As we approach nearly two years of grappling with a new model for organizations, learning how to create a successful hybrid workplace is crucial.
As variants continue to arise, it’s become clear: We will never go back to how it was, not only because of ongoing trepidation due to the pandemic but because a whole new generation of workers have grown up adept at life online and don’t have the same expectation of a physical workplace.
Yet how do you foster strong connections, especially with many new people coming aboard, if you go mostly digital? This is one of the key questions to tackle.
Being separated from each other during the shut down, not being able to see family or attend important events really drove home that human connection is critical to our well being.
And as more ask themselves why they’re working, and what’s important to do with their time, it’s clear we do need a balance between remote and office work.
The things you and the organization do today will set the course of how work will be done well into the future! Instead of it being daunting, how about it being exciting and fresh — a blank canvas upon which to leave your mark?
Lay Your Foundation
My focus this summer has been to address the things leaders will need to do. Starting with 5 kinds of courage as a basis for the adaptive leadership skills needed, we covered that in the new workplace, laying groundwork for staff safety and wellbeing takes the first priority. Now we’ll sort out the actual nuts and bolts.
Keys to a Successful Hybrid Workplace
1. Find What Still Works
Sort out what former workflows and systems can be retained through this transition. Let those, for now, form a basis for the new to be built upon. As you identify needs, keep a list and schedule meetings with Human Resources or the policy makers in your organization to create what’s needed.
Look at other organizations that have been managing hybrid teams or distance employees successfully and see what may fit for yours. Review expectations for your teams and see what new ones may have to be communicated.
2. Use Lessons from Shut Down
Take advantage of what we learned from the shut down. because continued pandemic surges should be part of the plan near term. Business can be done remotely and those working at home are more flexible and quite productive. Global connection is much easier, and now enables finding the best people to work with from anywhere in the world. And that’s good because it’s wise to incorporate that new pandemic surges may be part of the plan near term.
3. Create Hybrid Teams and Schedules
Some employees won’t return, so in addition to what the current team will go through, there will be new people to be found and onboarded. That may not be able to be done in person anymore. Leaders may have to get creative and assist the new staff in connecting to existing team members, now in two locations – home and office. The Center for Creative Leadership has some excellent specifics about managing hybrid staff inclusion, and their DAC – direction, alignment and commitment.
Key things to reimagine are how that bonding will take place, how meetings are run to connect people more, and new positions or titles will likely need to be created: For example: Hybrid Schedule Manager
Since it’s the small talk and daily interaction that forges bonds over time, find ways to create those between remote workers. Have a morning check in meeting for 15-20 minutes with remote teams just to chat with coffee. Perhaps an existing team member can moderate water cooler chats (or rotate who sets the topics) with casual social conversation starters like weekend plans, sports, the most recent binge show, holiday anecdotes etc. Soon it will create itself.
As to working meetings, rather than jump into the agenda, allow a few minutes up front for smaller teams to check in to get connection going. Where possible, use break out chats rooms on Zoom to let smaller groups discuss or plan an item, then rejoin the main meeting to contribute. And take a break if you can see a meeting has become unproductive.
Prepare For The Future
Help existing or new staff assist you by offering reskilling or upskilling to meet emerging needs. And, your expectations may have changed or be raised – just be sure to share them clearly with your team.
If indeed it’s evident a new position will need to be created, keep a running list of qualities and talents they will need to have as the problems they have to solve crop up. You may need new HR policies and incur new legal needs, which you can plan for.
While this may seem challenging, remember the positives to a hybrid workforce:
- You can hire the right talent, and perhaps a more diverse one, from wherever they live
- It can be a win/win for those who want to come in and those who prefer to work remotely
- You may have a happier, healthier, more productive team than ever before
- That can help you achieve whatever comes
And don’t forget – everyone is in the same situation. This is completely new territory and there is no map — but the courage, skills and basics I’ve offered will give you a good start. Since the shift is away from leaders knowing it all, to co-creating this with workers, my goal was to furnish you with what you’d need to set out on this new path. The companies who manage to do this successfully will benefit by not just survival, but by leading the pack. And that will attract the best candidates to fill newly created or vacated positions. A satisfying situation for all.
While I endeavor to give you these tools, leaders also need their own support. I’m here to provide that to you. Reach out, even for an exploratory conversation, and let me help you not just survive but thrive.