By Danielle Siegel, PCC, LCSW.
Recently, many of my sessions have focused on return to office/hybrid work planning and worries. Questions about how to make it work, support employees, and build a hybrid culture are common.
My clients and I begin the conversation by seeking to understand what sort of leader the person wants to be in the hybrid workspace, what culture they want to build, and what skills they need to have to succeed.
Hybrid Work and Connection
Across the board, leaders want their teams to be engaged and feel connected to the rest of the team and the broader organization. They know this will lead to better performance, less burnout, and less complacency.
Engagement begins with developing a safe space in which employees experience an environment where they can be honest, vulnerable, and open without fearing retribution. This can start with you as a leader modeling this behavior. Talk about your own struggles with hybrid work. Engage the team in a discussion around the upcoming changes, hear their concerns and validate their feelings and experiences. Include them in a discussion about how they can work better together as a hybrid team, so they feel a sense of ownership in making this work. This is especially important if your organization is telling employees that they have to return to the office, as there will likely be discussions happening away from you about this.
Hybrid Work and Communication
Communication is a crucial skill to focus on during this process. It will help build engagement and a culture where team members feel connected. Because people are not in the office all the time, if at all, there is more of a need for leaders to over-communicate and be transparent. By being remote, we lose the “drop by/water cooler” conversations that happened ad hoc. Dropping by someone’s desk to ask a question about work was a bonus of being in the office. As a leader, it is important to find ways to mimic these sorts of conversations, whether by offering office hours, having an agenda item focusing on “people” in team meetings, having topic-focused fireside chats, or any other creative solution.
I often hear from clients that they feel left out of the loop or disconnected in the remote environment. Bring your team into this discussion to be part of the solution. Documenting conversations and sharing them with the team will help everyone be on the same page.
Hybrid Work and Expectations
Setting expectations will also help the team be on the same page. Clarifying what you expect in areas such as modes of communication, how and when you want updates on their work, whether they have cameras on in video conference, how you want to work together in these meetings so they run smoothly, if you want them to track their time, and how flexible their schedule can be will lead to a culture of trust and accountability.
Become a Great “Hybrid” Leader
There are many pros and cons to hybrid/remote work. I hear about both regularly. As a leader, it’s important for you to build a culture where your team feels safe to talk about their concerns, understand what is expected of them, and are empowered to make suggestions. To learn more about developing your leadership skills, and leading a high-performing teams — remotely, hybrid, or in-office, contact Danielle for a consultation.