How To Manage Your Rapidly Growing Team [Hybrid & Virtually]
How businesses operate changed dramatically—almost overnight—during the pandemic. The biggest changes occurred to the white-collar workforce, where most went from working in assigned workspaces to work from home. Two years later, many of those professionals are still working from home. As vaccines became widely available and a large percentage of the workforce was vaccinated, some businesses elected to have their employees begin returning to the corporate offices last summer. But as the omicron variant became widespread last fall, many of those businesses elected to close their offices when fully vaccinated workers began to test positive.
Will a Return to Normal Business Mean a Return to the Office in 2022?
Now that infections are on the decline, many believe we’ve turned the corner and business can return to the office. But will the work world look exactly like it did before the pandemic hit in early 2020? The answer is no. Some businesses concluded that maintaining a permanent office space to accommodate their workforce during a fixed schedule was no longer a strategic value. Instead, they jettisoned some—and in certain cases all—of their office space and either moved to a 100% virtual work model or a hybrid work environment where workers spend some of their time in a company office and the rest of the time working from home.
Workers Like Hybrid and Remote Work Models
Both workers and businesses are key drivers behind the shift. Workers are resoundingly behind remote and hybrid work models. In a study conducted by Buffer last year, 97% of workers indicated they want to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their career. For businesses trying to force workers back into a pre-pandemic mold, they are experiencing a talent drain. Nearly one-quarter of workers applied for a new job on the past three months. And behind pay and promotion, workers cited the inability of employers to adapt to their changing and future lifestyle needs as a top reason for their desire to leave their current employer.
Business Stand to Benefit from Hybrid and Remote Work
The benefits of remote and hybrid work are the reason businesses are embracing both models. For example, a study by Stanford found that working at home increased productivity for a group of 16,000 workers by 13%. “The productivity metric is proving that remote work is working,” according to Erik Bradley, the chief engagement specialist at Enterprise Technology Research. “We all thought that there would be some increase in remote work, but we didn’t expect that to double from pre-pandemic levels.” Retention rates were substantially higher among these workers—50% better.
It stands to reason that businesses are turning to remote and hybrid work models. In a survey of CFOs, Gartner found that almost three-quarters (74%) plan to permanently shift employees to remote work once the pandemic is complete. In a recent survey by Aryaka , two-third of businesses indicated that 25% of their workforces will be permanently remote post-pandemic; one-quarter of them said 75% of employees will be remote. Rates around hybrid workers are even higher: One-quarter of the businesses surveyed said that between 50% and 75% of their employees will be hybrid; almost half put the number between 25% and 50% of their employees.
How to Manage Hybrid and Virtual Workers
How businesses manage their growing hybrid and virtual teams will be critically important in 2022. There are a number of things that organizations and individual managers need to do in order to get the most out of their hybrid and virtual workers. Getting it right is really important; research shows that remote and hybrid workers with positive experiences are 28% more productive and 46% more engaged than in-office workers.
Provide Work Schedule Flexibility
The days of expecting workers to drive to a physical office, sit in an assigned workspace from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then drive home are antiquated. Even if businesses allow hybrid and virtual work, they are certain to face talent recruitment and retention headwinds if they continue to follow the 9-to-5 work schedule rule. In a study by Future Forum, a consortium overseen by Slack, 95% of knowledge workers in a recent study actually indicated that having flexible work schedules is actually more important to them than hybrid work. Workers “don’t want a full, nine-to-five day of meetings,” said Brian Elliott, the executive leader for the Future Forum, in an interview with Fortune. “They want the flexibility to turn off notifications when it’s right for them.” He included in the interview the example of caregivers, who may need to log off between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and then come back online after their kids are in bed and asleep.
Understand Remote Work Preference Disparities
The same study by Future Forum revealed some interesting insights around preferences for work in a corporate office versus remote work. Executives spend more time in the corporate office and are more likely to work from the office than their employees.
