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Taking a People First Approach to Hybrid Working

The biggest and most interesting challenge I’ve faced since joining Edgewell as a Global HR Leader is the transition to a more flexible hybrid working model.

Flexibility has always been a part of the culture at Edgewell. On our annual teammate experience survey, ‘Flexibility’ always surfaces as one of our top three strengths (along with ‘Empowerment’ and ‘Collaboration’). Before the pandemic, it was seen as a way to help people find a balance when they needed it, rather than a standard working model. Now, both our teammates and Edgewell as an organization have experienced the benefits of more radical flexibility, so we’ve focused on developing a hybrid working model, rooted in our core values, so our teams can have more choice when it comes to how, when, and where they work.

1. From Flexible Working to a Hybrid Working Model, we put People First

We’ve always adopted a flexible view of how work can be completed. We understand that not all appointments can be outside of work hours and that many of our teammates have families, so we have a natural understanding within our teams that flexibility is necessary to do our best work. We encouraged our teams to use their office spaces as a place to get work done, meet their colleagues, and feel connected to their teams. This hasn’t changed since the pandemic; it’s just evolved more than anyone could have expected.

Recently, as we began our global launch of hybrid ways of working, we’ve doubled down on this approach to flexibility. As more organizations begin to mandate that their employees to return to the office, we have instead chosen to deploy a team-based approach, which gives the power to our teams so they can choose the ways of working that best suit each individual team. While a remote environment helps many teammates to stay productive, increase their work/life balance, and bring more joy to their lives, there is also a need for in-person collaboration. Things like brainstorming, onboarding a new teammate, team building, and professional development are not well-suited for remote work. Because of this, we have deemed Wednesdays as Collaboration Days where our teammates can come into the office to work together.

Even as we move from remote to hybrid, we strongly believe in the power of flexibility and promoting a healthy balance between work and life. We understand that teammates may not be able to join a collaboration Wednesday from time-to-time or that work hours may need to be adjusted. This understanding is adopted at the highest levels, so our teams can be confident in their choice to work remotely without ever thinking that it might negatively impact their careers. Even our our CEO, Rod Little, and our Global Leadership Team split their time between remote work and the office, acting as role models for our teams across the globe so they can have confidence to make their own decisions about hybrid working.

Just as we want our teams to be confident and comfortable working in a hybrid environment, we know this can only be effective if they feel heard. We believe that the key to successfully adopting a hybrid working model is by speaking to teams across all levels of the business. As I mentioned earlier, ‘flexibility’ the most important quality that teammates say they need from Edgewell. When we dug a little deeper, this need for flexibility came from a desire to have a choice. Giving our teammates a choice about where and how they work, without any preferential treatment or expectations, means they will be able to achieve better work-life integration, productivity and, most importantly, joy in their work. For anyone looking to create their own hybrid working plan, the most important advice I have is to listen.

2. Hybrid Works Better When We Listen Before Taking Action

By talking to our teammates, we found that there were those who wanted the flexibility to work remotely, but others who missed the office or didn’t have home environments conducive to work. By listening to what our teammates needed and wanted, we were able to create a plan that allowed them to have a choice. This choice supports them to do their best work while also living their most joyful lives.

After lots of research, surveys, focus groups, and discussions with our teammates, we uncovered the following insights that have helped us to successfully execute our hybrid working plan:

  • Accountability for deliverables and results is what matters, not how much time is spent in person (presenteeism) vs. remote
  • Trust is the foundation to build empowerment and hybrid working
  • Many of us have been working ‘remotely’ successfully for some time- across different locations, countries, time zones and functions of the business
  • We strongly believe in the power of in-person collaboration and personal learning and development, and the positive impact they have on culture and team dynamics.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution that works, so our managers:

  • Meet one-to-one with each of their team members to learn their individual needs and preferences, as well as what support they need to be set up for success in a hybrid environment. Flexibility means different things to different people.
  • Bring the team together to put a ‘Team Agreement’ in place. This ensures the whole team can input and then commit to ways of working
  • Build the Team Agreement around Wednesday collaboration days
  • Review the Team Agreement at least every three months, making changes to continually improve

As you can see, flexibility, choice, and trust are crucial to adopting a long-term hybrid working plan at Edgewell. Based on everything I knew from my years in Human Resources, and the culture of our organization, we could not devise and implement this plan without listening to understand our teammates and effectively owning the plan together.

3. Successful Integration and Adaption Happens When We Own It Together

To own it together, we must balance individual ownership with teamwork and collaboration, and that means ensuring teams are in the office at the right moments. Everything we developed and actioned during the process of developing our hybrid ways of working was created to drive team alignment. We wanted to give our teams the choice they needed, while providing some structure.

As a global organization, we needed to consider three different types of team structures:

  • A team based mostly in the same location
  • A team where there are different functions in one location working on the same goals
  • A team where the members work in many different locations

While the example scenarios may seem quite different, we believe that asking the right questions can help ensure each individual team has a plan for hybrid that works for them and their needs.

For us at Edgewell, this is achieved by teams coming together and discussing the following questions:

  • For what and when will we work together in person, other than the collaboration day (e.g., in the office)?
  • For what and when will we work together apart (e.g., virtual meetings)?
  • Are there any times when we need to work alone and in-person? When is the best time for this?
  • What times will we reserve for no meetings to ensure we have time to focus?
  • How can we communicate better as a hybrid team?
  • How can we better share information as a hybrid team?

These questions, as simple as they may be, allow each team to be on the same page, know what is expected of them, and have their say to feel engaged in this journey toward the future of working at Edgewell.

4. What Hybrid Working Looks Like at Edgewell as we Move Forward

At the end of the day, myself and the HR team have seen that our teammates feel more productive when they are in control and when they have flexibility. We’ve known and appreciated this for some time, but now our eyes have been opened to just how much control we can give our teams while still maintaining productivity. It may have taken over a year of forced remote working to help us develop our hybrid ways of working, but the reason why a hybrid working model comes so naturally to our leadership and our teams is because we’ve always put people first, listened, and worked collaboratively.

As COVID rates improve in many regions around the world, including in the U.S., we are excited to be leading the charge as a people-driven employer that not only makes useful things joyful for our consumers, customers, and investors, but also for our teammates.

I hope this insight into Edgewell’s approach to hybrid working has been useful, and perhaps better enables you to think about, craft, and develop a hybrid working plan for your own organization. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to comment below to let me know your thoughts or to share what you’re doing to bring a hybrid working approach to your organization. Alternatively, if you’re looking to join a company that puts your needs, development, and joy first, we are hiring across a number of functions at Edgewell. You can head to our Careers page to learn more about the exciting opportunities available.

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