With markets slowly starting to open, both employers and employees are starting to consider what the future of work will look like.
Studies show that employees may never be ready to head back to the office — at least not on a full-time basis. In fact, according to a recent survey, 73% of global workers want to retain flexibility in their work schedules. However, 67% of these same workers are looking forward to more face-to-face collaboration with their co-workers.
While some companies aren’t on board with the thought of permanent remote work options, the growing labour shortage and shift in workers’ expectations may give them no choice. For many organisations, a hybrid work schedule appears to be the ideal compromise. In fact, one study predicts that 51% of all knowledge workers and 32% of the general workforce across the globe will work remotely, at least on a part-time basis, by the end of 2021.
The reality is that hybrid work is here to stay, and now is the time to ensure your leaders are up for the challenge. To help with this transition, we have created this guide to equip managers, supervisors and executive leaders with the tools they need to successfully manage their hybrid teams.
5 actionable tips for managing hybrid teams
The term “lead by example” couldn’t be more important than when transitioning to a new work model. To prepare your leaders for this shift to hybrid work, it’s important to provide them with the extra support they need to navigate a smooth transition for the entire workforce. Below is a look at five actionable steps to help you manage a successful transition.
1. support your leaders
At the onset of the pandemic, business leaders across the globe were forced to transition from an onsite management style to overseeing a team of remote workers. Now, many of these same leaders are being tasked with transitioning to a hybrid work model. It only seems natural that some of these leaders are reluctant to make yet another shift in the way they lead. However, for a hybrid work model to work, all levels within your company must be on board.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help make the transition to a hybrid workforce easier for your leaders to handle.
new workplace policies
You can start by reexamining your workplace policies and make adjustments to meet the new demands of a hybrid work model. Giving your team leaders clear guidelines pertaining to workplace policies, such as work hours and communication requirements, can help them with this transition.
Once the announcement for hybrid work has been made, take the time to schedule a series of informational sessions for both management and workers. This will give your organisational leaders the opportunity to discuss their goals and objectives as well as answer questions about the transition.
Keep in mind that many team leaders within the company have spent years developing their onsite management style. These leaders cannot be expected to change overnight. One of the best ways your organisation can help with this transition is to provide leadership training specifically geared towards the management of a hybrid workforce.
2. design hybrid workplaces
With the introduction of a new work model should also come a redesign of the workplace. Evaluate your company’s current work setting and determine what changes can be made to create a post-pandemic workplace environment that is ideal for hybrid work. Here are some factors to keep in mind when creating new spaces.
Goldman Sachs CEO, David Solomon, said that continued remote work “raises fears over the impact on collaboration.” He has a point. Despite a 44% increase in the use of online collaboration tools during the pandemic, 67% of workers still want more face-to-face collaboration.
It’s crucial to understand this increased demand for collaboration, especially when your employees are working onsite. Consider reducing the number of individual office spaces. Instead, transform these areas into meeting rooms that are equipped for onsite or virtual meetings. For example, at Randstad Global we have transformed work stations into meeting spaces.
Transitioning to a hybrid workplace may help your company save money by decentralising its office spaces. According to a recent McKinsey study, organisations can save up to 30% on real estate costs by investing in alternative workspaces.
Companies, like Target, are making this process a reality. The giant retailer recently announced the closure of its nearly one-million-square-foot headquarters in downtown Minneapolis and is transferring its 3,500 employees that work there to various satellite offices. In the UK, British bank, Santander UK, has also announced the closure of offices in Manchester Deansgate, London Portman House, Bootle, and Newcastle, in addition to over 100 branch offices. Affected workers will transition into some form of remote work.
Your company also cannot ignore workers’ anxiety about returning to the office amid a global pandemic. Instead, you can help to alleviate some of this stress by investing in a variety of health and safety measures, including testing protocols, vaccination benefits, social distancing workstations and personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks. Some companies are even using technology, such as automated lights and doors, to create low-touch spaces.
3. maintain an empathy-first mindset
As your organisation heads into the uncharted territory of managing a hybrid workforce, it’s important to maintain an empathy-first mindset. Business leaders aren’t the only ones struggling with shifts in working conditions — so are your workers. To top it off, many employees are simultaneously dealing with life issues, such as caring for aging parents and homeschooling children.
Team leaders must realise that developing a hybrid workplace is going to take time and some adjustments will likely be necessary. There are, however, several things your company can do to minimise the impact on its workers.
build effective feedback channels
It’s critical to develop an effective way to measure employee sentiment while building a hybrid model. Consider using various feedback channels, including pulse surveys and employee forums, as well as developing a process for your employees to address their concerns and challenges.
