The onset of COVID nearly three years ago brought with it a lot of challenges and negatives, but as we work through the aftermath, it’s important to take a moment to focus on ways to make lemonade out of the lemons.
At first it was a shock to our system, but remote work has allowed agencies like TEAM LEWIS to expand their hiring searches beyond the geographic barriers of office locations and focus simply on finding the best talent there is to serve our clients while providing a new level of flexibility. This means that as some team members decide to head back to the office – some full-time and others on a flexible schedule – other employees will remain fully remote. The resulting hybrid workforce presents distinct difficulties when it comes to creating a collaborative, productive and supportive work environment for all employees. Enter the modern manager – one who is letting go of traditional leadership norms to ensure all team members are treated fairly, afforded the needed flexibility for their unique situation and provided with the necessary tools to excel and grow. Here are a few best practices for leaders in this hybrid work environment.
Get More Transparent
Employees work best when they feel invested in the company they are a part of. Therefore, it’s important to rethink transparency and information sharing in a way that makes sense in a hybrid setting. One way to do this is by setting up a weekly or bi-weekly all-hands team meeting for important conversations so hybrid or remote workers aren’t left out of critical conversations. This will also help you prioritize tasks with flexibility in mind, understanding that everyone may not be in the office when you think to hand out tasks. It’s easy to forget about remote employees when handing out accolades or assignments that could be a big opportunity for growth, so consider adding this to your agenda as well.
This is also a setting in which you can reinforce the organization’s plans for the future of remote work and continue to encourage all to embrace the provided flexibility to meet their personal and career needs.
Flexibility is not a one-size fits all approach, so managers must consider each employee’s unique needs and find a way to ensure that, regardless of their schedule or location, all team members are immersed in company culture and empowered to do their best work. Start by having a conversation around how they prefer feedback. Should you do it via email or Zoom, or wait until you can both be in a room together to discuss more in-depth.
Either way, this doesn’t mean setting up meetings to constantly check in, but instead rethinking meetings considering “will this conversation result in progress or action,” and if the answer is no, maybe use a collaboration tool instead that allows all team members – remote and in-person – to be a part of the conversation or decision.
Another element of embracing the flexibility that comes with a hybrid workforce is ensuring all employees are set up for success in each “office” they work from. In some instances, this might mean helping with home office expenses, like providing a Wi-Fi stipend or a budget for a second mouse and keypad so they don’t need to transport materials. Basically, whether for productivity or overall comfort, as a team leader in a highly competitive workforce, you want to ensure your entire team has access to things that would otherwise be provided for in-office employees – even the little things like coffee.
Be Clear About Expectations
Whether it’s work hours, deliverable deadlines or being on camera for calls, a common concern (and for some, a complaint) with a hybrid team model is the blurry lines around expectations. As a manager in this new normal, it’s among your most important tasks to establish clear expectations for all employee productivity and schedules. Develop a flowchart or other process document to outline which channels should be used for certain types of communication and during what hours employees are expected to respond. Then, most importantly, model this behavior so your employees feel empowered to do so, as well. For example, when working late, consider scheduling emails to go out during normal working hours instead of pushing send as you write them at 9 pm so your junior team member doesn’t feel obligated to answer their team leader immediately.
Furthermore, it’s important to be transparent and encourage your team to be overly communicative about their schedules and workloads – it’s very easy to assume someone isn’t busy (or is) when you can’t see them heads down working. Don’t assume – ask! Once expectations are shared and a level of transparency is established, you then can offer to provide support to employees that might need guidance on self-direction and motivation while in a hybrid model.
Some might feel anxious about returning to the office, others worried that remaining remote puts them at a professional disadvantage. Allow people to discuss these concerns and be clear about the expectations for their role and how they can remain a strong employee without giving up the flexibility they now often require.
Most importantly, remember this is new for everyone and we are all learning together, so be patient with one another, have conversations about areas to improve and focus on putting your entire team first no matter what.
Need a hand with managing hybrid teams in a hybrid environment? Connect with our team leaders for expertise you can count on.