More than a year on from the first lockdown, most businesses will soon welcome back their full workforce. But what will that return look like in reality?
Twelve months of shutdowns, furlough schemes and remote set-ups have crystallised staff opinions of where and how they wish to work. Some can’t wait to get back onsite. Others are happier at home. Most want a blend of both – and are helping to shape the workplace of the future.
Companies are responding by swapping old-school team structures for more flexible arrangements. A recent Microsoft Surface and CIPD study shows that 87% of organisations have already adapted to hybrid working, with colleagues based remotely, in the office or between the two.
It’s a fresh start that demonstrates genuine support for staff wellbeing. But with no firm blueprint to follow, it’s also a steep learning curve. Managers now face two distinct challenges: reconnecting their teams after a long – and transformative – absence and navigating a new wave of working practices.
If you’re heading up a hybrid team, here’s how to start strong:
Begin the conversation now
Every colleague has lived through the pandemic differently – and those experiences frame their feelings about returning to work. Do they resent giving up time with family? Are they anxious about their health? Would they like to bump up or roll back their hours? Now’s the time to find out with a series of honest, empathetic conversations.
Arrange one-to-one meetings to explore individuals’ work preferences, discussing location, schedule and responsibilities. Then examine what’s possible (with support from HR, if needed) within a broader team and business context.
Champion a ‘one-team’ approach
Unfortunately, granting everyone’s work/life wishes doesn’t guarantee harmony. A common issue of hybrid scenarios is perceived inequality among onsite and remote colleagues. Homeworkers may believe their lack of visibility counts against them, while office-based employees can feel uncomfortably under the microscope. If left unchecked, this ‘us-versus-them’ vibe can leave your team culture in tatters.
Deal with emerging divides by setting clear expectations, establishing regular communication routines (such as daily check-ins and weekly meetings) and engineering teamwork between co-located and remote staff. Also consider creating a shared forum for current projects, ideas and achievements, so it’s clear how each individual contributes to overall success.
Reset standard working practices
Even the most fluid teams need ground rules. Before getting back to work for good, map out how colleagues will interact, access information and collaborate. For example, holding all-staff meetings via video – rather than a crackling conference call – is instantly more inclusive. But you also need to drill down into the day-to-day detail. How are files shared and updated? How are spontaneous, face-to-face decisions relayed to remote workers? What are your ideal comms and project platforms, and how should they be used?
If you’ve been running a remote team, you may already have some useful systems in place – but productive hybrid working requires a mindset shift. Essentially, taking additional steps to keep co-workers involved and in the loop, whatever their location. This ‘extra-mile thinking’ may not come naturally at first, so look to implement processes, tools and training that actively close communication and knowledge gaps.
Luckily, one of the most powerful ways to connect your hybrid team is also one of your quickest wins. The pandemic has robbed your staff of a top workplace perk – having a laugh together. In fact, employees have repeatedly named camaraderie as the element of office life they miss most. But after three lockdowns and months of lone working, colleagues may need a little nudge to break the ice.
A fresh, fun team building event can reboot that essential buzz, especially one that gets onsite and remote workers talking, moving and contributing to a common goal. Rather than standalone activities that deliver fleeting results, use the experience to boost positive behaviours – such as supportiveness and shared accountability – that help your hybrid team thrive in the long term.
Kaido’s inclusive, accessible Health and Wellbeing Challenges motivate employees to make lasting improvements to their mental and physical wellbeing. To learn how we’ve helped companies of all sizes keep their hybrid teams happy, healthy and engaged, chat to us on 0121 250 5795 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.