Business leaders have enough on their plate on a good day, but nothing reshifts priorities like a global pandemic. Not only are you trying to keep your business afloat and keep your employees safe, but you also have to start thinking ahead about what going back to work will look like for your company.
As a leader in an organization that develops assessments to help businesses improve the lives and productivity of their employees and management teams, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to help during this turbulent time and the forthcoming transition back to an office. One crucial point to consider; not all of your workers are going to want to go back.
If anyone on your team is at high-risk due to age, health problems, or other factors, or anyone in their household is, they are likely to be afraid until a vaccine is widely available. Some individuals will be enjoying the flexibility of working remotely, as well as the lack of a commute, financial benefits, and let’s not forget comfier pants!
Hybrid teams, with a combination of remote workers and workers in-house, are already popular. After the pandemic, they’re going to be the new normal. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that “25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”
Start planning for this reality now to reduce friction down the road! Here are some ways to get your business ready for hybrid teams.
Prepare for Problems
As much as you try to make it happen, there will be some friction as you figure out your new normal. If you accept this fact upfront, you’ll be better off in the long run.
I’ve experienced this in my personal life; after moving away from my hometown for several years, my husband and I returned, eager to be close again to friends and the familiar. However, we learned quickly that it wasn’t the same. We thought everything would be right where we left it, but that wasn’t the case at all. The same is true for the workplace; going back to the office will never be the same after the pandemic.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Use this as an opportunity to change your organization for the better. Give everyone some grace as you adjust. The way you handle this transition will be a defining moment for your business and your reputation for a long time.
Several different models have surfaced recently explaining how we handle change and transition as humans. The basic summation of what each portrays is that everyone starts at a high point, knowing something is about to happen. As time progresses people have to let go of what was and eventually bottom out with the realization that things aren’t as they were before and the “new” hasn’t yet revealed itself. When we hit this phase in the curve, productivity takes a serious hit. However, once we go through that ‘valley’ most models show that a climb back through some uncertainty and skepticism to optimism and a normal level of productivity occurs as the ‘new normal’ becomes more clear.
I’m learning based on my interactions with my team that different members are going through the phases at their own unique pace, so meeting each team member where they are in the moment is key to success.
Communication is your key to success as we all navigate the new world of work. The good news is that we have more options for virtual communication than ever before.
You’re likely already familiar with resources like Zoom and Google Hangouts. While working in-office, we had a morning ‘huddle’ every day at 8:10. This gave us an opportunity to connect, share any updates within each department, and ask questions as needed. We already had our remote team members video-call in and participate. Now, we have a virtual huddle every morning! It lets us get face time with other departments, hear company-wide announcements, and stay connected.
We also use a chat platform called Mattermost to stay connected throughout the day and will continue to do so when some of us start working together in-person again. Implementing these communication measures now will help the transition back to the office go more smoothly.
Understand your team
Team dynamics will be more important than ever while we adjust to hybrid teams. If your team’s communication styles conflict, you’re going to have a difficult time staying productive. While virtually communicating, there’s more room than ever for misunderstanding.
I’m lucky to work at a company that creates personality assessments, so I have some honed-in insight on my team and their communications tyles. Before I meet with someone, I literally review the do’s and don'ts of their communication style and adapt my style to theirs. I personally have a very direct communication style that isn’t for everyone, especially when uncertainty is high in a working from home setting. This is my way of putting in the work to make sure my team feels secure. (If you want some quick, free tips on how to understand different communication styles, take the Working From Home Report!)
Make time to have frequent 1:1s with every team member when you transition to a hybrid team. Whether these meetings are in-person or on Skype, you should set aside dedicated time to check-in with your employees.
This will help you catch conflicts before they escalate and also reassure individuals that you care about them and their work. Anxiety around job performance is higher in a remote setting for many and will continue to be especially high post-COVID-19. Put in that time for your team.
Set a standard— and keep it yourself!
You need to be the one leading the charge for your team during this transitional time. While working remotely, it can be tempting to never ‘clock-out’, while in-office workers are allowed to physically leave work behind. TECLA shared that “Two-thirds of employers report increased productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers.”
This can lead to complications in your team dynamic. Will you expect more out of your remote team? Does this mean that in-house employees will be judged more harshly? Are you going to start having a bias for either team?
Being aware of these potential complications is your first step! Make sure that you are communicating as frequently with your remote team as you are with your in-person team, and find those ways to connect everyone. Team building is crucial— find creative ways to connect everyone. Try a virtual happy hour on Zoom! It’s a fun way to connect with everyone.
Handle Your Hybrid Team With Ease
Hybrid teams will be the new normal post-pandemic, and it might be the reality for your team. The tips here are a good starting point for any team, remote or in-person, and they should pave the way for a smoother transition.
This change might not come easily, but it will save costs in the short term, and potentially save lives in the long term! Lay the groundwork now, and you might be surprised at how your team adapts.