In the wake of the unprecedented global pandemic, the traditional concept of work underwent a seismic transformation. As companies adapted swiftly to ensure business continuity, the remote work culture emerged as a lifeboat for many organizations. Surprisingly, this experiment with telecommuting not only proved to be successful but also reshaped the future of work. Today, a post-pandemic reality beckons, where the hybrid work model has taken center stage, offering employees the flexibility to divide their time between the office and home. However, to truly thrive in this new norm, it is essential to think differently about working in a hybrid world. In this article, we will explore 5 strategies and practices that can empower individuals and businesses alike to unlock the full potential of this transformative work environment.
1. Build Connection and Trust with your People
To build connections within the team, consider implementing a buddy system, where members are paired up for daily 5-minute calls to catch up and support each other. Conducting weekly heart-to-heart video calls allows participants to freely discuss whatever is on their minds. Additionally, creating shared virtual lunchrooms provides a space for informal gatherings and conversations akin to break room interactions.
For teams with members who have never met in-person or those with introverted individuals, organizing weekly team meetings for getting to know each other can be beneficial. Each week, featuring a different team member who presents something about themselves helps strengthen bonds. Encourage both formal and informal presentations, allowing time for preparation and thought, particularly for introverts or neurodiverse team members. You can use templates or encourage creative presentations, such as slideshows, to suit the team’s preferences. By nurturing a culture of connection, your team can thrive even in a virtual environment.
2. Set goals frequently make the specific and measurable
In order to foster a strong sense of unity within your team, it’s essential to avoid any division between “us” and “them.” Face-to-face connections whenever possible are crucial, especially incorporating social interactions where practical. When dealing with a mix of virtual and in-office team members, it’s vital to ensure that everyone can participate in meetings and connects to prevent feelings of exclusion. the hybrid work environment, the traditional annual goal-setting approach with periodic reviews no longer suffices. With reduced supervision and connection, employees find it challenging to keep up with changing client and organizational objectives, tactics, and strategies. To ensure effectiveness, dynamic and measurable goals must be adjusted more frequently to stay aligned with organizational objectives.
Empowering employees with autonomy while setting clear boundaries, authority, and accountability is vital for their success. Defining what excellence, good, and not acceptable performance look like provides a clear roadmap for achievement. Breaking tasks into manageable chunks and agreeing on specific timelines for each segment ensures progress towards the overall goal.
Ensuring goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) adds clarity and precision, enabling employees to track their progress effectively. By adopting these strategies, organizations can adapt to the challenges of the hybrid environment and ensure their efforts remain relevant and impactful in achieving organizational objectives.
3. Make sure the goal is SMART – Aim for your team members to have no more than 2 meetings per day and make them count!
One of the most common complaints in the Hybrid Model, whether team members work 100% virtually, 100% in the office, or somewhere in between, is the overwhelming amount of time spent in meetings, leaving little time for actual work. To address this, creating a weekly or monthly meetings plan for each team member is crucial.
Start by identifying client meetings that are essential for team members to attend. Then, incorporate at least two personal connection type meetings each week to nurture relationships. With the remaining time slots, prioritize value-add or essential meetings for your employees.
To make meetings more effective and productive, send out agendas or relevant content in advance, allowing participants to prepare thoroughly. Set clear expectations for meeting duration and the level of contribution expected from team members. Keeping meetings on track by managing time and intervening when discussions go off-topic will help make every minute count. By implementing a well-structured meetings plan and optimizing meeting practices, teams can strike a balance between collaboration and focused productivity in the Hybrid Model.
4. Make time to talk and listen to your people about their Hybrid situation
As the Hybrid model introduces uncertainty, many individuals are grappling with concerns about what it means for them. Engaging in open conversations and actively listening to your team members is essential to gaining insight into their unique situations and anxieties. Following Stephen Covey’s wisdom, “Seek first to understand then to be understood,” fosters empathy and connection.
It’s completely natural for people to experience anxiety, especially about returning to the office, even part-time, as it aligns with the way human brains are wired. Some team members seek clarity on what the future holds and the opportunity to express their perspectives. Others find solace in being heard, which can significantly reduce anxiety during the initial phase of transitioning back to the office.
Certain team members face more significant challenges, such as no longer living near an office, enduring lengthy commutes, or contemplating relocation. Meanwhile, those who will predominantly work from home require assurances about job security and their value to the team.
Involving team members in the development of a hybrid workplan, setting clear expectations for work from home (WFH) and work from office (WFO), and addressing logistical issues like network connectivity, travel, client expectations, and deliverables, ensures a comprehensive approach to the hybrid work environment. Ultimately, incorporating team members’ insights and providing support and assurance will foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the new model.
5. Model the desired behaviours
Creating a culture of trust and empowerment within your team starts with you as the leader. Transparency allows team members to own their mistakes and voice their concerns, knowing it’s a cultural norm. Show empathy by caring for their well-being and making practical accommodations, and they will dedicate their energy to achieving shared objectives.
Foster an environment of vulnerability, where team members feel safe revealing their true selves and driving behaviors without fear of repercussions. Lead by example to build this psychological safety. Demonstrate accountability by owning up to your own mistakes and failures, inspiring team members to do the same and garnering their respect.
Be an advocate for your team, championing their ideas and advocating for necessary tools and technology to support their success. Recognize exceptional work and address unsustainable policies that may lead to burnout. As a leader, embodying these values nurtures a positive team culture, driving performance and fostering a sense of belonging and commitment among team members.