How to create a successful hybrid workplace for your people
January 25th 2023 | Posted by Phil Scott
Guest Post By Clare Spratt, Director and Learning Consultant
As we come to the end of another year, working arrangements are continuing to dominate workplace conversations.
That’s because the global pandemic showed that, for many people, work can be done just as successfully at home as in the office, with equally high levels of productivity.
Additionally, many people have become so accustomed to working from home, along with the many associated benefits, that they’re reluctant to go back to the office on either a fulltime or part time basis.
All this has created a host of new issues for businesses and their leaders/managers. Long-serving, highly valued employees are disengaged and/or leaving their jobs because attempts to change working arrangements don’t meet their expectations or needs.
Employees are struggling to gel in a team environment because of different pre- and post-pandemic experiences, expectations, and values. Meanwhile, jobseekers are arguably more demanding than ever before, wanting better pay, benefits and increased workplace flexibility.
All too often, employers are losing quality people and successful candidates are declining job offers after securing more favourable terms and conditions elsewhere.
Or, existing employees are becoming even more disengaged when they find out that their loyalty has been taken for granted and the ‘newbies’ are getting a better deal. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey report, many employees are ‘burnt out’ because they’re uncertain about their job security, their roles, their teams, their current plans and their future opportunities.
All this is creating a new leadership crisis, with leaders and managers struggling to offer and maintain equality across teams; juggling to manage teams working a mix of in-person, hybrid and remote; and under pressure because of rising costs and reducing profits.
With that in mind, I’ve outlined some leadership tips that could help you be successful in a hybrid workplace and ensure your teams avoid burnout in the New Year.
One of the best ways to build community is to regularly come together as a team – whether that’s for ideation purposes, collaborative working, or for team building.
Regular connection lets your people get to know each other, share different perspectives and experiences, and create a more tolerant and inclusive working environment.
People with pre-pandemic work experience are likely to have a totally different perspective of work and working arrangements than someone who joined the workforce during the pandemic and whose only yardstick is a virtual/remote experience.
By bringing these people together and creating space to share lived experiences, you create understanding which, in turn, creates tolerance and trust.
Communicate with empathy
People are much more receptive – and responsive – to an open and honest two-way style of communication. Take time to regularly engage your people and be an active listener so that you can hear what is being said, and not being said. With empathetic communication, you increase the likelihood of building solid relationships, creating community, and achieving hoped-for outcomes.
The language you use is also essential; where possible, share communication preferences and depersonalise language. By taking a 5% step towards the preference of each other, we are 10% more aligned – and that makes a huge difference. That’s 10% more effective communications, 10% more trust, 10% more harmony in a team, 10% more productivity, and 10% better collaboration.
Use colourful language
During my almost two decades in learning and development, I’ve seen (and used) a lot of different development models, with varying levels of success. However, the Insights Discovery model is one of the best at creating a simple-to-use, easy-to-remember language that helps diffuse conflict and increases understanding.
In this model, for example, people with strong Fiery Red energy are usually strong-willed and purposeful; so, focus on outcomes. Sunshine Yellow is sociable, dynamic, and persuasive; so, share the vision. People with a preference for Earth Green energy seek harmony; so, consider the people impact. Finally, Cool Blue is precise, deliberate and questioning; so, stick to the data.
Collaborative decision making
All too often, leaders and managers make decisions for their employees – almost always with the best of intentions – but without taking sufficient time for engagement. Because of the pandemic, most people have made carefully considered decisions about their working arrangements, so insufficient engagement about any changes could leave them feeling anxious, stressed or demotivated.
Wherever possible, and before making any decisions, engage your people and outline the situation. Share the possible scenarios and encourage them to put forward their own ideas and/or adapt yours. When you collaborate on decision-making you empower people to own the process and the outcome – and that makes for better outcomes in the short- and long term.
People do their best work when they feel trusted, safe and are appreciated for their unique contribution. That’s because, people are hard-wired to fight, flight or freeze when they perceive a real or imagined threat, which could include having their working arrangements altered.
When you listen to your people, try to understand what they need from you, do your best to deliver and be authentic when you can’t, then you create trust. And that creates a positive workplace culture where people are more open to difficult conversations and more adaptable to change – including about working arrangements.
Invest in awareness
Last, but certainly 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.
It’s a challenging time for leaders and managers, but these tips should help you have the right conversations and create the best possible workplace – whether office-based, hybrid, or virtual/remote – for your people.
You can watch Clare’s Hybrid Working online event (recorded on Tuesday 31st January 2023) by logging into our members’ area.
Clare Spratt is a Director and Learning Consultant at Netley Consulting, a boutique consultancy offering programme design, learning delivery, and workshops for leaders and their teams.
Clare helps businesses achieve their goals by focusing on people. She believes that businesses can only truly succeed when people feel valued, are supported to develop and grow, and where there is a culture of mutual respect and appreciation.