Management can be tough. Navigating relationships, juggling priorities, maintaining a culture, working through challenges. Throw in a global pandemic and it gets a whole lot tougher.
The past 12 months have been tricky for even the most resilient of us. But as we start to exit the pandemic there are new challenges to face and hybrid working is one that many leaders are starting to grapple with.
When everyone got into the swing of working from home, you'll probably have found a rhythm, and while a hybrid approach is favoured by many employees, it comes with challenges of its own.
Not everyone's experience of working remotely is the same. Some have their own office; some are squeezed on the end of a breakfast bar. Some have kids hanging around from 3pm every day, some live alone. Try not to see WFH through a veil of your own experience. Acknowledge that different circumstances offer different challenges and encourage your team to be open about them.
With a hybrid approach it's likely some of your team will be in the office and some won't. Make sure wherever people are they feel included and acknowledged. Use tools and systems that can be accessed from anywhere, keep communications consistent, invite those at home to in-office meetings via video link and consider asking everyone to join from their computers even in the office so all team members can interact in the same way.
Work it out together
There's no one size fits all approach for hybrid working. Include your team in decisions and work out processes together. It's a good chance to re-evaluate who really needs to be in which meetings, who needs to be in on which decisions, what messages need to be shared and when, and how people work best. Don't dictate the path forward, use the opportunity to explore new channels of communication and better ways of working.
Trust your team
If you're adopting a hybrid approach you're going to have to trust your team to get the job done. Micro-managing isn't on the table and set hours are unlikely to work. It's a model where autonomy is key and as a manager, you'll need to focus on the end results rather than get caught up in the 'how' and the 'when'. For this to work it's key that everyone understands expectations, responsibilities, and results, and wherever they are based your team are all working towards the same objectives and KPI's.
That's not to say that your team don't need support. When everyone is in the office it's easier to spot signs of burnout, or individuals struggling, and to casually check-in to see how people are. Make sure you schedule regular catch-ups with staff wherever they are based and consider a buddy system to keep your team connected.
Think about inclusion and fairness
In a hybrid environment it's more important than ever to make it a fair playing field. To ensure people have equal access to learning and development. It can be easy to fall into the trap of offering new projects and opportunities to those in the office as they are front of mind but it's important to make sure employees at home are included too. Identify inclusion risks and put a plan in place to ensure equality of opportunity.
A disparate team doesn't mean a disconnected team. It's vital that you maintain your culture and team ethos. Without the casual kitchen conversations, desk pop-ins and lift chats it will take more effort to build relationships with colleagues. Think about the different ways your team can connect, it could be physical monthly office meet-ups, regular socials, shared remote lunches, or a dedicated social instant message channel. Engaged employees are happier employees and these bonds are key to good working relationships too.
Embrace the middle ground
If you have the right processes in place hybrid working can offer the best of both worlds. Giving the option of remote working but anchoring your team to a real-world base gives your employees flexibility and your business a solid base. Moving to a new structure will have challenges but it's an opportunity to reflect on your business and develop new ways of working that play to the strengths of individuals and the team as whole.
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