Managing A Hybrid Workplace In 2022

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Leadership today has taken on a host of challenges, from addressing mental health, to building DEI practices, tackling the great resignation and learning to be health and safety (a.k.a. pandemic planning) experts.

Adding to the complexity, managers are trying to do all that and much more while only being in the office with some of their team part of the week, and others not at all. With rotating schedules, limited office capacities and remote work arrangements, it is anyone’s guess as to who you may see on your team in a given week or month.

Although a great majority of employees seem to prefer the flexibility and autonomy that a hybrid workplace affords them, there are new terrains that must be navigated for managers to be successful in our rapidly evolving workplace. McKinsey & Company recently reported that 68 per cent of organizations do not yet have a clear direction or plan in place for their hybrid workplace.

What then is a leader to do? Here are some critical considerations that should be addressed when effectively managing in your hybrid workplace.

There Are No Bonus Points for Showing Up

We all know the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind.” In a hybrid environment, we need to unlearn this phrase in a hurry. Otherwise, leaders risk the possibility of becoming biased toward team members who have decided to return to the office to the detriment of those who have elected for personal or health reasons to remain working from home.

What makes a hybrid workplace unique from a workplace where everyone either works remotely or all together in office is there may be more opportunities for those who see each other on a regular basis to strengthen relationships and collaborate. Being given stretch assignments, participating in spontaneous meetings or lunches, and being asked to weigh in on daily decisions are examples of ways that employees in office may inadvertently be given an advantage over their remote colleagues.

Whether employees are working full time or part time in office, or completely remotely, they are all on the same team and need to be treated as such.

It is incumbent on leaders to pay attention to the potential divide of “us versus them” and take steps to proactively create equity and team unity. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that all team meetings take place over a virtual platform. This levels the playing field as even those who are in office will participate in the same way as those at home. Zoom one, Zoom all. Your communication channels should also encourage virtual connection, such as an instant messaging platform or shared project management app.

The power of shared goals and objectives can greatly increase feelings of team unity and create cohesiveness. Make these a topic of discussion at regular team meetings to hold the focus on the items that bond the team.

Also plan for brainstorming, planning or other sessions that enhance the opportunity for collaboration. While you are focused on team unity, don’t forget to individualize your approach. One of the best ways to minimize the likelihood of an us-versus-them mentality is for leaders to hold one-on-one meetings and make time to connect with each team member.

Socially Connect

Part of what makes working on a team so appealing is the ability to socially connect and enjoy your colleagues on a more personal basis. If this needs to happen virtually, get creative.

Think virtual yoga, happy hour, cooking classes and book clubs. Also consider creating opportunities for your team to embark on new learning experiences as a group.

Learning together not only helps bring people closer, it also enriches your organization’s collective knowledge and skills. You can sponsor a new course on a hot workplace topic, like resilience or habit formation, or have guest speakers host a variety of lunch and learns.

Provided your team is willing and it is safe to do so, consider trading in the screen for an in-person get together. Meet at a park or beach, have an outdoor coffee, or go for a walk — nothing compares to real face time to bring people closer together.

Shift the Mindset of What It Means to Do Productive Work

In the current workplace, in many instances it no longer makes sense to measure productivity by hours worked.

More appropriate measures would be reaching milestones, achieving goals or meeting deadlines. A leader needs to clearly define expectations of deliverables and assess performance on that basis.

It shouldn’t be putting in excessive hours or responding to your emails as though you were on an instant messenger platform that gets rewarded. The meeting of agreed-to deliverables is what should matter most.

The pandemic has brought to the forefront the great inequities in people’s living environments and expecting that your whole team will be able to work a consistent 9-to-5 day is nearly impossible for a large part of the workforce. Many are balancing childcare or eldercare obligations and trying to find a quiet place to work while multiple people attend to online school and/or work in their home.

Also, even though some of your employees may be at the office full time, it does not necessarily mean they are being productive the whole time, or even most of the time, they are there. Inc. reported on research that found that the average office employee is only productive for three hours out of an eight-hour shift.

Shifting the mindset to achieving deliverables, instead of clocking people’s hours, is essential in a hybrid environment.

In a recent article released by Harvard Business Review, Liane Davey (author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done) weighs in on how leaders can bring about this shift in mindset. She suggests having a “Monday huddle” to clearly outline the priorities of important work that needs to be accomplished that week. Additionally, she recommends discussing deliverables that would be nice to accomplish if team members have discretionary time during their work week.

This approach provides focus and clarity for your team and highlights your commitment to measuring success on meeting key deliverables.

Be a Source of Support

The most critical role a leader can play in any workplace today, and particularly in a hybrid environment when you won’t necessarily be able to see how people are doing on a regular basis, is to make yourself available as a source of support to your team members.

This means having continual check-in’s with your team members.

How are they doing? What is working well for them? What is challenging for them and what roadblocks are they facing?

Employees are reporting high levels of fatigue, stress, anxiety and burnout and a leader who can support their team members by creating a safe space to listen to them, as well as connecting them to resources they may need, is incredibly important.

As a leader, you may have never felt so stretched and emotionally wrought as you do right now. You shouldn’t have to feel like you need to do it all. It is possible to set up systems that can offer support to your team. You can establish a wellness committee that is vested with the responsibility of creating or finding vendors for workshops, programs and services that can address diverse employees’ mental, emotional and physical health needs.

It Will Get Easier

Navigating the challenges of a hybrid workforce will indeed get easier with time. Look at the vast strides we have made with shifting the world of work in the past two years. Our collective wisdom is growing quickly on how to manage in the new hybrid workplace. Each new challenge is an opportunity for leaders to learn, adapt and enhance their leadership capabilities.

 


 

Robin Turnill, FCPHR, has 20 years of leadership and consulting experience in the public and private sector. She is the founder of Pivot HR Services, a firm that provides strategic HR services to many local clients.

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