Hybrid work is the way to go for Malaysia, and this is how leaders can get the most of it

Flexible remote work is the way forward, as 77 per cent of Malaysian employees want it to stay, according to Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index.

In my daily work, I have gleaned some valuable insights from speaking to leaders, mid-managers, and career leaders to keep a realistic pulse. With that said, I think a hybrid work model is the best that Malaysia can hope for, not remote.

Many are not ready

The hybrid work model is not a realistic model for everyone. It is indeed not a silver bullet. Manufacturing, engineering, and other site-based roles will likely not benefit from hybrid work.

However, my conversations reveal certain roles such as administrative/office staff or knowledge workers can adopt a hybrid model, despite operating in manufacturing, construction or similar sectors.

I remind the leaders I come into contact with to always think about applying a flexible work model in small groups, not the whole company. The distinction between hybrid and remote is also important:

In hybrid-remote organisations, a portion of the workforce is fully remote and another portion works in the office. That allows the office to cater for a small number of employees who need to go in.

Also Read: From our community: About being a startup mentor, hybrid work models, emerging tech hub in SEA and more

Going 100 per cent remote means having no office space, with all staff working from home all the time. For some variety, companies typically try to interact frequently as a way to stay close virtually, with some making sure to have in-person meetups each year in company-wide off-sites.

This, in particular, is a mode of work that I think most Malaysian companies are not ready for.

A forced, but necessary transition

But since remote and hybrid work is here to stay, Malaysian companies should make the most of it as soon as possible because it could mean a more resilient and productive workforce.

The word resilience also gets thrown around often, and it means clarity of purpose, stronger connections, and a can-do attitude at all levels of a company, which helps mould it to be pandemic-proof.

To add to the issue, those already practising remote work are struggling, especially those at the bottom, and helping them is key to a successful transition. The same study from Microsoft shows that business leaders are faring better than their employees:

Every group outside business leaders, including Gen Z and new employees, say they are surviving or struggling

To me, this only highlights how important it is for businesses to implement remote work successfully. An example of a successful remote work culture might show why that is, but it takes a lot of effort.

One success story

One client of ours was just such an exception. SalesCandy went 100 per cent remote at the start of COVID, with them giving up the rental of their office. They used to have a 25-30pax space in one of Kuala Lumpur’s prime locations, Q Sentral. Today, they all work from home, all the time.

They managed it for these reasons, I’ve observed:

  • A younger workforce. As a young company, their C-levels are in their early 40s/late 30s. But the staff themselves are in their mid-twenties to early thirties. Being young has helped with:
  • Early adoption. It clearly has played a role. Before COVID, their employees had a choice of working remotely.
  • Going all-in. But when COVID did strike, they saw the obvious benefits and went all-in, dispensing with the rented office. After that, going forward was the only way.
  • Clear directives. In the time they transitioned, clear communications and drive from the C-level team to all staff members led to less resistance in the new work model.
  • SaaS. They had their suites of software to facilitate video calls, chat, document sharing. But more importantly, they had:
  • Over-communication. They embraced remote work and its shortcomings. The foundation of it is simply communicating often and making up for the lack of physical intimacy, which could have led to isolation and low motivation.

Also Read: The hybrid work model will outlast the pandemic. But will one model fit all?

Think of the above as a checklist – not all are necessary or achievable. For example, practically no one could have predicted that selling an office space pre-COVID-19 was a viable move. Although, I would like to single out one aspect of SalesCandy’s practices that stood out to me:

Onboarding

Day one issues can be even more pronounced when done remotely. So much is lost in translation just being physically distant. When onboarding, for example, not interacting physically means a loss of knowledge transferred.

Done well, it can result in over 80 per cent better retention, and 70 per cent increased productivity, according to Glassdoor’s research.

Find ways to accommodate a new hire’s preferred working style. A simple way that surprised me was the strategy they used. It is as simple as a document that goes:

“How would you like to work? How can I reach you? When can I reach you? Do you prefer to text or rather take a phone call? Are you a visual thinker/need visuals more?”

Onboarding

These are small but important questions that can start a working relationship on the right foot. For more, their CTO spoke on the topic in our recent webinar. Similarly, how do you break the ice with a colleague you don’t see for months at a time?

