This week two managers shared with their situation with the team:
“This is not a team, we are all located in different countries, we think differently, it is very difficult for me to create a connection to these people. I want to drink coffee with them, meet for lunch to connect. I don’t feel we are a team.”
“She sent me yesterday a letter of dismissal and told me that she felt one woman show, she felt that she needed to deal with a lot of things alone, and she just couldn’t stand on our expectations and continue to be with the consistent feeling of failure.”
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Regardless of whether employees are in the office, working from home, or a little bit of both, they each deserve an equal chance to feel like they are a part of the organizational community.
There are a lot of advantages of hybrid work: health, improved work-life balance, hiring employees in the wider area, greater productivity, flexible working hours, savings on office costs, work-from-anywhere culture.
But, let’s talk about the challenges of hybrid work.
Clear expectations for hybrid work.
From the recent report of McKinsey[SC5] . More than 3/4 of senior executives surveyed say they expect the typical ‘core’ employee to be back in the office at least 3 days a week. But nearly 3/4 of employees say they would like to work from home for 2 or more days a week, and 52% want at least three days of remote working.
Make sure you and your employee are have same expectations.
Being in a hybrid team is a bit like being in a long-distance relationship. It requires trust, regular contact and a lot of determination to make it work.
When people are working together all the time, it’s relatively easy to collaborate, give feedback, get help, participate in meetings and build solid foundations within teams. And when everyone is working remotely, people become familiar with virtual collaboration and know to stay in touch with regular check-ins and virtual chats. But when teams are split, a disconnect can develop between those in the office and those at home.
Make sure your team is connected. You are responsible for this as a manager, not an HR person. You also can share your responsibility and give some employees be accountable for daily 1 hour collaboration (monthly accountability); be accountable for team weekly happy hour; be accountable to support with creation of once a month cooking classes leading by one of the team members - or just sharing about the food they like when all team invite this food from the same restaurant.
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Having to engage hybrid teams in new ways.
Keeping remote workers engaged can be hard work and time-consuming – which is why some leaders perhaps don’t give it as much attention as they should. Previously, you could walk around the office, notice body language and problem-solve when needed. Now, it’s much harder to pick up on people’s emotions if you can’t see them in person.
Be connected to your team members by doing weekly meetings and spending time on questions: "how do you feel?". And please, if a person shares with you their problems - support them, advise them what do you think and if you promise something, please be with integrity to your promises.
New employees' frustration.
This is one of the biggest challenges of hybrid working. New hires can find it very difficult to learn the ropes if they only spend limited time with colleagues in the office. Not only that, forming bonds with co-workers is much harder if they don’t have any in-person interaction. This can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration.
Create more meetings with new employees. Create weekly/two weekly/monthly committed colleagues when one of the team members supports the new employee. Daily 1-hour / 2-hours / 3 hours hands-on open video session when you can ask questions, but also silently work together and only see other colleagues working faces :)
Impact on culture.
The sense of belonging in an organization may not be as strong as when people are there all the time. Remote workers can feel less connected, out of the loop and like they can’t contribute as much, ultimately feeling like they don’t really fit in. All team members need to feel invested in the success of each other and the business.
Create joy in your team:
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And the last one: Be a role model!
To really understand what good looks like, you need to be displaying the behavior you expect from your team. So, take care of your own mental health and wellbeing and set the right example.
For instance, set your own clear hours and be sure not to send emails out of hours. Let it be known that you have a clear definition of when it’s time to work and when it’s time to relax and exhibit a good work-life balance. This will not only set a good example to your employees, but it will ensure that you are looking after your own mental health and wellbeing. No one is immune to the stress of everyday life and that includes you.
It’s also important to consider that the hybrid working model is new to most of us – therefore, you can’t be expected to have all the answers right away. Be honest with your team, don’t come across as all knowing, show them your weaknesses and let them know this is something you will have to figure out together.
I hope this advice serves you well. If you are still struggling to understand the challenges your team is facing in a new hybrid model, why not ask them what they need to feel supported to be the best they possibly can be?
The pandemic has been an extremely challenging period for everyone and for different reasons. But we must take the good that has come from it and build upon it. The mental health and wellbeing of people is immensely important, so make sure it remains a priority as your organization transitions back into the next era of work.