Future Forum’s Elliott comments, “It’s not surprising that the people who go into the office the most are white men, nonparents, and executives. The people who value flexibility more are minorities, women, and parents.” With this in mind, it is important for businesses to define clear principles upon which hybrid and remote work function. Thinking outside of the box and limiting the number of days per week all workers can work in-office is one strategy for combating bias and ensuring equity between remote and in-office staff. Another approach—applicable for hybrid workforces—would be to establish specific days for in-office work versus virtual work.
Get the Right Tech for Collaboration
Having the right instant messaging technology in place to facilitate seamless collaboration and communication between all workers—those working in-office and remote—is crucial. There are some great options for real-time instant messaging, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Chatwork, and others. These have different capabilities and price points that businesses need to weight when considering which one is best for them. Some of the capabilities most used by businesses include file sharing, audio and video calls, and project management.
Listen to Workers: Constant and Open Communications
Employees want constant and open communications from their manager as well as employer. Transparency around company mission, strategy, and results is important. Open communications require regular meetings where all employees can share relevant information with their teams or the entire organization. It is extremely important that these meetings are two-way interactions; not simply forums for management to distill information to workers. Employees who have the chance to voice their ideas and opinions are 74% more effective in their job, according to one recent report. For businesses that went 100% remote or with physical office space without appropriate meeting space, rented meeting space through a provider like Davinci Meeting Rooms might be a great choice.
Define, Track, and Measure Priorities
Employees need to understand priorities, and not simply at the level of individual tasks. Rather, they need to priorities to be defined at various organizational levels: at the company level, department level, individual team level, and individual worker level. Prioritization needs to include timeframes and deadlines. Putting a project management tool like Monday.com, Asana, Wrike, or Workfront provides high-to-granular level views of projects and tasks and are a good way for teams and individuals to remain on schedule and on budget.
Sustain Work-Life Balance
One of the reasons to move to hybrid and virtual work arrangements is improved work-life balance. But for some workers, hybrid and virtual work experiences can come with negative repercussions such as feelings of loneliness and isolation. For businesses with 100% remote work models, they can think about leveraging virtual workspace such as coworking space or day offices for employees who need professional and social interactions when they are working. In other instances, a team working from a coworking space once a week can be a great way to break up the monotony of work from home and to provide in-person interactions and collaboration.
Avoid Employee Burnout
One of the outcomes of hybrid and virtual work is that workers, on a whole, spend more time each day working than when they worked from a physical office. According to a study published in Nature Human Behavior, remote workers spend 10% longer logged in each week. This is fours each week for someone working a 40-hour workweek. Another study of workers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Austria last year found that workers were spending an extra 2.5 hours each day at work-related tasks than before the pandemic. All of this translates into higher stress and burnout—which equate to reduced productivity, a higher number of health issues, and higher attrition rates. In response, businesses and managers need to ensure they aren’t giving too much work to their employees, establish set work hours, and ensure their employees aren’t allocating parts of their weekends to complete unfinished work from the prior week.
Build For and Nurture Culture
A business culture matters a lot—and more so for businesses with hybrid and virtual work models. Employee turnover for businesses that lack a distinct company culture is 48%. For those with a great culture, it is 14%. There are numerous strategies businesses can employ to ensure they build and nurture a great company culture. Hiring is a great starting point. Simply because someone is a great professional doesn’t mean they are always a fit for your business. Job candidates need to be vetted based on core company values and if they will fit in with the rest of the team. Company culture is evident in many other ways, such as the onboarding of new employees, company-sponsored events, and the coaching and mentoring of both new hires and existing employees.
Capitalizing on the Opportunities of Hybrid and Remote Work
Additional recommendations could certain be added to the above. The move to hybrid and virtual work arrangements dictates that businesses reinvent themselves and putting the right technologies and processes in place is crucial to ensure optimal outcomes. Organizations must focus less on work location and more on employee experience to generate the productivity, creativity, and empowerment gains that are possible as a result of the adoption of hybrid and remote work models.