A New Era of Leading in Hybrid Work
With all the excitement around lifted state and federal restrictions and readily available vaccines, organizations are eager to get their employees back to the office. Their enthusiasm, however, has been met with anxiety about what returning to work means for the flexible schedules and work-life balance that people grew accustomed to over the last 16 months. The response? Hybrid work.
And it’s here to stay.
For leaders, this transition means that you’re no longer managing a fully remote team. Rather, you must adapt your style to fit both in-office and remote employees. But how do you manage these various circumstances while still treating everyone fairly? What can you put in place to keep your team in sync? And how do you balance your own needs for flexible work?
1. Offer support
Your primary role as a leader is to support your team, no matter where they’re located. It’s crucial that you reach out to your team members individually and make yourself available as needed to offer help if needed. Have regular one-on-one meetings with each team member, whether it be in person or via video call.
Allow your team to be vulnerable with you and admit how they’re really feeling under the changing circumstances. Show them that you’re committed to understanding their specific situation and making it work for them and the company.
2. Set the right expectations early
Create new practices and protocols. Collaborate with your team to identify what worked when you were in the office together and what worked while you were remote. Make the transition an opportunity to create a new team culture that supports your mission and everyone’s individual needs.
Talk about how and when you’re going to communicate with everyone and where to access information. Come to an agreement on a standard method of communication – Slack, Teams, E-mail, Video calls, etc. – and set guidelines for when to use what channels.
Discuss work hours and what flexibility or structure is needed for your team to reach your goals. Share your work calendars so that everyone knows what’s going on, even if they’re not physically next to you.
3. Be flexible
The only constant in life is change. Whether it be a global pandemic, a natural disaster, a flat tire on the way to work, or a baby crying in the background of a video call, the best way to predict the unpredictable is to make sure everyone knows what’s important.
Focusing on what’s most important builds flexibility in the team. Hold a regular huddle where you go through which projects are need to have and which ones are nice to have so that when something comes up, the team can come together and get it done.
4. Rethink your meetings
Gathering in a conference room and getting the team together again is an exciting time. It’s natural to want to spend 10 extra minutes catching up before you get your meetings started, but remember that your remote team members on the call aren’t experiencing the in-person banter in the same way.
Hybrid meetings should be inclusive, accommodating those in the room as well as those on video. Ensure that a check-in includes everyone. Think through your agenda and continue the pandemic practice of being quick and to the point. Control the energy in the room and make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate.
5. Get everyone involved
Be mindful of where and with whom you are spending your work energy. If you notice that you’re brainstorming mostly with people in the office, or creating teams from among those you can “see”, make a concerted effort to shake up teams and collaborative units to include remote team members.
Regularly ask your team for feedback on what’s working, what’s not, and where your blind spots are. Find ways to get everyone engaged and involved in creating this new experience, no matter their physical location. Get creative about new ways to position your team for success.
Hybrid work is not going to be an easy transition. You and your team are going to be outside of your comfort zone as you find a good rhythm. Be patient, willing to learn, and communicate often. This new era of work is going to require a new level of agility and adaptability. With the right leadership, you and your team will succeed.