Get everyone on a call, new hires to introduce themselves. For example, mandate video calls. The newer the hire, the more often these calls should happen – daily if needed.

Reinforce and focus on the culture you want to develop

Workplace culture is present in any company, whether you notice it or not. To improve or understand it, discuss it often with leadership, managers, and employees. If you feel your current culture is fine as it is, try to reinforce it.

Also Read: Does remote working really work?

Request that each team member establish certain norms that would ensure successful remote work on their part. Do also treat colleagues as individuals with their preferred methods of remote work. We’ve put together a short guide on how to meet their needs here.

  • Trust your employees

A lack of trust in employees is usually felt by them, which can lead to them feeling unmotivated and consequently becoming less productive. There are alternatives to that.

Instead, try other ways for your teams to share work schedules and stay in touch with their progress – tools like Jandi, Trello, or Microsoft Teams, which allow groups to effectively interact, cutting down on “meetings that could have been emails.” Through these tools, managers are still kept aware of employees’ day-to-day tasks, which can reinforce trust.

  • Managing without micromanaging

We can agree that the number of mouse clicks does not equal productivity. Detractors say workers are not productive when remote, but I say that whether employees slack off during remote work can’t be proved or disproved.

This applies especially to knowledge workers, who will instead benefit greatly from tracking objectives and key results (OKRs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) and judge their achievements from there. These checkups could be daily/weekly.

Measuring keystrokes and time is not the recipe for success. Do high-value work, and instead be focused on the output.

  • Keeping emotional connectivity

In my opinion, there is no replacement for an old 1-on-1 with a manager, where you might start team meetings with compliments to an individual over their achievements since you last spoke. Paying attention to a person’s wellbeing in and out of the office is very underrated in my opinion.

To put it simply, a happy and engaged workforce is more often a productive one. And in such times, keeping employees happy and engaged is tricky but ultimately possible.

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing contributions from the community. This season we are seeking op-eds, analysis and articles on food tech and sustainability. Share your opinion and earn a byline by submitting a post.

Join our e27 Telegram group, FB community or like the e27 Facebook page

Image Credit: Yasmina H on Unsplash

The post Hybrid work is the way to go for Malaysia, and this is how leaders can get the most of it appeared first on e27.

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Flexible remote work is the way forward, as 77 per cent of Malaysian employees want it to stay, according to Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index.

In my daily work, I have gleaned some valuable insights from speaking to leaders, mid-managers, and career leaders to keep a realistic pulse. With that said, I think a hybrid work model is the best that Malaysia can hope for, not remote.

Many are not ready

The hybrid work model is not a realistic model for everyone. It is indeed not a silver bullet. Manufacturing, engineering, and other site-based roles will likely not benefit from hybrid work.

However, my conversations reveal certain roles such as administrative/office staff or knowledge workers can adopt a hybrid model, despite operating in manufacturing, construction or similar sectors.

I remind the leaders I come into contact with to always think about applying a flexible work model in small groups, not the whole company. The distinction between hybrid and remote is also important:

In hybrid-remote organisations, a portion of the workforce is fully remote and another portion works in the office. That allows the office to cater for a small number of employees who need to go in.

Also Read: From our community: About being a startup mentor, hybrid work models, emerging tech hub in SEA and more

Going 100 per cent remote means having no office space, with all staff working from home all the time. For some variety, companies typically try to interact frequently as a way to stay close virtually, with some making sure to have in-person meetups each year in company-wide off-sites.

This, in particular, is a mode of work that I think most Malaysian companies are not ready for.

A forced, but necessary transition

But since remote and hybrid work is here to stay, Malaysian companies should make the most of it as soon as possible because it could mean a more resilient and productive workforce.

The word resilience also gets thrown around often, and it means clarity of purpose, stronger connections, and a can-do attitude at all levels of a company, which helps mould it to be pandemic-proof.

To add to the issue, those already practising remote work are struggling, especially those at the bottom, and helping them is key to a successful transition. The same study from Microsoft shows that business leaders are faring better than their employees:

Every group outside business leaders, including Gen Z and new employees, say they are surviving or struggling

To me, this only highlights how important it is for businesses to implement remote work successfully. An example of a successful remote work culture might show why that is, but it takes a lot of effort.

