As the economy slowly moves to a new normal, how is your company adapting to the changes? Moreover, how have these changes impacted your managers’ role? With more companies using hybrid team models, leadership roles shift their managerial duties, team focus, and strategies.
According to experts, the post-pandemic flex work model is here to stay. Studies show that almost half (43 percent) of employees surveyed hope to continue working remotely after work conditions return to normal. And while many companies were moving toward a remote work model before COVID-19 shut down the economy, research shows that over half (55 percent) of businesses globally now offer some capacity for remote work.
But when a portion of your staff works from home full-time while others either work in the office full-time or at least part of the week, how does effective leadership navigate a hybrid virtual team model in the workplace? Here are four places to start.
Be flexible on schedules.
These uncertain times illustrate the importance of flexibility. “The pandemic left organizations with little choice but to participate in the world’s largest work-from-home experiment – and now the world of work may never be the same again,” warned researchers at getabstract.com, who published a national survey on remote work models.
Companies are taking a break from the traditional 9 to 5, 40-hour workweek, and that’s a good thing. It helps retain valued employees, who can’t work a set schedule, and it attracts talent. Research shows that nearly 40 percent of global candidates listed schedule flexibility as one of the top three factors they consider when making career decisions.
But by allowing such variables for your team, a manager’s job can feel more like herding cats than running a department. Yes, you can be flexible on work schedules, but you need to be firm on team performance and goals.
Be firm on team expectations.
Today’s workplaces are more flexible than ever, but the demands placed on these teams to be efficient and perform well are also more critical than ever before. The key? Follow three rules: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. “Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams,” explained Brent Gleeson.
Frequent communication with all team members accomplishes a few things: it ensures essential information is correct. It eliminates the risk of sharing wrong information, and it sets the tone for a healthy working relationship among the entire team.
Promote equitable treatment when possible.
A common problem with managing a hybrid team is inadvertently treating remote team members as an afterthought. For example, Jane is an integral part of an upcoming project, but because she works remotely, she is left out of a stand-up meeting where a last-minute decision changed the course of the project—and nobody thought to alert Jane.
Remote workers depend on technology to establish their place on a team. These tools were a literal lifeline for companies trying to stay afloat through the pandemic. But when part of your team has returned to the office, it takes initiative to ensure all team members feel a part of the team.
“At the corporate level, no single policy or program is likely to fit all circumstances and combinations of remote and onsite work,” explained the bcg.com research team. “One norm to help level the playing field might be that, if some members of a team are working remotely, team meetings should be conducted as if everyone were working remotely—including colleagues in the office who connect from their desks.” When the entire team checks in for scheduled meetings, everyone participates in side conversations and contributes to the meeting’s dynamics.
Monitor team wellness.
Navigating between managing to mentorship is one of the starkest changes to the manager’s role. Employees are buckling under the stress of today’s work climate, and companies need to acknowledge those concerns to stay productive.
Here’s what we know about the correlation between mental wellness and positive work performance: Studies show that the impact mental health has on the workplace costs businesses around $16.8 billion each year. And the World Health Organization recently recognized employee burnout as an occupational phenomenon.
Interestingly, the type of industry impacts mental wellness. For example, a study shows 55 percent of those working in the tech industry have voluntarily left their job due to mental health struggles. “However,” added Cory Stieg, at CNBC, “tech workers were also more likely to be open about talking about mental health with their colleagues.”
“Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it,” said Kelly Greenwood, Vivek Bapat, and Mike Vaughan, in their Harvard Business Review piece. “Eighty-six percent of our respondents thought that a company’s culture should support mental health.”
Schedule purpose-driven check-ins with team members and welcome feedback on how they feel. Create a learning environment that encourages staff to solve problems, test their abilities with new challenges, collaborate with coworkers, and use training sessions to pinpoint areas of improvement instead of punishing mistakes. Be aware of any extra responsibilities placed on in-office employees and make sure to evenly distribute responsibilities among remote and in-office staff. Then make certain your team has the tools and resources they need to work efficiently.
When you reimagine today’s workplace, the hybrid work model is a part of that vision. By focusing on results created through flexibility, innovation, communication, and empathy, we can create a positive, supportive, and productive work environment that brings out the best in our teams in any form.