TRIBUNE. Watch out for those left behind in “hybrid” work!

During the last confinements, and under the leadership of the government, 100% teleworking became the rule. Managers have adapted, coaching their teams remotely in a relatively homogeneous environment since face-to-face was the exception.

Productivity appears to have been there, although survey results differ. “Remote” decision-making seems to have been facilitated by the urgency of the crisis; any cultural blockages have been overcome. All the decision-makers, more easily mobilized by videoconferences, were able to decide quickly.

With the intermittent return of employees to the premises, a new era is dawning. The managers organize the activity with some of the teams remotely and in physical presence, according to modalities that change depending on the day, according to the options chosen by the company and arbitrated by each.

The organization of work becomes more personalized, with consequences on the life of the collective, and in particular on decision-making.

Marine Balansard

A major change in the organization of work

The future of work will therefore be hybrid. In 2020, more than 20,000 company teleworking agreements were signed. All agree, we will not be able to go back, at least for very large companies. 81% of the employees concerned favor teleworking, up to one or two days a week. For them, it allows more autonomy, concentration and efficiency as well as better stress management.

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At the same time, face-to-face is understood as an essential way of working, with advantages such as teamwork, efficiency of meetings and even a feeling of belonging, a source of motivation and commitment.

All of these parameters influence all aspects of business decision making, from its development to its application.

Far from the eyes, far from the heart (of the decision)

As Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman points out “ cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not just with your brain “. The five senses are called upon throughout the development and decision making.

In a context of hybrid work, managers could give priority, unconsciously and because it is easier, to work with the people present in the premises, those they have “under their eyes” with whom it is easier to talk to. “Connect”.

And indeed, the physical presence allows a more complete communication. What is said, the verbal takes on density thanks to the perception of the paraverbal (tone, intonation, rhythm) and the non-verbal (gestures, postures, movements). These microsignals, which coaches are fond of (“ the body never lies ») Provide additional information that feeds into the decision-making process. From a distance, they remain less noticeable, even invisible.

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If the manager does not pay constant attention to it, or if he gives in to the pressure of time, the risk is that the people physically present in the workplace will be more solicited, and see their influence reinforced in the development and therefore the outcome of the decisions. This is all the more true if the manager himself opts for a maximum of face-to-face. At the same time, people at a distance can feel this asymmetry in the perception of their engagement. Bearing in mind these risks, the manager will continuously ensure fairness in his relations with employees, so as not to lose quality in decision-making.

Manage the informal role in the decision

Decisions are not made only where the organization charts point, or in the meetings planned for this purpose, and that is good for the good functioning of companies. A large part of the informal is involved in most decisions. In a hybrid work environment, the informal will be difficult for people from a distance to understand.

Less formal venues for decision-making include the coffee machine, lunch, break times, or discussions after meetings, out of order.

The ” small talks These convivial exchanges which precede the more formal meetings are seemingly innocuous. In reality, they create relationship and closeness, imperceptibly contributing to the orientation of attention, debates and choices. From a distance, they can be encouraged by the establishment of “ digital coffee room ” for example.

Managers also evoke the importance of weak signals in the development of decisions. Characterized by their number and the difficulty of interpretation, they are subject to “monitoring” and processing with a view to making decisions. However, hybrid work complicates the capture of these signals, since everything no longer happens in the same unit of place.

One of the challenges for the manager is to maintain the part of the informal which feeds into the decision-making process. This allows for more flexibility and creativity. By emphasizing communication with each of his employees, through more regular debriefings or feedback, for example, the manager will be able to bridge these asymmetries in information, in order to gain solidity in decisions.

Distance, an opportunity to counter certain cognitive biases

Collective decision-making processes are often affected by cognitive biases which predictably affect the quality and success of decisions.

Some of them, such as conformism or normalization, are the direct result of social pressure exerted by the group. The advantage of people who are not physically present is that they keep a step back on decision-making, being less subject to the unconscious pressure of the group in person. In this sense, distance promotes the autonomy of the organization but also of thought.

Thus, remote collaborators would be able to take a more neutral look at decisions with a strong emotional impact (emotions being contagious), or even avoid certain influence effects such as submission to authority, ultimately allowing more objective decisions.

Remote work is also conducive to “Deep work”, this more in-depth work too often interrupted in person. On this level too, it is an asset for the manager who will be able to integrate it fully into the development of his decision-making.

Work organization is changing, leading managers once again to adapt their decision-making practices and habits. The challenge is to actively support this new diversity of work to derive all the benefits, many for decision-making. The good managerial habits already adopted during the last confinements (trust, interpersonal skills, concern for fairness in the relationship with employees) will benefit from continuing, since hybrid work is becoming the new standard.

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