One success story

One client of ours was just such an exception. SalesCandy went 100 per cent remote at the start of COVID, with them giving up the rental of their office. They used to have a 25-30pax space in one of Kuala Lumpur’s prime locations, Q Sentral. Today, they all work from home, all the time.

They managed it for these reasons, I’ve observed:

  • A younger workforce. As a young company, their C-levels are in their early 40s/late 30s. But the staff themselves are in their mid-twenties to early thirties. Being young has helped with:
  • Early adoption. It clearly has played a role. Before COVID, their employees had a choice of working remotely.
  • Going all-in. But when COVID did strike, they saw the obvious benefits and went all-in, dispensing with the rented office. After that, going forward was the only way.
  • Clear directives. In the time they transitioned, clear communications and drive from the C-level team to all staff members led to less resistance in the new work model.
  • SaaS. They had their suites of software to facilitate video calls, chat, document sharing. But more importantly, they had:
  • Over-communication. They embraced remote work and its shortcomings. The foundation of it is simply communicating often and making up for the lack of physical intimacy, which could have led to isolation and low motivation.

Also Read: The hybrid work model will outlast the pandemic. But will one model fit all?

Think of the above as a checklist – not all are necessary or achievable. For example, practically no one could have predicted that selling an office space pre-COVID-19 was a viable move. Although, I would like to single out one aspect of SalesCandy’s practices that stood out to me:

Onboarding

Day one issues can be even more pronounced when done remotely. So much is lost in translation just being physically distant. When onboarding, for example, not interacting physically means a loss of knowledge transferred.

Done well, it can result in over 80 per cent better retention, and 70 per cent increased productivity, according to Glassdoor’s research.

Find ways to accommodate a new hire’s preferred working style. A simple way that surprised me was the strategy they used. It is as simple as a document that goes:

“How would you like to work? How can I reach you? When can I reach you? Do you prefer to text or rather take a phone call? Are you a visual thinker/need visuals more?”

Onboarding

These are small but important questions that can start a working relationship on the right foot. For more, their CTO spoke on the topic in our recent webinar. Similarly, how do you break the ice with a colleague you don’t see for months at a time?

Get everyone on a call, new hires to introduce themselves. For example, mandate video calls. The newer the hire, the more often these calls should happen – daily if needed.

Reinforce and focus on the culture you want to develop

Workplace culture is present in any company, whether you notice it or not. To improve or understand it, discuss it often with leadership, managers, and employees. If you feel your current culture is fine as it is, try to reinforce it.

Also Read: Does remote working really work?

Request that each team member establish certain norms that would ensure successful remote work on their part. Do also treat colleagues as individuals with their preferred methods of remote work. We’ve put together a short guide on how to meet their needs here.

  • Trust your employees

A lack of trust in employees is usually felt by them, which can lead to them feeling unmotivated and consequently becoming less productive. There are alternatives to that.

Instead, try other ways for your teams to share work schedules and stay in touch with their progress – tools like Jandi, Trello, or Microsoft Teams, which allow groups to effectively interact, cutting down on “meetings that could have been emails.” Through these tools, managers are still kept aware of employees’ day-to-day tasks, which can reinforce trust.

  • Managing without micromanaging

We can agree that the number of mouse clicks does not equal productivity. Detractors say workers are not productive when remote, but I say that whether employees slack off during remote work can’t be proved or disproved.

This applies especially to knowledge workers, who will instead benefit greatly from tracking objectives and key results (OKRs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) and judge their achievements from there. These checkups could be daily/weekly.

Measuring keystrokes and time is not the recipe for success. Do high-value work, and instead be focused on the output.

  • Keeping emotional connectivity

In my opinion, there is no replacement for an old 1-on-1 with a manager, where you might start team meetings with compliments to an individual over their achievements since you last spoke. Paying attention to a person’s wellbeing in and out of the office is very underrated in my opinion.

To put it simply, a happy and engaged workforce is more often a productive one. And in such times, keeping employees happy and engaged is tricky but ultimately possible.

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing contributions from the community. This season we are seeking op-eds, analysis and articles on food tech and sustainability. Share your opinion and earn a byline by submitting a post.

Join our e27 Telegram group, FB community or like the e27 Facebook page

Image Credit: Yasmina H on Unsplash

The post Hybrid work is the way to go for Malaysia, and this is how leaders can get the most of it appeared first on e27.

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