While being back in the office is now a viable option for most of us, slotting right back in where we left off in 2019 seems like an outdated, less productive, and less balanced way of working and living. After adapting to working from home, creating dedicated home office spaces, and possibly even moving out of urban centres, the regular 9-5 days in the office and substantial commutes on either side may have been left behind forever. The term ‘hybrid workplace’ has appeared in 2022, so let’s look at what it means, how office life has shifted, and importantly, how to create and sustain a healthy culture in the absence of a traditional office.
What is a hybrid work model?
According to Hibob’s HR Glossary, “the hybrid working model is a work style that enables employees to blend working from different locations: home, on the go, or the office”. How exactly this looks varies by organisation, depending on the needs of the individual employee’s roles. Still, it generally allows employees to fit work around their lives rather than adhere to rigid office hours. Hybrid workplace models (when executed well) encourage autonomy, flexibility, positive work relationships, effective work habits, collaboration, and ultimately high performance.
How do you lead in a hybrid work model?
Leaders worldwide need to learn and adapt as the hybrid work model calls for new ways of engaging employees and managing a team – even when they’re not together in person. Here’s what leaders need to consider in a hybrid workplace:
1. Promote equality
Regardless of location, all employees should receive the same amount of time and support from their leaders. It’s also important for leaders to exist in the same sphere as their employees (where possible) regarding their location of work or requirements to be in the office.
2. Avoid location confusion
With a workforce based in different physical locations, it’s crucial that everyone can quickly and easily understand where each team member is working on any given day. Things like shared group calendars can help teams avoid frustrations.
3. Make it results-driven
With a hybrid work model, less work is done in synchronisation, which places the focus very much on setting tasks. Leaders need to ensure some tasks can be completed independently without relying on co-workers to be online (or in the office) simultaneously. As part of this, regular team meetings help communicate workflows, deadlines, lend support where needed, and track progress.
4. Promote collaboration where it counts
While daily interactions with colleagues may no longer be the norm, social media-style collaboration through platforms like Slack and Yammer allows co-workers to ‘chat’ on issues that don’t warrant a video call. In-office collaboration or video conferencing provides all-important face time for more significant issues.
5. Adapt the office environment
Employees who can work remotely need to be equipped with the tools to get the job done. Similarly, the office environment needs to be adapted to meet the needs of a hybrid workplace. For example, you may implement flex desking (or hot desking) which involves employees reserving a desk before coming into the office. Creating more spaces to collaborate, also provides employees with practical reasons to meet up in the office.
6. Form a hybrid work policy
Whether your business functions optimally with specific employees based in the office, by staggering in-house hours or a majority work from home approach, this information needs to be communicated clearly with employees upfront in a hybrid work policy. This sets expectations and allows for greater accountability.
7. Focus on transparency
Ensure all employees are kept in the loop regardless of their location. Think twice before setting up a quick meeting in the boardroom and ensure any crucial decisions are communicated transparently across the entire team.
8. Skills for new hires
Different set of skills becomes essential when recruiting new employees working remotely – qualities like being results-focused, adaptable and self-motivated become a priority.
How do you create a team culture in a hybrid work model?
With employees scattered across different geographical locations and rarely in the office together, impromptu opportunities to form strong team bonds are almost non-existent. But with the majority of employees valuing a flexible approach to working, how can leaders still create a thriving team culture?
1. Encourage relationship-building
Be intentional about allocating time for employees to catch up with co-workers for coffee (in person or virtually) and build their wider networks within the business. Scheduling occasional in-person get-togethers are also invaluable to building a strong team culture and boosting morale.
2. Communicate a shared purpose
It’s never been more important to communicate a purpose and ensure employees are aware of how they are contributing to the bigger picture. It reminds employees that their work matters and helps them feel they are a valuable part of a team.
3. Prioritise mental health
While a hybrid work model typically benefits employees from a work/life balance perspective, there are also new issues to contend with. Remote workers can feel isolated and lonely, and it can be challenging to pick up when an employee is having a tough time. Regular video check-ins are crucial, and it’s important to have more holistic conversations rather than focusing 100% on work outcomes.
4. Avoid a ‘them and us’ culture
Remote employees can feel like they’re missing out on benefits their office-based colleagues are experiencing. Make sure any rewards or incentives such as birthday celebrations, lunches or in-office yoga classes are accessible (or at least have equivalent alternatives) available to all.
While it may have slipped by the wayside during the shift from traditional workplaces, recognising employees for exceptional performance is crucial for motivation and loyalty. Dedicate regular time (weekly or monthly) to give team members some kudos.
6. Communication is critical
One of the biggest shifts that has occurred is with communication. Water cooler conversations are gone, as are most chats on the fly. It’s important to create moments for conversations outside of structured video meetings and to get the balance right between Zoom overkill and feeling like employees are being prioritised.
Don’t expect hybrid workplaces to be effortless just yet
Leading a hybrid team is relatively new to most, and as a result, it does require effort and attention until it becomes a norm. Creating a leadership style that resonates with all employees regardless of their physical location and placing a renewed sense of importance on team culture is critical to building successful and engaged teams. But as time goes on, this too will become effortless.
While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature and does not constitute legal, financial, or professional advice.