Leading in the Hybrid World of Work

There are numerous articles, blogs, and research in play to better understand what employees want and what employers need as it relates to working on site vs. working remotely in our new world of work. As such, a lot of organizations have chosen to proceed with what we call a hybrid workplace to offer their employees more flexibility and work life balance as they figure out how to best manage their organizations.

Existing models like on-site and remote work have gained new meaning, which creates challenges around striking the right balance in the hybrid world of work. Furthermore, research predicts there will be a continuous push to be fully remote as we all ease into our new way of working and living, which applies pressure to the concepts of onsite and hybrid workplace models.  

Before we offer suggestions on approaches on how to strike the right balance in the hybrid workplace, let’s define the workplace models that presently exist in our modern world:

Onsite - working from a physical office 100% of the time is what most employees worldwide were used to before the pandemic.  

Remote - employees, including team leads, managers, and senior leadership, work away from a physical office space. They function from home offices and alternative workspaces, and when companies go fully remote, they can do away with having a physical office.

Hybrid – employees function remotely from home, on the go, or from their physical office spaces. The combination of employees being onsite and working remote in a hybrid workplace will vary from company to company, but the concept remains the same. 

Some hybrid workplace models may include select employees/teams or functional areas that are required to be on the premises full time, while others have the flexibility to choose when they will be on site. Some companies have allotted certain days they want their staff onsite, while others have granted the flexibility for employees to choose when they will be onsite and working remotely.   

Striking the Right Balance

Striking the right balance will vary from company to company as some jobs still require employees to be onsite full time. We are a few years into this pandemic, therefore, one might assume people are feeling more comfortable working remotely in our new world of work. The reality is balancing the needs of our home and work life have created a tremendous amount of stress on everyone, no matter their role or function.  

I have also been asked by many of the leaders I support what the best way is to lead and manage a hybrid work force, so here are a few simple tips.

Fine-Tune Your Facilitation Skills 

Leading in the hybrid world has upped the ante on leaders needing to fine-tune their facilitation skills. Use technology to connect with your remote workers and those onsite. Ensure you are being inclusive with your entire audience, not just those you can see if you happen to be onsite yourself.

Most organizations have invested in the technology and tools to create a fluid hybrid experience, where all remote workers can connect on the big screen in the boardroom, with camera functionality to connect those on site. If you haven’t made the investment in technology, it's high time that you do.

If you feel you need to work on your skills, take an online workshop or program to help you hone the skill of “facilitating” a discussion and effective meeting. The reality is some people are better skilled at facilitating than others, and I see it as a must-have skill going forward, regardless of the rank or role, or the workplace model you have selected for your organization. Leaders need to be skilled at facilitating a proper meeting and discussion to make the best use of everyone’s time and effort.

Better Planning & Structuring of Meetings & Discussions

The best rule of thumb for communicating in the hybrid workplace is to have a structured meeting with an agenda. Refer to those who are remote first before going around the physical room for feedback or insights. To build on this notion, here are a few additional insights on planning ahead and the structuring of meetings & discussions:

  • Be intentional and purposeful in every interaction and discussion by clearly defining what you want the outcome to be. For leaders, this means you need to incorporate some level of planning, thinking ahead and being proactive with your time as well as others' time.
  • Start and end meetings on time and be very purposeful about when you ask people to come on site for meetings and discussions. There is nothing worse than being asked to be on site when you have no colleagues to collaborate with. Plan and work in some team activities if you are asking everyone to be there on a given day. Talk about what will work best for your team as it relates to the ratio of being remote and onsite, and come up with a plan on how to make the best use of everyone’s time and individual needs.
  • Set clear expectations, timelines, deliverables, and where appropriate, collaborate on defining expectations as projects and tasks are assigned so you set people up for success. Don’t assume that what you’ve outlined is clearly understood. Be specific and communicate clearly to ensure you are in alignment. 

Check in on a Regular Basis & Blend in Some Face Time

As the recent Gallup research supports, we cannot stress enough the importance of ongoing communication. Don’t wait for your scheduled one-on-one sessions to check in with your people. Take every opportunity to do so informally on a regular basis to stay connected and show your support as their leader. You should treat coaching, communication, and feedback  as an ongoing dialogue, which means that you cannot neglect any of your employees due to physical limitations.

I strongly suggest working with your employees to identify pre-determined times when they are available for regular check-ins and let them decide if they want those discussions to be in-person, virtual or a blend of both. The same logic applies to team meetings. Be more purposeful in how and when you bring your people together onsite and remotely.  

How Are You Leading in the Hybrid World of Work?

Managing and leading a team that consists of both onsite and remote workers requires you to develop a modern mindset and skills to address the diverse needs of your people. The future of work is here to stay, which means you must embrace the idea that your team may never be in the same place. How you show up and engage as their leader will make a world of difference in the overall results and performance of your team and organization.

What are some of the challenges that you are facing in leading hybrid teams? How are you coping with the new way of working? What additional ideas do you have around suggestions and best practices to be a more effective leader? What model has your organization adopted?

I am here and available to support your leadership success so give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca

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