On the heels of 16 months of pandemic life, we’ve learned something: working-from-home is a viable option for getting work accomplished.
We have all seen firsthand that a remote workforce can, in fact, be a productive workforce. Over the years, I have worked with many leaders who remain committed to the outdated mindset, “If I can’t see you, how do I know you’re working?” I hope we are dispelling this myth.
As we begin to migrate toward normal life in the workplace—or shall we say a reinvented normal—we are seeing an evolution toward hybrid teams.
What is a hybrid team? Simply put, it is a team comprised of some team members working at the office and some team members working from home.
Members of hybrid teams have work experiences that may be very different, one from another. As a leader, how do you maximize the productivity of your team, strengthen the sense of team cooperation, mitigate resentment and foster a positive culture—one that will help you retain your people as recruiter calls roll in? The people store is fairly empty at the moment, and your people may be called upon to consider a move. Make sure you’ve done your part to retain them.
As we explore five considerations to help you lead your hybrid team, we are focused on the members of your workforce who can, indeed, perform their work at home. I realize for many their work has to be performed on location. Even so, for these individuals, be on the lookout for opportunities for them to do something at home: projects, professional development, and even some meetings.
As you read through the following considerations, look for the one or two that most resonate with you personally. Let’s get started!
1. Mindset is key. Before we consider actions, let’s take a look at mindset. Are you willing to set aside your own belief systems about work-from-home scenarios? Are you willing to check in on the preferences of your workforce? Your preference can no longer be a guiding force for how the people around you work. The evolution of the world of work, combined with employee preferences, will override—and should—your personal belief system.
2. Check on personal preferences of your team. By now, many employees have weighed in on their preference as we move beyond the pandemic lockdown and disruption. Some employees will prefer to work from home, and others will prefer being in the office. Be sure to know the preferences of each employee and accommodate these preferences when you can. Research is showing us today that employees are willing to make a job change so they can work in an environment that matches their preferences.
3. Share empathy where it is necessary. Instances will exist where preferences are not able to be honored. You may determine you need someone in the office who prefers to work from home. Or you may have to ask someone to work from home who actually wants to come back to the office. This is part of real life. Your best first response to disappoint or struggle from your employees is empathy. “I realize this is not what you hoped for, and I’m sorry for that.” If you dismiss their preference, it is possible you may fuel resentment.
4. Establish team rituals. No doubt, hybrid teams come with challenges. Your work-at-home team members may be left out of the loop, water cooler conversations are not as prevalent, and socializing and relationship building will be different. Aside from your standard touch base and update meetings for business purposes, what kinds of rituals can you create to foster inclusiveness, unity and alignment of your teams? Can you schedule a monthly or bi-monthly social event? Can you schedule ‘coffee chats’ by leveraging a technology platform? Can you host occasional ‘everyone-works-in-the-office’ days?
5. Be open to flexible hours. Over the past year, employees who work from home have established routines that work for them. Many are juggling parenting responsibilities, so their workday may include a number of starts and stops. It is customary to see early morning hours, as well as evening and weekend hours in order to create needed flexibility throughout the day. For those team members in the office, many are interested in avoiding the morning and afternoon rush hour commutes. It may be beneficial for you to allow employees to grab an early morning start at home then commute when rush hour is over. Additionally, many employees value getting home ahead of rush hour or in time to pick kids up from school. This flexibility is paired with a willingness to catch more hours in the evening. The traditional 9 to 5 job is waning. If you still have a mindset of “Arrive at the office by _____, and stay at the office until________,” you may want to think twice. Especially if you want to retain your talent.
Want a deeper dive into this topic? Join us on August 18 from 8:00 – 10:00 am for an in-person leadership breakfast, “Leading Your Hybrid Workforce.” You’ll have an opportunity to exchange stories and best practices with your peers in surrounding organizations.
Aleta Norris provides an ongoing column about leadership. She is a leadership expert and Principal at Living as a Leader LLC.