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Cultivating a Hybrid Workplace

Tips for executives on managing a workforce combining remote and onsite employees. 

The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic required companies that could, shift to partial or total remote working. Suddenly, a slow, measured evolution borne of the Internet age leapt into hyperdrive.

Before 2020, the number of Americans telecommuting, as it was called, was about 4.7 million, roughly 17 percent. That reflected an increase of 20 percent during the previous five years. Within months, Gallup determined in May 2020, the number of full-time adult employees working from home had shot to 69 percent – 54 percent fully remote and 15 percent just partially.  

What had been a relatively rare situation, offered most as a perk to lure or retain desirable employees, had become a regular feature of the employment landscape for businesses around the world.

In 2022, executives and managers must weigh any concerns over lack of direct staff oversight with a general sense that employees feel more productive working remotely. The absence of a daily commute has left them less stressed. However, some surveys reveal there are remote workers who report loneliness, who miss interaction with co-workers, and who fear being out of the loop. 

Some Tips to Help the Hybrid Team Manager

Here are some tips to help develop policies and procedures for managing a workforce that mixes fully remote and fully on site with employees whose schedules are a blend. These are already helping leaders cultivate a healthy workplace culture for their hybrid team and improve employee satisfaction and engagement.

Avoid Policing Time – While there are methods to track the exact time employees spend at their remote desk, they can feel pretty invasive and ultimately be counterproductive. Team members want to feel they are trusted, so don’t attempt to micromanage their time. Rather than focusing on how much time your employees spend working, try to look for benchmarks in what they accomplish. As long as they complete all of their assigned tasks on time, according to directions, and remain available for meetings and check-ins, it can be assumed that they are spending an appropriate time on the job.

Create Spaces for Connection – When working in an office setting, your team will naturally build relationships as they spend time around each other and collaborate on projects. When working remotely or in a hybrid situation, there is less opportunity for these more casual interactions. To encourage team unity and help people feel connected to their coworkers, make time in virtual meetings for more casual conversation. Invite people to share fun stories or life updates as a low-key opener to a meeting or connect people with mutual interests when appropriate.

Make Time for One-On-One Check-Ins – Your employees may work more independently in a remote or hybrid setting, but that doesn’t mean you should stop checking in. Set a time once a month or so to meet with employees individually to see how they are doing and get feedback on what they might need from you. This will help you keep tabs on the well-being of your employees and make sure they have the opportunity to express challenges and concerns.

Model a Healthy Balance – One of the temptations that comes with a hybrid workplace is to bring work home all the time. As an office manager or team leader, model a healthy work-life balance. If employees are constantly working into the evenings and over weekends, beyond what is expected of them, it can lead to burnout and other negative mental health effects. Encourage employees to avoid answering work-related emails and other communications outside of working hours, and invite them to let you know if they feel pressured to work outside of regular hours> it may be time to redistribute some of their workload or help equip them with better time management skills. Regardless, take these actions in your own work to avoid stretching yourself too thin and encourage your team to do the same.

The pandemic let the independence genie out of the workplace bottle, and it won’t be returning. The important thing for executives to do now is use the acceptance of the technologies to make their teams more productive … and happier about their jobs.

This article was originally published on Tim Noonan’s blog.

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