How Organizational Behavior Science Can Help Startups Manage New Standards
More than a year after the entire world was shut down in various ways, life is slowly returning to normal in the United States Vaccinations are going extraordinarily well, with nearly half of the American population fully vaccinated. People are ready to take back life as we knew it. Flights are returning to pre-pandemic levels. Restaurants are seeing an increase in traffic inside. Overall, there is a positive energy to be free and overcome the pandemic for good.
As many parts of the economy return to “normal”, some aspects are undergoing post-pandemic change, particularly in the corporate world. The ability for many white-collar workers to work from home for a year or more has created a demand for more flexible working conditions. Businesses large and small, especially in the tech industry, are considering both hybrid and full home work. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently told CNBC that he expects up to 60% of the company’s employees to continue working from home.
Is this really the new normal?
Microsoft seems to think so. Company CEO Satya Nadella said in a LinkedIn post: “Hybrid work represents the biggest change in the way we work in our generation. And that will require a new operating model, covering people, places and processes. “
After over a year of staying away from planes, I recently took my first flight from LA to San Francisco for a few meetings that couldn’t be done through Zoom. My meetings were held in a large conference room in a co-working space, which was 90% empty. Shortly after my trip, our group needed to get together for a follow-up. Normally I would do a day trip, which would cost over $ 800 and take over 12 hours. Instead, and without hesitation, I scheduled a free Zoom call from the comfort of my home office. This hybrid approach to business allows us to do the same amount of work, but much more efficiently and cost effectively than before.
Hybrid work is the way of the future, but the model may be different for each business depending on size, addressable market, product / service offering, and geographic location. Large companies can easily design and finance a compelling hybrid model. The biggest challenge can be for startups due to their small budgets and more demanding schedules. They need to deliver more value for less money and may not have as many resources to devote to solving the challenges of a hybrid business model.
Companies trying to solve the hybrid work problem have the opportunity to create a new organizational structure and behavior that will far exceed traditional models. In my opinion, they can lead to a new crop and much better efficiency than what we used to call normal.
To really be successful in a hybrid model, I think companies need to focus on three key elements: management and organizational structure; organizational behavior; and advanced technologies.
Management and organizational structure
Multi-level management structures will not work in a hybrid model. Instead, businesses should focus on a flat model removing excess layers of management. If companies don’t already have the job, they should also add an Organizational Behavior Manager who is empowered to assist employees facing the challenges of working from home and the lack of day-to-day personal interactions with colleagues. Beyond that, every organization will need a leader, but they must develop a new set of plans to monitor that the work gets done. For many companies, the work will be task-based instead of employees completing 40 to 60 hours of work.
Organizational behavior will be even more important in the hybrid work environment. Businesses will need to think about new ways to train and manage employees remotely and in person, as well as how to divide responsibilities. This requires a strong HR organization capable of creating a personalized structure with on-demand information delivery. The manager of organizational behavior will play a very important role. This person needs to understand both psychology and organizational behavior, as they will have to lead the culture in a world where many interactions can occur through a computer. Even with advancements in technology and video conferencing, there is a layer of separation between employees interacting on a screen that is not there when they meet in person. Overcoming this and helping employees feel connected instead of isolated is a big challenge that should not be taken lightly. Employees need to feel like they are part of the ecosystem rather than islands on their own.
Critical technology catalysts during the pandemic were video conferencing, teamwork applications, and high-speed communication bandwidth, including high-speed fiber or cable connections and 5G wireless technologies. In the future, these technologies will offer even more functionality, enabling virtual connections as real as human connections. The focus is on delivering the next generation of video services and making those services available on demand. Virtual reality glasses promise to bring more reality to virtual work and improve collaborations between people and remote groups. 5G is also increasing in terms of availability and functionality. Enhanced video communication must be at the center of the hybrid model, and companies must provide their employees with the technological tools they need to take advantage of the latest technologies in virtual communications.
Hybrid work models are sure to experience some growth challenges as we begin to accept this new standard for large parts of US businesses, but this model will also pave the way for some exciting new technologies. Even now, Zoom and other video service platforms are adding new features to make the experience even more enjoyable. The pandemic has delayed many parts of life over the past year, but the silver lining may be a future where people appreciate the added flexibility and work-life balance that working from home can offer.