The hybrid model, time working from home and time in the office, can offer the best of both worlds if done right.

Harvest’s recent Geelong HR Roundtable “Managing People in a Hybrid World” addressed the importance of hybrid working when it comes to attracting, engaging and retaining staff. Whilst there are heaps of obstacles and challenges in rolling out a remote working program, the real difficult piece is managing people in remote scenarios.

Deakin Uni’s Blended Work Program.

Deakin University has always been a flexible employer and many people worked from home prior to the pandemic either on an ad hoc basis or on regular arrangement.  However, one third had never worked remotely (mainly professional staff rather than academic staff).

In early 2021, Deakin started working through what blended meant and put in place a program that could work in the longer term. This is now the transformational project that Rachael Ruiz works on in her role as Program Director of Blended Working.

Deakin doesn’t intend to work to a fully remote model. Students want to have an on-campus experience and all staff are expected to work on campus at some stage. There are three key areas of focus in the Blended Working Transformation Program:

  1. People:

The arrangements that are put in place to accommodate staff’s needs eg. split working days, compressed working weeks. It’s important to recognise flexibility and offer options – it’s not a one size fits all solution.

  1. Places:

The experience staff have at work. eg.  Deakin has a range of focus rooms and different types of spaces – you don’t come into work to sit at a desk and do work that you can do at home! Lockers are provided so there is no ownership of any space including desks.  This is a distinct move from “I own” to “I share.” Even the Vice Chancellor hasn’t got an office – the corner office has become a meeting space!

  1. Digital:

Exploring technology eg. have in place an easy booking system to reserve an office space. Standardised computer systems, ensuring everyone has a portable mouse and keyboard for hygiene purposes.

When working remotely one of the biggest issues is how do you still connect with the team?  This is where a blended arrangement can still offer that. Anchor days when the whole team is in the office, is one perfect solution.

“I the manager” is now “we the team.”

Wayne Robertson, ex L&D Director from Wesfarmers and currently with US company (YPO) works entirely remotely and has for some time. Wayne loves working from home and never wants to go back into the office. According to Wayne, the key to successful remote working is for the organisation to have clarity, focus, vision, and alignment.

The old rigid models of management simply do not cut it anymore. “I the manager” is now “we the team.” Here are a few tips:

  • It all starts with trust. Trust, empowerment, coaching, and support is required to set your team up for success. How the work gets done is up to the individual team member – less micro-managing and looking over the shoulder – this starts from a place of trust.
  • Ensure everyone feels valued and introduce different ways to communicate and connect with your team. In a typical 60-minute call, for example, around 20 minutes could be around  “connection”. Ensure everyone contributes.  People can struggle with this, thinking it is “wasted time” but it is incredibly important to do as a leader. Have one on one “check-ins” with team members.  Are they ok?  Build a place of psychological safety. And have a bit of fun too. Get your managers to be experts in ZOOM – using crazy filters and backgrounds etc. Keep the communication up – a 2- minute videos to your staff works better than an email too!
  • Effective leadership starts with the mindset of the leader. If the leader is not in the right frame of mind and taking care of their wellbeing it is really hard for them to lead the team. Don’t fall into the trap of working longer hours than you need to and suffer from burnout as a result. Do you really need to respond to emails that come from USA at 6am in the morning?

Why does working from home work well for some and not others?

For some, productive working from home comes naturally and for some it doesn’t. Why? These attributes help make a good remote worker:

  • How do they show up professionally on ZOOM meetings?  Have they made the effort to get out of the trackies?
  • Are they prompt and arrive for the start of the meeting?
  • Do they display initiative, self-reliance, and the ability to work independently?
  • Are they adaptable to change?
  • Do they display consistency?

Emerging Trends

  1. Redesigning the use of office space.
    Salesforce in San Francisco turned their office space into a café, and collaboration rooms. Staff utilise office space for celebration purposes and connection only.  This extreme example was taken when they realised that 80% of their workforce will not come back into the office full time post pandemic.
  2. New disciplines have evolved to manage new work models.
    There’s a new job title that exists already – “Head of Remote.”  A bit like Rachael’s role at Deakin, this role will become more prevalent as organisations realise that hybrid working is here to stay.

Employers,  a valuable copy of the recording which includes presenter slides and other valuable resources is available for purchase for $45. Please contact Harvest HR & People Solutions. Email



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