Hybrid work! Everyone is talking about it. But how do you really make it work for you? Whether you are a team manager, a team member, or a senior leader, you know that there have been challenges in the work as we knew it. Hybrid makes them even more challenging, or maybe not!
So, if you have been wondering how to make hybrid-work work for you, then this one is just for you.
I am not going to talk about the problems we have faced during the peak of the pandemic. But I do want to highlight a few challenges that are showing up now. Mainly for team managers who have hybrid teams. They are finding themselves being thrown into the deep end. Because managing a hybrid team can get quite tricky.
You see, generally speaking, many employees, especially in a large organization, are typically disengaged. I am not saying distracted or unwilling, but they are not super pumped up. There is a somewhat passive outlook. And if we add remote working to that, it can increase that disengagement.
I recently spoke to one of my friends. She said, "Anand, I am so relieved that I am back in the office. It was so difficult to organize and concentrate on my work at home." But I also know many others who found it more productive and helpful to be working from home.
If you believe in giving autonomy to your team members, you might see a decline in someone's productivity, while it would be the opposite for others. And the key here is to figure out their style, their circumstances, and their preferences.
Finding out your team members' style, circumstances, and preferences is the key to autonomous and effective hybrid-work culture.
In my opinion, working in an office is not just about physical space and infrastructure. It is also about having a shared context. Everyone is surrounded by people talking about similar things. They share the same environment, physical as well as working. Unfortunately, we cannot replicate it for remote workers. You cannot say, "Hey everyone, let's huddle up quickly; I have something to share." Those who are not in the office can feel left out or socially isolated. Their morale may go down over time.
The antidote to this problem is a change in communication strategy at various levels. Start by putting a structure to the working day, including some free time or white space as I would like to call it. This white space can be an excellent substitute for impromptu catch-ups. Do you remember how you could just walk up to someone and strike a conversation? This white space is meant for that.
When it comes to communication at the workplace, the common advice is to over-communicate. Please don't. I hate it. You hate it. Everyone does. And the biggest problem with over-communication is that we start to ignore it. So, instead of over-communication, be prolific.
Instead of communicating the same thing over and over again, do it in multiple different ways. Do it on different platforms, different formats, different styles, get creative so that no one can miss it.
Avoid over-communication, but be prolific and creative with its medium and format.
It also means that you need to add more context and more details to your communication. Remember that people cannot just walk up to someone and clarify their doubts. And so, keeping open lines of communication is necessary.
It is a better idea to open up your calendar. Let everyone know of time-slots during the day when they can reach you without a prior appointment. Establish when in-person interaction is important. When a video or phone call is acceptable and when people can turn off their cameras.
Of course, you have to walk a fine line between micro-managing and being explicit in communication. And therefore, my best tip to you is to focus on outcomes rather than activity. Give everyone enough resources and trust them to get the results for you.
Because flexibility means where, when, and how you work, so, if no laws are broken, no policies violated, and you get the outcomes delivered within deadlines, you should be happy. Focusing on outcomes can be the best way to demonstrate you trust your people. It is such a simple and powerful way to build a culture of trust, especially in a hybrid-work environment.
Focusing on outcomes is a simple and powerful way to demonstrate and build a trustworthy culture in a hybrid-work environment.
One more thing. You may have heard stories on how mental health has been one of the biggest casualties of this pandemic. Social isolation can be severely damaging. You will see people showing post-traumatic stress symptoms.
So encourage people to increase social interactions a little bit. Show some flexibility in working. Be more empathetic. And at least for the next few months, organize frequent one-on-one interaction with each team member and listen to them. Not just listen to what they are saying but also what they are not saying.
Listen to what your people are saying and not saying.
My point is that the leadership needs to be visible and dynamic. It is true during the crisis, during the chaos, and during transformation. You need to lead with effective communication and be the role model.
Because better communication often leads to building trust. Which then develops both leaders as well as team members. People become more engaged. They strive for excellence. And that is how you can make hybrid-work work for you.
Leadership needs to be visible and dynamic, whether during crisis, chaos, or transformation!