Many prominent surveys have shown that most employees want a permanently hybrid work environment – or at least more flexible workplaces. This is a shift that has been coming for some time – the pandemic simply accelerated it.
For employees, hybrid workplaces combine in-person work and telecommuting. For organizations, this shift brings many questions about how to manage the new hybrid workplace. For many leaders, managing a distributed team of people engaging in various work modes – such as in-office, hybrid, remote and outside sales – is unfamiliar.
If you’re a leader in a hybrid organization, you likely see both the benefits and the challenges. On one hand, you’re able to give your employees the flexibility they want, potentially enhancing overall productivity and increasing retention in a tight job market. On the other hand, you’re tasked with fostering sustainable communication, employee engagement, collaboration and culture growth in an unmapped context.
To make your hybrid employee work environment a long-term success, you’ll need strategies for:
- Making your team more cohesive
- Leveling the playing field across remote, hybrid and full-time office dwellers
- Elevating the engagement and productivity of your team
Here are 10 tips you can use today to build a successful hybrid work environment.
1. Focus on the core: employee engagement
Proximity is not necessarily a requirement for creating a work environment with high employee engagement.
Focus on the core elements, ensuring your employees:
- Have the tools and resources they need
- Know what is expected of them
- Feel that their opinions matter
- Experience opportunities to learn and grow
- Receive recognition regularly for doing good work
Granted, this is not easy work for managers under the best conditions, but it’s work that delivers results worthy of your efforts.
2. Do away with “top-down” communication
“Top down” talk is history. C-suite leaders of today’s organizations are chief catalysts, connectors and communicators. More than ever, dispersed employees need tangible threads to an organization’s direction, purpose and values.
3. Acknowledge the human experience
Remember the first month we all started working from home? We collectively pulled back the big curtain on our life-beyond-work selves. In the months that followed, we navigated a myriad of challenges, from stress and overwhelm to homeschooling, financial pressure and health concerns – and we confirmed that we are human.
Hybrid work environments require leaders and colleagues to lead with empathy, listen and see the humanness in each other.
Organizations have added fresh benefits such as extended parental support, mental health resources, Peloton equipment and even “pawternity” leave for employees to spend time with a new family pet.
The best hybrid workplace leaders are finding authentic ways to show that they care about each employee’s human experience.
4. Create community
Social media has shown us that we can create strong community bonds across the miles when there are shared values and a palpable culture of belonging.
Empower your employees to create community in your organization. Special interest groups (e.g., hikers, gardeners, kids’ coaches, DIY-ers, etc.) can create connectivity and camaraderie.
Take on a cause or two as an organization and empower your team to find ways to contribute that suit their talents, passions and work mode. Connecting people to create good in the community (inside your organization or in your neighborhoods) benefits everyone.
5. Be mindful about time
Time is not replaceable. Now is the only currency you have. Be intentional about how you manage your time and how your team spends their time.
Carefully consider when your team should:
- Buckle down to focus
Don’t bring everyone into the office just to have them sit in cubicles all day with their headphones on. Managers must be more proactive and efficient than ever to identify in which context work, creativity and collaboration are fostered.
6. See and use the whole playing field
Just like it’s easy to focus on the offense and top scorers in a football game, it may be easy to focus on the employees who are leading big projects or coming into the office every day.
Take time to acknowledge the contributions of all team members, near and far. Tell short success stories that demonstrate the connection and engagement of a broad array of team members. Seek out ideas from every corner of your organization. Check alignment with the big company scoreboard.
Connect talent to talent and watch productivity multiply.
7. Define outcomes and let your team deliver
Autonomy is the breakfast of champions.
A flexible work environment can spark innovative thinking and doing. New processes, better communication flows and more efficient use of resources are often the result of team empowerment.
Yes, some teams and individuals require more support and structure in fluid work environments. But resist a prescriptive solution. Flexibility fuels performance in a hybrid workplace.
8. Value people over desks
We are not where we were in the spring of 2020.
Many of us have hired new team members who don’t live within driving distance of the office. Other team members moved to far-flung locations during the pandemic and are no longer able to commute into the office. Teams that had a few remote workers are now comprised of more than 50% remote team members.
What brings us together is our culture. Culture was never about the desks, the fifteen-minute massage Fridays or the IPA on draft in the break room. Culture is about how we connect, how we communicate and how we see, trust and treat each other. Culture can transcend time zones and miles.
Remember: It’s not about the office space. It’s about the people.
9. Up your meeting game
Reduce waste, and get rid of most of your meetings.
When you do have them, be intentional about how, why and how long you sit in meetings. Schedule 25-minute meetings where 1-hour meetings used to live. Master the digital communication tools at your fingertips, and expect your team to do the same. Maximize face-to-face time by doing work that is truly done best in person.
Many companies are scheduling face-to-face business unit or company-wide meetings several times a year to leverage that premium connection time for the team.
Regardless of how you meet, be fully present. Say, “I see you,” with your voice, words, tone and body language. Don’t multitask. Show up wholly, and show that team member 260 miles away that you care.
10. Be less supervisor, more coach in the hybrid work environment
Finally, we can rid the world of the term “supervisor.”
Whether your team members are in a cubicle eight feet away or in their home office 800 miles away, they need someone who clarifies direction, provides resources and offers recognition for doing great work.
In other words, be a coach who:
- Helps team members be daily learners and stretch themselves to be their best today
- Engages in two-way conversations that offer mutual benefit
When people see that you are invested in them and their growth, their trust, engagement and productivity can soar – even while you’re sitting in the Houston office and they’re in their home office in Park City, Utah.
Summing it all up
Learning how to manage the new hybrid workplace requires a re-thinking of how work gets done, where and why. Mastering this shift can lead your team to greater productivity, stronger engagement and a more satisfying experience. Looking for more ways to improve engagement in any work environment? Download your free copy of The Insperity guide to employee engagement.