5 Leadership Tips for the Hybrid Workplace
With the after-effects of the pandemic, many businesses are turning to a hybrid approach to work, with a combination of in-office and remote schedules for their team. A Gartner survey found that 82 percent of companies plan to embrace a hybrid work model post-pandemic. A Slack survey confirmed this sentiment, with 72 percent of workers saying they prefer a mix of working from home and in the office. Beyond all the other shifts that leaders need to make as we return to the “new normal,” blending remote and on-site employees requires a new set of management skills.
If you’re facing a hybrid work model in the future, use these five tips to make a successful and effective transition.
1. Focus on Effective and Consistent Communications
Communication is even more imperative as you face a distributed and potentially shifting workforce. More than just developing communication strategies that you’ll use going forward, ensure you effectively communicate throughout the transition.
McKinsey offers actionable tips, explaining, “Clear and inspiring communication is central to making this next unsteady phase a success. In addition to moving decisively on strategic changes, leaders need to help rattled workforces believe in the future. For many people, their employer has been a zone of relative stability during a time of chronic uncertainty.”
In their report, they recommend four stages of communication as you navigate the return to work and new hybrid practices:
● Laying the groundwork: Consider surveying employees to understand their preferences, worries, and comfort levels. Thoroughly explain new processes to your team (more on that in the next step).
● Honoring the past: Don’t try to sweep the past year under the rug. Offer support to employees still struggling from the impact of the pandemic.
● Marking the transition: Routines can help us return to some sort of semblance of normal, recognize the official start of this new phase for your company.
● Looking to the future: Embrace your organization’s purpose and goals and how your employees can achieve those within these new parameters of the hybrid environment.
2. Work with Re-Entry Anxiety, Not Against It
Your team will likely be nervous to go back to the office, even part-time. While you can try to beat this issue, it’s better to work with it, understand it, and support your employees through this new process. Match your new policies to factors that may make workers apprehensive and explain how you plan to counteract them. Send out company-wide notices and explain relevant new practices such as:
● Cleaning: Outline your organization’s cleaning and sanitizing standards and how they’re based on industry best practices. As a benchmark, a recent survey of business owners found that 63 percent will clean several times per day, and 46 percent plan to keep a deep cleaning protocol for as long as COVID is a threat.
● Office layout: The CDC recommends masking and social distancing even after vaccinations. Explain office details about desk placement, mask use, and other pertinent information for working on-site.
● Sick policies: If employees feel ill, even with non-COVID-related symptoms, have an automatic WFH clause so that your in-office team can feel as comfortable as possible.
● Mental health: One of the best ways to balance re-entry anxiety is via mental health initiatives. Reinforce mental wellness-related resources and tools available to employees as they return to work. In their guide, How to Help Your Team Overcome Mental Health Issues, Hubgets recommends: “Put together some guides for stress management, make yourself available for one-on-one meetings not only for work-related matters, or even consider covering the costs for therapy when needed.”
3. Don’t Forget to Focus on Culture
With team members shuffling between remote work and in-office time, it can be easy to neglect team-building activities. However, to succeed in the hybrid workplace, you need to keep company culture alive via social interactions, positive feedback and reinforcement, and engaging activities. What’s more, it’s vital that your remote employees don’t feel like “second-class citizens” compared to their in-office colleagues.
Make culture-building activities a priority for your teams, both during your transition period and after. Promote relationships between team members through collaborative projects or mentorship programs.
Check out this Forbes article for even more actionable strategies to build and sustain workplace culture within your hybrid organization.
4. Embrace Dynamic Workplace Options
If operations allow, your hybrid work model might include part of your staff WFH permanently. A recent PwC survey found that nearly a quarter of employees plan to relocate more than 50 miles away from their core worksite, while 12 percent already have. If you have teams that can no longer make it into a physical location, don’t worry (or worse, consider recruiting new local team members). The future of hybrid work means embracing satellite workers.
Moreover, there are dynamic solutions to make distributed teams even more successful, such as:
● Virtual offices: If you find that a large portion of your team suddenly works in one area (many companies have seen an exodus of workers moving away from expensive cities), consider setting up a virtual office there. This allows you to have a digital footprint in another location without the overhead or hassle of an actual physical office.
● Digital support staff: Perhaps it no longer makes sense to have on-site support staff when much of your operations are no longer on-site. Utilize a virtual receptionist that can handle administrative staff as well as support your remote team. This can go a long way with organizing your distributed employees so they can focus on high-level tasks.
● Flexible meeting spaces: If you have team members around the country that need to meet for an important project or training session—rent a meeting space for the specific event. They’ll enjoy a comfortable, professional setting with access to business services.
5. Ask for Feedback
The last tip is the easiest but often most forgotten. As you transition into hybrid work, ask your team member for honest feedback on the process. Check-in to see how they feel about the mix of remote and in-office scheduling. If you have a blend of full-time remote and on-site workers, ask them how the collaboration process is going. Are there any potential roadblocks? Employees will generally offer their opinions candidly, as long as you make them feel safe and heard.
As much as we all now dislike the word “unprecedented,” the fact is, we’re still in uncharted territory. The only way you’ll make hybrid work succeed is by working with your team and pivoting based on their feedback. Use the above tips to make the shift into your new work model and ask your team members lots of questions along the way to tailor it to your organization’s unique environment.