Hybrid Work

How to use data to determine your hybrid or remote work strategy

This article originally appeared on Inc.

Many companies are basing their hybrid or remote work strategy on instinct. Yet it’s dangerous to let your intuitions or, worse, your biases drive your strategy. The companies that will thrive as they transition to new hybrid and remote work models will adopt a data-driven approach. As a leader, here’s how to use data, not your gut, to make important decisions about your remote or hybrid work strategy moving forward.

1. Conduct an organizational network analysis 

One of the most common questions that executives ask me is: “How should I measure the effectiveness of my work hybrid or remote work strategy?” Most executives realize that they need to establish metrics around work outcomes—especially productivity-based metrics. But most aren’t thinking about, or prioritizing, team-based metrics such as collaboration and team cohesion—metrics that we know from decades of research are critical for success. 

It’s a bit surprising that many executives aren’t investing in measuring team-based metrics like collaboration and team cohesion. Research by Microsoft has shown that, with the shift to remote work, companies have become more siloed. When leaders aren’t intentional about measuring collaboration and team cohesion, harmful silos quickly emerge.

Conducting an organizational network analysis (ONA) is key to measuring how well your teams are working together. ONAs can enable you to answer critical questions about how your in-office, hybrid, or remote work strategy is impacting your teams:  

  • What level of hybrid-ness is ideal for maintaining high levels of team culture? 
  • Who are the super connectors who matter most for team cohesion? 
  • Who are the bottlenecks who are inhibiting healthy team collaboration—and are they working on-site or from another location? 

2. Understand your company’s work graph

Conducting an ONA can move waters in helping you adopt a data-driven approach to developing your hybrid strategy. But it’s not enough. In this new era of work, leaders are recognizing the value of building and monitoring their company’s “work graph.” At Asana, we’ve spent a lot of time developing a work graph model that connects the following often-siloed information:

  • The units of work, such as individual tasks and ideas that employees are working on. 
  • Information about that work, such as relevant conversations and files, as well as how that information is connected to each unit of work. 
  • The people involved with the work, including who’s responsible for what and which people need to be kept in the loop. 

Unlike a social network that starts with people as the critical nodes in the network, a work graph starts with units of work—tasks, ideas, projects, goals, OKRs—as the critical nodes.

Understanding your company’s work graph is critical to being able to develop a hybrid or remote work strategy. Most of the companies I speak with and advise, no matter how well-intentioned, suffer from critical work and tool sprawl—information lives in various platforms and these platforms aren’t connected. 

The result is a lack of clarity. Also, employees suffer from duplication of work and spend too much time on “work about work“—searching for information and tracking down the status of work. As a rule of thumb, the more tool sprawl you have, the more cautious you ought to be about adopting a hybrid or remote work model because the increased physical distance among your employees can perpetuate the sprawl. 

Understanding your company’s work graph helps solve these common workplace woes, enabling you to answer questions like: 

  • What is the status of Project X, and what are the critical dependencies at play?
  • What was covered in the budget meeting, what were the follow-up action items, and where are they being tracked?
  • Who’s responsible for setting goals for this initiative, and how do these goals connect to current work-in-progress? 

Embrace a data-driven perspective 

We’re living in a data-driven work world. As a leader, you need to harness the data at your disposal. Your intuition shouldn’t drive your hybrid or remote work strategy decisions. Embrace a data-driven approach. By understanding your organization’s network and work graph, you can make informed decisions about your strategy and effectively and swiftly course-correct over time.

For more insights on the future of hybrid work and on how to lead through change, watch this fireside chat with Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University.

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