Creating a successful hybrid-work environment goes beyond just physical space and finding serviceable collaboration tools. Fostering a healthy company culture requires a new focus on team building and employee management.
Plan for Success
In a recent study by McKinsey, nine out of 10 organizations surveyed will be combining remote and on-site work, also referred to as hybrid-work. At the time of the survey, only 11% of executives indicated they had a clear vision, plan, and communications in place to establish policies governing hybrid-work, while 68% had no plan in place. 1
Those companies with plans, or in the process of developing them, reported increased team and individual productivity during the periods of forced remote work. Additionally, they tended to experiment with various means of engagement to increase involvement and encourage collaboration such as asynchronous communication (email, text), small group interaction (chat rooms/channels), and group communications (videoconferencing).
State Your Value
One of the strongest recommendations to come from a recent Gallup study is the need to create a Workplace Value Proposition that engages people and emphasizes connectedness and culture.2
Employees need to understand what organizational policies are being implemented to support and enhance their work experience. The ability to connect with teammates to discuss work and interests outside of work improves moral, builds trust, and a sense of belonging. Small things, like encouraging and supporting employee moderated channels to discuss hobbies, can make work fun and build a more unified work culture.
Set the Stage
Rethink physical collaboration. How, when, and why you use on-site desks, meeting spaces and conference rooms may change. No one expects this transition to occur overnight. For example, Google is testing new office and meeting room configurations in just 10% of its campuses. Two promising configurations are Team Pods equipped with movable furniture, and circular Campfire rooms that allow onsite and remote employees to interact dynamically.3
Find what works for the team you manage. Perhaps you’ll devise schedules that ensure adjacent desks and or cubicles are unoccupied to maintain safe social distance and teams have designated days to meet in person. Or maybe you’ll find that replacing old speaker phones with additional monitors and better microphones, makes video conferences with remote workers more productive.
Nurture Soft Skills
Both managers and employees benefit from support and coaching to improve communication styles in virtual and on-site settings. Using the right tool for the task, preparing focused meeting agendas, etc. improves team performance and cohesion. One size does not fit all. Define guidelines and policies identifying appropriate use models for formal presentations and training, informal chat, remote collaboration, and team building.
Although we communicate virtually every day through smart phones, email, texting, etc., social cues are often lost or misinterpreted. Video conferencing helps mitigate some virtual communication misfires simply because we can see facial expressions—but it’s not without pitfalls. It takes practice to establish eye contact with your virtual companions, avoid talking in a monotone because you aren’t getting feedback from the audience, set up lighting to eliminate the horror movie effect, position yourself the right distance from the camera, and effectively use the tools.4
- What executives are saying about the future of hybrid-work, McKinsey, May 2021
- Going Back to Work in the Office: It Has to Be Worth It, Gallup, May 2021
- Google’s Plan for the Future of Work: Privacy Robots and Balloon Walls, New York Times, April 2021
- 15 Amazing Tips to Look Good on Zoom and Webcam Videos, Science of People, April 2020