his entrepreneurial spirit, a focus on culture and empathy, and a drive for operational excellence, Børge is committed to creating a winning work environment.
Anine Nicolaisen is the HR Country Representative and Head of HR Legal Norway at Danske Bank. She is also a member of Hovedutvalget for Arbeidsliv in Finans Norge, Norway’s financial industry organization representing 240 companies with 50,000 employees.
At Oslo Business Forum, Børge and Anine sat down to discuss getting the organization on board in a hybrid work environment. These highlights from the conversation capture their insights on topics ranging from ensuring collaboration to keeping culture intact in a hybrid environment.
What are the implications of hybrid work?
Hybrid work is one of the hottest organizational topics today as leaders rethink the future of work. Transitioning to remote work was tough for many and a blessing for others who found increased flexibility in their daily lives. But despite the many benefits of hybrid work, it can also have less-than-positive implications.
“When you are home, you are all by yourself,” said Børge. “You don’t have the same opportunities to share ideas and discuss with your colleagues.”
Børge believes collaboration is necessary for a good work environment, and a combination of in-office and remote work is the best solution. “If you look at the total global workforce, 80% is not behind a desk,” he said. “We’ve spent a majority of our time discussing the challenges for the 20% who are, but what about the 80%?”
Are there benefits to the company with a hybrid work model?
Børge and Anine both acknowledged that there are benefits for the company with a hybrid work model. From increased flexibility to decreased stress to greater adaptability, a lot of little things come together to form the big picture of the new way to work.
“A sense of well-being contributes to employees’ efforts in the company,” said Anine. “Happy employees represent better results.”
The leaders also noted that companies adopting a hybrid work model are less dependent on geography when it comes to finding the right talent. “People can contribute even when they are unable to travel to work,” Anine said. “This can be more efficient for your company or your office.”
How do you ensure your organization continues to perform in a hybrid environment?
“I believe you need to have a framework and ensure collaboration and the social context is still taken care of,” said Anine.
When asked how to do that, Anine said there’s no one answer for everyone but that communication is key. “What is our purpose, what are our tasks, how do we best perform and get results,” she said. “And what room does that leave us for flexibility?”
“That’s what we as leaders need to work on every single day,” said Børge. “Support them with the tools they need to be able to perform, but also guide them.” He noted that technology has taken giant leaps forward, making it easier to utilize tools to help employees and also ensure they feel the company’s culture.
How do leaders achieve a balance between micromanagement and oversight?
One of the biggest challenges many leaders have faced managing in a hybrid environment is finding a balance between maintaining appropriate oversight and allowing teams the freedom to work autonomously.
“Listen to the individuals,” she said. “It all comes down to loyalty and ensuring people deliver what they say. If they do, then you don’t have to micromanage.”
When asked about the mechanisms she uses to create balance for individuals and teams, Anine recalled the need to consider the greater good by recognizing both individual desires and team needs.
She encouraged leaders to remember there is always room for evaluation, asking where we are today and whether it is working for us. “Maybe the dynamics have changed, and we might need to look at things differently,” she said. “Have an ongoing dialogue with your employees.”
Both leaders acknowledged that some managers are more comfortable with the dialogue surrounding hybrid work than others. Some are able to embrace flexibility, and others prefer to have clear guidelines. In those cases, Anine recommends creating an overall structure and allowing managers the freedom to decide what works best for their teams.
How do you make sure the culture is intact?
Many leaders perceive hybrid work as a threat to their company culture, fearing that employees who are removed from the collaborative work environment will lose their connection to the whole. The onus is on managers to ensure that connection is not broken.
“Inside each of the teams, managers have the responsibility to create the environment and must have the freedom to do so,” said Børge. “Make sure the vision for the company is clear, so everyone is pulling in the same direction.”
“You are talking about culture, and culture doesn’t just happen,” Anine said. “You are also talking about trust. If you have good communication and good trust, that is the fastest way to make things work.”
In closing, Børge and Anine—and the entire Oslo Business Forum audience—were polled on one simple question: Is hybrid work the future? Every leader offered a resounding response of yes.
- Hybrid work comes with many benefits but also implications. It requires leaders to focus on communication, trust, and culture.
- Ensuring continued performance in a hybrid environment requires a framework to ensure collaboration and the social context.
- Achieving a balance between micromanagement and oversight requires balancing individual desires and team needs.
- Leaders are responsible for creating an environment that ensures the company culture remains intact—and they must have the freedom and flexibility to do so.
Questions to Consider
- What have you perceived to be the benefits of hybrid work? What have been the drawbacks for individuals and the business?
- What mechanisms have you implemented to ensure high performance in a hybrid environment?
- How have you balanced oversight of your team’s work with their freedom to work autonomously?
- Have you effectively maintained employees’ connection to the company culture while working in a hybrid environment?
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