If your people are like most employees, they find a hybrid work environment much more appealing than the traditional five-day, on-site model. In fact, a recent global survey by PwC found 62% of workers said they prefer a mixed work-from-home/in-office schedule.
However, because employees are dispersed, hybrid work requires changes in the way your organization operates, and it can have an adverse effect on employees’ sense of belonging. A Harvard Business Review study of more than 1,100 workers found that many who worked remotely at least some of the time reported feeling excluded by their in-office peers.
Maintaining a culture where employees are both productive and engaged, regardless of whether they’re working at home or in the office, will be key to keeping your top talent. But because they’re not regularly seeing everybody face-to-face, cultivating an inclusive, connected culture in a hybrid work environment is also a challenge.
Strong teams in a hybrid work model
If you’re considering whether any policy or procedure adjustments might be in order, here are some questions for evaluating your organization’s culture:
- Have employees’ perceptions of where their work fits in the company’s goals changed since the pandemic?
- Have supervisor-employee check-ins tapered off this year?
- In the last two years, what are the most significant changes that have been made to get things done? Are there any lingering challenges from these changes that need to be addressed?
- Do employees have a say in what types of work they do at home (tasks that require focus or creative thinking) versus in the office (collaborative)?
- Are remote team members being asked for their input?
- Is there an emphasis on team goals? One way to tell: If a co-worker is unable to complete an important task due to a sudden personal issue, how do other members of the team step in to help?
The answers to those questions may indicate that your managers need to renew efforts to reconnect with their employees, getting to know them as individuals, asking what they want their work experiences to look like for a healthy work-life balance, and encouraging them to bring up and constructively discuss concerns.
Because employee recognition will be a vital part of retention strategy, the conversations supervisors should have with individual team members ought to touch on how they prefer to be recognized, and what types of rewards are meaningful to them. The answers are likely to vary depending on people’s personality types.
To put your people in a position to succeed in a hybrid work environment, it may be time to huddle up with HR to re-examine your employee training programs. What career development opportunities do you offer your remote and hybrid workers? How much employee awareness is there about these opportunities? How is that training delivered? (Remote, log-on-from-anywhere platforms make the most sense.) Are employees given chances to practice new skills or apply them on special projects?
A good goal to strive for is providing employees with the skills to thrive in a hybrid workplace, including:
- time management
- cybersecurity awareness
- tactical help with new technology tools
- etiquette for remote interaction
- writing effective emails to avoid miscommunication when something can’t be discussed in real time
- collaboration and inclusion, and
- effective virtual coaching conversations.
Tech tools are paramount
To sustain hybrid work, it’s probably going to take more than Zoom or Microsoft Teams to keep employees engaged. This may be a good time to team up with the CIO for a company technology audit.
Are there any tools and apps you’re not already using – such as collaborative task management software – that can help employees feel more connected to your organization’s purpose, their accomplishments and one another?
Wherever possible, the tech and apps your team members use for work ideally ought to be as user-friendly as the apps they use in their personal lives every day, with single sign-on, mobile capabilities that work well in the office and at home, and easy integration with existing applications like Outlook, your intranet, etc.
Hybrid work-friendly office space
What ways could your office setup be made more conducive to hybrid work?
Depending on your budget and how many hybrid workers you have, it may be worth it to invest in tech tools such as online whiteboards or smart cameras that automatically pan to people as they talk during meetings. They can help to bridge the gap between virtual and in-office workforces.
Whatever you commit to, it’s wise to make a follow-up evaluation of these investments to see whether they’re supporting your employee engagement, productivity and satisfaction goals. (An employee survey could provide some helpful metrics.) The technology may also need to be adjusted over time.
Also, can your physical office space be reconfigured so that employees can better collaborate and interact socially? Consider replacing individual desks with couches and/or other comfortable furniture, arranged in spaces where connection to videoconferencing technology can be done easily.