Like many other organisations, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence is poised to embrace a new form of working. Martin Barber explains our approach
Hybrid working? Look, I’ll be honest, this phrase, this concept, wasn’t on my radar before the pandemic. It just wasn’t anything we’d considered, or even had cause to consider.
After all, Applied Intelligence (AI) has long been committed to flexibility and enabling employees to work from home if needed. Equally, AI has offices dotted across the UK and around the world – all of which are set up for colleagues to work from, collaborate, and do all the things we took for granted before Covid-19 entered our daily lexicon.
What a difference to today.
Now, like many other companies, AI is in the process of adjusting to a new future, one where a large part of the workforce will spend their time working between home, the office and/or client site.
Of course, some colleagues have to be in the office due to the nature of their work. For others, though, it is very much more varied and trying to identify a hybrid working pattern that will meet business and client needs, and reflect an individual’s preferences, sits with the manager. However, this new way of working means we have to re-think how we operate.
Bringing people together
One of the big things I, and I’m sure many others, have missed over the past 16 months or so are those spontaneous interactions you get when you’re in the office. I’m thinking of when you bump into a colleague in the corridor or kitchen, pass by their desk, share the same lift and so on. All these experiences offer a priceless opportunity to have a quick catch up, exchange some banter about the latest football results, or heaven forbid, have a chat about work.
And while technology can help fill the void to a certain extent, it’s simply not the same as when it’s face to face. There’s no easy answer to this conundrum unfortunately so what can we do?
For starters, I think that we will have to carefully consider how to best structure our days, even when we’re working remotely, in order to allow a greater degree of employee interaction. The last thing we want is for colleagues to be stuck in endless back to back video calls – which isn’t really the vehicle that allows that type of informality to flourish.
Another challenge is one that predominately impacts our colleagues who are early in their career, such as a graduate or new joiner: how do we generate a sense of belonging when it’s all done remotely? This is particularly important for our graduate intake who will be unfamiliar with corporate life. Ordinarily, their on boarding process is tailored to ensure they get to know the company, and their new colleagues, as quickly and effectively as possible.
This is obviously far more challenging when done virtually. This shows that in a hybrid world, there needs to be some kind of structure that allows a sense of identity and culture for people to feel part of – certainly, this was top of mind for a group of graduates I spoke with recently.
Lessons from abroad
The good news for those of us at AI in the UK is that we’re able to look and learn from teams in our offices abroad who are already experiencing hybrid working.
Colleagues at AI in Australia, for example, have opted to return to the office on Tuesdays and Fridays, and every day they have a 15 minute stand up call to bring teams together. They have found that while there were clear benefits of working from home – such as no commute and fewer distractions – it is important to actually see their colleagues too, and so striking a balance between both approaches has been paramount.
It’s been a similar experience for our teams in Malaysia. They, too, have daily calls in order for everyone to stay connected. And they’ve also been going in to the office once a week to access security enabled hardware, taking it in turns when Covid cases have been higher in order to reduce any risk, but also arranging many a team lunch when circumstances allow.
The consequences of the pandemic continue to cascade all around us. The emergence of hybrid working is just one of many ways the pandemic has uprooted long established norms and traditions.
Our approach will be shaped by transparency, the wellbeing of our colleagues and ensuring the office complements time at home or at client site. We will also have to experiment with ways of working – and respond if something doesn’t work.
With the kaleidoscope shaken, it’s now up to all of us to work together and navigate the unchartered terrain ahead – let’s get to work.
About the author
Martin Barber is People and Capabilities Director at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
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