As 2022 enters its final act, the long shadow of the pandemic on schools around the world is far less visible than it once was. For most of us at least, the masks have finally gone, along with the social distancing markers, and even the once-ubiquitous hand-washing stations are harder to spot. Corridors are again filled with the hubbub of teachers and students all trying to get to where they need to go before “the bell rings”. Even those long-awaited community events are starting to make their way back onto the calendar.
Yet one of the many questions that the pandemic has raised and left unanswered is whether - local legislation aside - there is any place for hybrid working in our schools.
How to get hybrid right has been a regular discussion point for many business sectors post-Covid. Recent articles in The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and New York Times (to name but a few) all recognise the many benefits of a more flexible arrangement when it comes to when and where company employees work. But, as is evident from a recent article in The Washington Post, the jury is still very much out when it comes to determining whether, in the end, hybrid or remote working is as productive as being in the office every day from 9-5.
From the conversations that we are having with schools around the world, particularly as we discuss the move towards Advancement 2.0, the question regularly comes into the conversation and can perhaps best be expressed as follows:
How do we break down silos and develop truly collaborative ways of working in support of the overall Experience of school if we are no longer in the same room?
In a recent edition of the Experience Strategy Podcast by Dave Norton and Aransas Savas, employee experience thought leader, Corinne Murray, suggests that one of the underlying issues here is that many of us don’t yet have a rubric to frame and make sense of this new reality. “We need to start figuring out,” she says, “what’s the universal kit of parts” that are the building blocks to be effective in this new landscape of work.
Murray also makes reference to a fascinating article by Gartner entitled 4 Modes of Collaboration Are Key to Success in Hybrid Work. While the article, like so many others, references contemporary concerns about employee collaboration post-Covid, it also suggests a useful model of 4 hybrid collaboration modes as outlined in the figure below.
Murray believes that this kind of matrix can help us think more intentionally about both how and where teams work. In fact, she suggests, these are the deep conversations that we need to start to have if we are going to begin to understand what kinds of activities make sense to do when and where. Each aspect of the working week, in other words, needs to be intentionally designed in just the same way as it is incumbent upon us to design the experience of families journeying through our schools.
So, where to begin? Well, it might be as simple as using this matrix to have a conversation with your colleagues about what kinds of work are best done together in the same room and then seeing whether other types of work fit more easily into some of the other quadrants.
The question of hybrid and remote working is not going to go away any time soon. We will therefore do well to move beyond simple either/or discussions and use emerging tools to create the rubrics that, even in our schools, we so obviously need.