Team leaders should also schedule frequent check-ins to give workers access to one-on-one conversations where they can discuss both work and life challenges. Consistent communication with the team will help team leaders assess workers’ well-being and identify any issues they may be having.
The Indian-based company, Infosys, recognised one of the benefits of hybrid work options is the inclusion of more women in the workplace. This benefit will only hold true if your team leaders maintain an empathy-first mindset that allows some flexibility when it comes to remote work.
Since building a hybrid workplace is a work in progress, team leaders shouldn’t assume that they understand the challenges your workers are facing. The reality is that the pandemic has spurred a desire for a healthy work-life balance. In fact, a recent Randstad study showed that 62% of employees would leave their current job for a less desirable position if it offered greater flexibility.
To eliminate the risk of increased turnover, leaders must allow for some level of flexibility within the hybrid work schedule. Leaders must also discuss work-life challenges directly with their workers before trying to offer any type of resolution.
Team leaders must take proactive measures to avoid employee burnout. Start by reducing the number of virtual meetings held by only holding meetings that are necessary to team performance. Instead, use other communication and workplace management tools to keep your team connected. Additionally, consider setting ‘do not disturb’ times for your team to encourage undisturbed productivity. For example, Citigroup has Zoom-Free Fridays to ensure their workers have at least one day to focus solely on individual work matters.
4. focus on inclusivity
Maru Flores, Global Collaboration and Client Productivity Services leader at Ford, recognises that “The key thing about a hybrid workplace model is making sure workers in the office and at home feel equally connected to the workplace.” However, maintaining inclusivity in a hybrid workplace can be quite challenging. The most important step is for leaders to understand these challenges and to find ways to create an equal work experience for both remote and onsite workers.
develop synchronised communication channels
One of the biggest challenges of inclusivity in a hybrid work model is team communication. It’s quite easy for conversations to happen onsite without the pertinent information being communicated to remote workers. After all, in-person communication has been the way of work for most workers’ entire careers. To overcome this challenge, leaders must readjust their mindsets pertaining to workplace communication and invest in a suite of digital tools that allow for seamless communication between team members.
create inclusive meeting spaces
No matter what type of hybrid work model your organisation develops, there’s a strong likelihood that many meetings will include a mixture of remote and onsite workers. With this expectation, be sure to create collaboration spaces that are ideal for hybrid meetings.
For example, Google has created ‘campfire meeting’ spaces that include a mixture of seats and screens in a circular design. Screens are placed close to eye level to give the appearance of a traditional in-person meeting. While creating such elaborate meeting spaces may not be in the company’s budget, it’s important to ensure your teams have the tools and equipment necessary to create meeting spaces that promote inclusion.
promote employee recognition
Studies show that employee recognition programs can produce 2.5 higher engagement rates. Investing in employee recognition or tailoring your current program to a hybrid work model can be a great way to display inclusivity in the workplace. Consider offering regular recognition options that are tied to a benefits program or hosting virtual recognition meetings that involve the entire company or department.
5. conduct unbiased performance monitoring
Another challenge of remote work is monitoring employee performance without displaying bias to onsite workers. The reality is that most of your leaders have been using day-to-day observations to assess worker performance forever. With a hybrid work model, these leaders must change the way they assess workers' performance day-in and day-out. Here are some tips to make this a reality.
create a structured employee performance review process
Studies in the UK done prior to the pandemic revealed that remote workers were 50% less likely to earn promotions over their onsite workers. Companies hoping to make hybrid work a permanent option must do better. Start by creating a structured employee performance review process that minimises the element of bias by incorporating the use of workplace KPI metrics along with direct observations.
build trust between management and workers
For hybrid work to be successful, management must maintain a level of trust with its workers, especially when they are working remotely. It’s impossible to micromanage remote workers while still expecting them to remain productive during the day. While managers may express concern over performance by remote workers, studies show that employees working from home are 24% more productive.
Managers struggling with building trust with their team can consider alternative methods to track the productivity of remote workers. For example, a Malaysian company, ADA, uses a simple Excel form to require workers to complete daily task charts, so managers can track their progress whether working onsite or remotely.
offer regular feedback
If you’re not careful, some employees can feel lost in the shuffle between onsite and remote work. Leaders can avoid this feeling of uncertainty among team members by offering feedback on a regular basis. In an onsite work environment, regular feedback occurs sporadically throughout the day. However, with partial remote work, opportunities to have random onsite meetings are limited, so your leaders will have to make a habit of providing valuable feedback using other communication channels.
Taking proactive measures to prepare your team leaders for the shift to a hybrid workplace can go a long way in ensuring a seamless transition for the workforce at large. Download our mini-guide to learn what are the steps you need to boost engagement in a hybrid workplace.