Hybrid working, a flexible work model involves working both in-office and remotely, has become the norm for many organisations across the job market. In fact, 93% of businesses in the UK expect their workplaces to remain hybrid going forward.
Often, employers assume that new graduates are able to work in this way with no training – only 6% of companies offer training to employees for hybrid work activities. And while it is true that most recent grads now belong to Gen Z, making them digital natives with experience using many modern technologies, there are also many aspects of hybrid work that you may not be prepared for.
1. Developing key skills for hybrid working
There are many skills that are especially important to spend time developing when you are working in a hybrid environment. These include:
- Digital skills – While it may seem obvious, digital skills are extremely important when working remotely. These not only include technical digital skills, like the ability to use specific programmes like Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, and other industry-specific tools – they also include socio-digital skills. These include the ability to communicate appropriately via different channels and build relationships in an online environment.
- Conflict management – If you have never experienced conflict or disagreement in a workplace before, it can feel quite overwhelming and you may not know how to manage it. However, conflict management is one of the most important skills for new graduates and will make it easier to overcome miscommunications and disagreements and foster positive, professional relationships at work.
- Proactivity – Something that many recent graduates worry about is that they often finish the work that they are told to complete quickly and are not sure what to do with the rest of their workday. Proactivity is an important skill here, as it shows you are eager to succeed in your role and able to work just as effectively remotely as you are in an office environment.
- Time management – Just as proactivity is important if you feel like you have spare time, time management and setting realistic expectations around your workload is crucial if you feel like you are being set too much work and/or are feeling overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to have these conversations with your team so that you can manage your time (and your stress levels) most effectively.
- Networking – It can be easy to underestimate the value of networking, especially when working remotely. However, whilst traditionally done face-to-face, networking is also done online through online events, connecting and speaking with people via LinkedIn, and simply meeting and chatting to your new coworkers. Building an informal network is vital to your future success and you never know what opportunities it could lead to!
2. Understanding your role and where it fits into the wider team/organisation
Before hybrid working, new graduates would have typically been working in-office every day and getting to know the ins and outs of their role and the roles of their colleagues in an in-person environment. The process of learning in this way is often osmosis learning (the process of learning through observing others’ behaviour and processes). Because osmosis learning is not always possible in the hybrid working model, you may find it more difficult to learn what your role involves and where it fits into your wider team.
It’s helpful to know that this is a common experience for new graduates and that you are not alone if you feel like you don’t fully understand your role and its purpose in the wider context of your organisation. If you do feel like this, here are a few tips:
- Try reaching out to colleagues or your line manager – they might be able to explain the structure of the teams to you and offer you more support to understand your role.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s normal to have questions when you first start a role and it’s better to ask than suffer in silence. Plus, if you have a question, somebody else has probably had it too, so you might be helping another new starter out!
- Listen and observe – osmosis learning is still possible virtually, especially if you are invited to lots of group meetings with stakeholders from across your department/organisation. Make sure you are always listening and observing and you will gradually build up your knowledge and understanding.
- Be patient with yourself – even if you do all of the above, it will still take time to learn the nuances of your new role, so be patient with yourself and know that nobody is expecting you to know everything straight away!
3. Adjusting to the norms of your new workplace
As a new graduate, you may not have worked in an office or workplace environment before, so it’s hard to know what to expect. There are also other factors that impact how prepared you might feel – for example, if you come from a household where your family didn’t work in an office environment, then you may also have less of an understanding about what to expect from this type of workplace.
To help you to prepare for your new workplace, it can be helpful to reach out to your contact at the organisation (usually the person who hired you or HR) to ask any questions you have. These people will be used to answering questions from new recruits, so don’t be afraid to ask them anything that will help you prepare and/or put your mind at ease. Common questions you might want to ask include: what the office dress code is, what time you start on your first day, how the office seating plan/desk booking works, whether there is any training you are required to complete, whether there is flexibility in your working hours, and many more.
4. Ensuring the visibility of your work
Many new graduates know how to do their job extremely well, especially if their degree offered the specific training and/or work experience to prepare for it. However, what many graduates find harder is ensuring the visibility of the great work that they are doing, especially when they are working remotely and their team/manager is not necessarily seeing their work on a daily basis. Ensuring that you are communicating effectively with your line manager and that your work is visible to those who may need to access it will help you to establish your role within the team and showcase your work.
Also, you shouldn’t be afraid to shout about your successes at work! Most organisations love to celebrate their employees’ achievements and initiatives. Plus, if you have aspirations of a promotion, pay rise, or bonus, it’s the stakeholders that can open those doors, and they’ll be far more eager to open them if they’re immediately aware of how brilliant you are at your job.
5. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
If you are used to attending lectures, seminars and other activities in-person, you may not be used to working from home. Even if you do have experience working from home, like most of us do, you may not have the space or finances to have a full working-from-home set up. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact, more than one third (35%) of employees have no dedicated workspace at home.
Whilst this is a very common reality, it can make striking a healthy work-life balance more difficult, as the places you rest become the places you work and vice versa. To mitigate this, try to dedicate one area of your home to working. You don’t need to a have a full fancy set up with desk and monitor (unless you can afford to) – it can be as simple as dedicating the dining table to work during work hours.
Speaking of work hours, you may be tempted to answer emails and reply to colleagues at any time of the day – after all, you have no excuse if you’re working from home, right? Well, it’s actually really important to set clear boundaries so that you only work (yes, that includes responding to messages and carrying out any other work tasks) during working hours.