eight Methods to Foster a Constructive Worker Expertise in a Hybrid Office

As organizations plan for the post-COVID workplace, many are considering a hybrid approach with good reason: It’s what employees want. Of more than 30,000 workers surveyed in the Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index, 73% wanted flexible remote work options to continue and 67% wanted more in-person time with their teams.

Perhaps to help their employees enjoy the best of both worlds, two-thirds of business decisionmakers are considering redesigning physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work environments. Yet while more collaboration space, better videoconference technology and “hotel” desk space may be useful when employees are on site, that’s only part of the picture. To be successful with a hybrid work environment long term, it’s important to be conscientious about the employee experience all day, every day.

Moving to Hybrid Spaces

Here are eight best practices to think about when moving to hybrid work:

  1. Create guidelines for collaboration—Without being too prescriptive, document key expectations to support a more consistent hybrid experience. For example, suggest teams meet weekly and do so in-person at least once a month. Include meeting agendas with every invitation and give people permission to prioritize for themselves and opt not to attend when something more pressing is due. Appoint a facilitator to be sure all participants engage in the meeting and assign a note-taker to capture and share action items.
  2. Focus on outcomes vs. tasks—Shift the paradigm from managing tasks to focusing on timely outcomes, setting clear expectations and allowing people to adapt their workflow to suit their needs. This shows employees you trust them and eases the stress of accommodating someone else’s schedule. If you feel better with progress updates, hold weekly project touchpoints to discuss status and support needed.
  3. Enable flexibility—Offer employees flexibility in when, where and how they work, recognizing it’s important to help them manage stress and balance the demands of family and life outside of work. Expect managers to do periodic check-ins with each employee to understand how they are doing personally as well as professionally and offer support or resources when appropriate.
  4. Communicate clearly and often—Avoid the risk of people feeling disconnected or left out by ensuring a regular cadence of team and organizational communication to keep them informed. Ask for their feedback through regular surveys and team meetings, be sure they know where to ask questions when needed and respond promptly with what you know when you know it.
  5. Seize teambuilding and engagement opportunities—Counter the sense of separation that comes with remote work by consistently connecting on what you’re committed to, what you value as a team and what you appreciate about each other. Whether in person or virtual, reinforce your shared vision and goals in every meeting, talk about the ways each person is contributing, help people feel cared for and create a culture of appreciation. Take the opportunity to hear from individuals about their personal journeys and goals to help team members understand each other.
  6. Find ways to break down silos—Purposefully expand contacts across your organization to overcome the tendency to work only within your team. Pursue opportunities to share knowledge and build relationships by including people outside your area in planning brainstorming sessions or work-related social activities. Assign cross-functional projects to teammates who otherwise wouldn’t work together and include ice-breakers and get-acquainted opportunities to forge new connections.
  7. Empower new styles of leadership—Leading in person is familiar territory for many leaders but they may not be as comfortable leading remotely. In a hybrid workplace they not only need to manage dispersed teams but lead them with heart. Empower people leaders to evolve their skills by offering training, tips and mentoring. Recommend approaches such as open-door policies, employee 1:1s and scheduled feedback meetings to help them listen more, share their human side, be more vulnerable and who empathy to their team members.
  8. Make a habit of recognition and fun—When people are seeking meaning in their work and facing challenges in their lives, it’s critically important to celebrate the positive, recognize achievements and show employees they’re valued. This is most powerful when you understand what’s important to an individual and recognize them in a way they feel “seen.” For example, anniversary gifts are much more meaningful with a note of congratulations and thanks. And rather than individual rewards that may be seen as limited to a select few, find ways to honor the success of an entire team or express thanks with an unexpected celebration, meal or time off.

What ways will you choose to improve your employee experience in your hybrid workplace?

—David Grossman

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