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Insight 14 April 2023

Six ways leaders can best support their hybrid employees

From investing in technology to prioritising relationship building, Marco Favaloro looks at how to ensure your staff perform at their best while working flexibly

New Insights research shows that hybrid is now the most common working arrangement, with 59 per cent now part of a hybrid team. Overall, 92 per cent of teams are more hybrid since the pandemic. These hybrid structures address the desire for more flexible workplaces, better work-life balance and the ability to prioritise family commitments. Even before the pandemic, workers believed that flexible working would help save money, time and stress, but at the time this seemed unthinkable. So, it is no surprise that hybrid has caught on since Covid hit in 2020.

With the research among 3,000 global office workers showing that 72 per cent of employees want hybrid to continue and that 65 per cent of companies plan to maintain this way of working, how can leaders and managers ensure that their teams are properly supported?

Here are six insights from our new research:

  1. Be prepared to flex

While the results show a strong preference for hybrid working, it doesn’t mean companies should adopt a ‘one size fits all’ model. Indeed, our research suggests there are no hard or fast rules about what will suit every team. I believe that organisations should consider the behavioural and work preferences of their teams when adapting work models. As managers, ensure that the balance between office based and remote is appropriate for each person and role first. Where there are any doubts, create a safe space for honest and transparent dialogue.

  1. Be open to new technologies

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of teams find it difficult to stay informed and included, with 19 per cent struggling to collaborate on projects, and 12 per cent not able to find the right tools to stay connected. However, 36 per cent of teams haven’t yet adopted communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Teams or Zoom. Instead, they rely on more traditional communication channels such as email or telephone – which risk isolating team members.

Organisations must adopt new communication methods that are more suitable to hybrid working and ensure everyone is skilled and confident to use them. As a leader/manager, encourage your people to explore the digital collaboration tools available. Share experiences and learn together. The ability to overcome barriers and successfully use the tools available – regardless of working location – will set successful companies apart from competitors.

  1. Continually work on your culture

Around three in every 10 employees claim that working in a hybrid way makes it harder to establish team identity and culture. While this is not devastating and certainly doesn’t require the complete redevelopment of culture from the ground up, it does mean that leaders shouldn’t be complacent. For example, a team may have a preference for in-person interactions with whiteboarding in the office – going hybrid may mean a clique of office-based teammates who exclude those working remotely.

Managers need to continually make adjustments to culture to ensure this kind of situation doesn’t arise. On the other hand, the agility and performance of teams seems to have benefited from hybridisation, so it also might be the perfect time to capitalise on this and find ways to enhance your culture by making the most of the benefits.

  1. Prioritise relationship building

While the day to day was largely unaffected by the hybridisation of the workforce, almost half of the respondents declared that building relationships has become more difficult since the hybridisation of their team. Two fifths (40 per cent) of respondents lament the lack of social connection, saying casual conversations are now a key challenge.

While of course you can’t make your team members like one another on a personal level, as a manager you can act as an enabler, by helping to facilitate connection building among colleagues through regular in-person team meetings and social events. This is an essential element of a positive culture, because it builds a unified and cohesive community and is a key driver of longer-term innovation and business success. It also helps with the onboarding of new team members on a personal, rather than professional, level – making them feel an integral part of the team.

  1. Drive effective communication

As half of hybrid teams rely on open and frequent communication, a metaphorical open door should replace a literal open door in the hybrid workplace. This may run deeper than regular check-ins, to one-to-one connects, which allow time for mentoring, coaching, identification of training needs and giving context.

Managers also need to be aware of potential misalignment of communication. For example, while one in three managers in the research stated that their team has communication ground rules, fewer than one in four employees were aware of them. While managers may believe they are communicating effectively, this may not necessarily be the case – so constantly check that messaging is recognised and understood.

  1. Invest in awareness 

Last but not least, create a solid foundation by investing in yourself and building awareness. Awareness of self helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses; where and how you can add the most value; how to challenge appropriately; and how to turn your ideas into new realities. Taking the time to understand others – their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes – helps you become more understanding and accepting of others, able to adapt and connect, and collaborate more effectively to achieve better business outcomes.

marco favaloro

Marco Favaloro – Insights Head of APAC

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