After the trials and tribulations that COVID-19 has brought our world, billions of people are yearning for change. People are seeking change socially, culturally, personally, and professionally. As a manager or leader of people in a professional setting, you can act within your scope to satisfy this need for change. This starts with the type of environment you invite people to join.
With a Great Resignation upon us, over 70% of existing employees and job-seeking candidates are looking for a hybrid approach to work.
The traditional working model has taught us what we need to be successful in an in-office work environment. COVID-19 has taught us what we need to be successful in a remote work environment. A hybrid environment, where some employees are remote and some are in-person, provokes a dynamic question: what are the ways in which we adopt models, behaviors, and policies that engage, motivate, and stimulate productivity in all employees, regardless of physical workplace?
One of the biggest barriers to building a strong hybrid workforce is miscommunication and misinformation. When lack of direction and lack of belonging exists between the two groups, the team is not unified. Leaders should do everything in their power to foster an inclusive community environment between the groups.
Another barrier managers face is understanding how their individuals continue to cope with COVID and how that influences their work. Let go of perceptions of what your team should look like and start listening to the reality of what those individuals desire. Mental oversight and psychological biases regarding hybrid models must be recognized and put aside to pursue a sustainable, happy, and productive workforce.
Other barriers to productive hybrid teams exist, many of which may be unique to your team or your organization. How can you overcome these barriers and more? Understand and apply the 3 steps below as your organization navigates your “return to work”.
1. Audit Your “Back to Work” Approach
Implementing a “return to work” strategy for your organization and your team starts with listening to what they want to see in a new office life. The key here is to listen to truly understand.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey
When people are given an outlet to say what’s on their mind, they want to feel understood – not just feel psychologically heard. Speaking your mind is a “feel-good” activity, but don’t mistake this for a vent session. When employees are asked to share their opinions and are left without their concerns being addressed, trust begins to diminish. When a final decision has been made regarding a return-to-work plan, be sure to thoroughly explain it and address points of contention.
2. Keep the Good Things
Everyone has likely heard of the various positive effects that working from home has brought employees and organizations. A study including 800 companies found numerous benefits, such as increases in productivity, culture, work-life balance, stress management, and overall happiness. Here are a few ways to actively maintain those benefits:
When we peel back the layers of what people find attractive about working from home, we uncover the theme of autonomy. Managers and leaders were almost forced to allow their employees to have autonomy in a work from home environment. Autonomy fosters greater engagement since people are more committed to their decisions when they have full ownership of their actions. Allow them to continue this process and adopt a results-oriented approach to prevent micromanagement. Management relationships should be more focused on making sure employees are hitting the marks and attain the results rather than keeping a close eye on how it gets done.
Allow Flexible Work Environments:
Beyond “work from home,” many employees took on a “work from anywhere” policy as they were able to travel more, work at a coffee shop, and extend their long weekends as the world started opening up. A flexible work environment certainly looks different for companies depending on a variety of factors, but do not be afraid to explore many ways that this approach may be a good fit for your people.
Even for employees in-office, foster a “remote first” approach to be sure people always have access to the materials they need, regardless of location. Promote equal and equitable access by centralizing communication using digital tools and platforms.
Examples of a “remote first” approach include having everyone on individual cameras in a conference room during meetings or cultivating social connection by leading daily team standup calls.
3. Learn as You Go
Many companies feel pressure from their employees, their Board, their competitors, and all other stakeholders to make the “right” decision regarding return to office or a hybrid model. Think back to the policies your organization may have put in place back in March of 2020. Lots of companies announced a “two-week” or “one month” work from home policy. Over a year later, many companies are still operating under this model. Possess a learning and growth mindset to adapt as needed.
The suggestions above are just a few examples of actions and mindsets that can be put into action to cultivate a productive hybrid workforce. It is important to note that success looks different for every organization, and the way these tips are implemented may yield different results. Organizations cannot successfully serve customers if they do not serve employees. Human capital is our greatest asset. Oftentimes, employees themselves will tell you exactly what to do to leverage their human capital. If COVID has taught us anything about how to approach professional work, it’s that you don’t have to have it right from the start. You just have to audit your situation, hold onto what’s working, and have the humility to learn, adapt, and seek continuous improvement.
Are you ready to increase employee engagement, organizational effectiveness, and performance? Churchill partners with you to provide best-in-class coaches and growth strategies for leader and team development. Start the conversation at 888-486-8884 or drop us an email at Solutions@Churchill-LG.com.
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