Sustaining a High-Performing Hybrid Workforce
Remote work has now evolved into a hybrid workforce, bringing together the best of both worlds, catering to those who prefer to work at home, those who prefer in-office, and those who thrive with a balance of both. For a while, the world was split on whether a remote workforce would survive long term. That is no longer the case. In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long term. Now that employees have had a taste of the flexibility and autonomy that comes with this model of work, they will not give it up easily. This was exemplified recently when Apple employees sent an internal letter to their CEO that went viral online. This large group of employees asked for more flexibility than as outlined by Apple’s updated policy that required more stringent schedules when the world started the transition back to in-office work.
As many companies make the shift to a hybrid workforce, they will undoubtedly experience growing pains. Every company may have different hybrid work policies, departments, and scheduling, meaning that there is no one size fits all solution. When implementing some of the tips discussed below, remember that they might not work best for your team, which is why remaining intentionally flexible is so important.
Here are some Dos and Don’ts to remember as you build and maintain a high-performing hybridity culture:
Do: Build a communication plan
Communication is the key ingredient when establishing a high-performing hybrid work environment, and especially when communicating during difficult times. It is critical that digital tools are prioritized, however, they are just tools without the human element. In a hybrid workplace, there are no more impromptu moments for connection and communication, making schedules more frigid for those who work remotely.
After the right tools are aligned, you must establish a solid communication plan. This plan should outline the who, how, when, and where for meetings and each communication channel used by the company.
Don’t: Over-rely on synchronous or asynchronous communication
Too much of a good thing can be bad. When working remotely, if we rely too much on asynchronous communication (email, shared documents, delayed messaging), it can hurt our company culture and delivery. Too much synchronous communication (phone calls, Slack, Video), especially over zoom, can limit creativity and accelerate burnout and fatigue.
Limit synchronous modes of communication to the most necessary function and outline clearly within your communication plan. Insure as a leader, that you are exemplifying this by collaborating with intention and coaching employees to do the same.
Do: Get Comfortable with ambiguity
Being able to deal with ambiguity is the newest and most sought-after leadership skill right now. Company policies, CDC regulations, and social disruptions are constantly changing and affecting how we work. High-performing employees can act without all the answers and effectively cope with change, rise above, and adapt. Here are some tips to help you become more adaptable.
- Plan ahead, but remain in the present
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Learn to embrace change, it brings with it learning and growth
Don’t: Blur the lines between work and home life
One of the long-standing benefits of a hybrid workforce is location and schedule flexibility. With your team in different places, it is important to be aware of different schedules and time zones when scheduling team meetings. As a leader, encourage your employees to make and keep boundaries that work with their home and family life. Some other tips include:
- Publicly color code (red, yellow, green) your week, sharing your general availability. This can help team members prioritize collaboration time and projects if you are in the red and limited in capacity.
- Learn who your team members are, what their preferences are, and respect that whenever possible.
Do: Prioritize wellbeing
When you interact with someone through a screen most of the time, it can be difficult to see the warning signs for burnout. Researchers at Stanford found that virtual meetings carry a heavier cognitive load than in-person meetings. Zoom fatigue, limited mobility, and isolation can affect emotional and physical wellbeing and damage trust and performance.
- Mitigate these risks by meeting with employees or your leaders for regular check-ins
- Outline breaks in your schedule in between meetings.
- Allow team members to turn off their cameras. In the real world, people don’t walk around with a mirror all day. If we were to be looking at ourselves all the time, that would be unnatural and uncomfortable.
- Create virtual team-building exercises that are inclusive and build trust and comradery.
Don’t: Ignore red flags that harm psychological safety
Trust is one of the biggest hurdles to jump in hybridity culture, and high-performing teams rely on psychological safety. Employees should feel safe when asking for more support or sharing feedback or reprioritizing delivery. Warning signs that your team has low psych safety include not asking questions during meetings, placing blame on others when confronted with a mistake, or when feedback is ignored or never requested.
- Ways to promote psychological safety:
- Approach conflict as a collaborator
- Involve employees into the discussion when establishing plans and prioritize
- Ask for feedback and do something with it!
Do: Personalize connection
Connection drives collaboration and promotes knowledge-sharing. An internal survey by Intuit showed at 79% of employees felt lonely and disconnected from colleagues. On a hybrid team, this disconnection can cause a domino effect that affects productivity and projects. It is easy for those onsite to overlook coworkers that are not in their daily lives off-camera. The last thing you want is a team member that feels alone and disconnected from the group.
One small way to help this is by recreating the “water cooler” by taking 10-minutes per day to chat with coworkers about topics and experiences at are not work-related.
A new model of work provides an excellent opportunity for employers to experiment with options and collaborate with employees to find solutions. This means adjusting plans and practices along the way, listening to employees, and prioritizing the most important work. Focusing on what is important in our new way of working, naturally builds flexibility into your hybrid management system.
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