The Rise of the Hybrid Workplace
While already on the rise, the worldwide events of 2020 catapulted most corporate teams into a hybrid working environment, blending home and professional spaces into a singular location. While many teams have returned to the office, plenty realized the toothpaste was a bit more challenging to return to the tube and accepted that the hybrid working model is here to stay. And that means managers need to be prepared to manage employees in both on-site and remote capacities.
What is a "hybrid workplace" model?
Two scenarios commonly define the hybrid model. Either a blend of remote employees & traditional employees working together, or more commonly, employees who have the flexibility to work at home or in-office as they see fit.
Typically, a hybrid model is better suited for computer-based work and knowledge workers. However, some organizations succeed with this model across various departments and worker types. McKinsey estimates between 20 and 25 percent of teams working in advanced economies can successfully work from home at least 60% of the time.
So, how do employees feel about this?
Happy employees are engaged, productive, and less likely to leave an organization. In a recent study by Gartner, 40% of employees said they would quit their jobs if they could not work remotely.
Conversely, unhappy employees often cost organizations dearly. Unhappy workers are less productive (estimated at 12% lower productivity) and more likely to leave (the cost can be up to 213% of an employee's salary).
So, it's in the best interest of any organization to ensure that employees are happy and engaged—whether they're working on-site or remotely.
What are the management requirements for helping employees thrive in a hybrid working environment?
The first step is understanding what your team members need to be successful. Do they need to be in the office to feel connected to their team and company culture? Or do they prefer working from home, where they can eliminate distractions and have more control over their environment?
The answer will likely be different for each person, so it's important to have one-on-one conversations with employees to gauge their individual preferences. Once you have a better understanding of what each person needs, you can start to put together a plan that will work for everyone.
There are a few key things that all employees need to thrive in a hybrid environment:
- A clear understanding of expectations: Employees need to know what is expected of them, whether working from home or in the office, from deadlines to dress code.
- A sense of connection: Employees need to feel like they're part of a team, even if they're not in the same physical space. You can achieve a virtual community through regular check-ins, video calls, and company-wide events (like virtual happy hours).
- The right tools: Employees need the right tools to do their job, whether a laptop, software, or access to specific files. Make sure everyone has what they need to be successful.
What challenges does the hybrid workplace present for managers?
The challenges of a hybrid workplace are primarily in these key areas:
One of the most challenging aspects of managing a team is ensuring everyone is on the same page. Alignment is easier to control in a physical office as you can have impromptu meetings or drop by someone's desk to ask a quick question. With employees working remotely, it becomes more challenging to keep everyone in sync as there are more barriers to communication.
Employee Expectations & Understanding of Role
Before employees can be expected to excel in a hybrid workplace, they must clearly understand what's expected of them. Their roles & responsibilities should be clearly defined, and they should know how managers will evaluate their work. For some employees, this may mean setting specific and measurable goals. Others may prefer more general guidelines.
Employees must also understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. They should know the company's goals and how their role helps to achieve those objectives.
In any workplace, there will always be a few employees who struggle with productivity. In a physical office, it's easier to keep tabs on who is slacking off and address the issue before it becomes a problem.
In a remote environment, it can be more challenging to tell if someone is engaged in their work.
The importance of technology with a hybrid team.
Technology is essential for keeping everyone connected and engaged in a hybrid workplace; in addition, it provides:
- A way to stay connected: Video conferencing software, like Zoom or Skype, allows managers to connect with employees no matter where they are. Managers can use these platforms for daily check-ins, one-on-ones, or team meetings.
- A way to collaborate on projects: There are several project management tools, like Asana or Trello, that allow managers to assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. These platforms make it easy for everyone to see what needs to be done and when it's due.
- A way to access files: Some people will be in different physical locations in a hybrid workplace. Employees may need access to files stored on a shared drive or in the cloud. Popular software programs like Brandworkz streamline file sharing and project collaboration.
Management best practices
The hybrid workplace presents both challenges and opportunities for managers. By taking the time to understand the challenges and equip employees with the right tools, you can set your team up for success. Make sure your employees are on-board early, and you keep open lines of communication, from top to bottom and back up; honest and open communication is paramount. Research, review, and invest in the right technology for your team. Technology and project management tools pay for themselves rapidly with increased productivity. Most importantly, have regular check-ins to keep the team culture alive.
Originated by necessity, teams are realizing the unforeseen advantages of hybrid working, making this a well-accepted new normal.