If there was ever a time to embrace being an adaptable leader, it’s now. The workplace is driving change in where and how work gets done and hybrid work is on the rise. Hybrid work is a combination of working remotely and in-office. This means each of your team members could have a completely different approach to the workday.
As a leader in any setting, it’s your job to bolster engagement and bring the team together in order to deliver results. It will require some extra effort and creative energy, but here are seven measures you can take to collectively engage your hybrid team:
1. Show Your Support by Creating Structure
Structure is key in hybrid-remote work for many reasons. First, it’s a simple and effective way to connect the team. Structure will ensure the right connection points and team collaboration occur, regardless of anyone’s location. As a leader promoting a structured work day keeps you accountable and accessible. Working with your team to create a reasonable amount of structure is a great way to show them you are available as support.
You can offer structure by scheduling regular meetings throughout the week. These could be a combination of individual, one-to-one meetings, team meetings, as well as informal time for “water cooler” connections or other touchpoints that you normally have while in the office. What’s most critical is that the touchpoints mirror your workflow and collaboration needs without adding more meetings or increasing the team’s workload. One of the biggest concerns I hear from clients working through hybrid is work overload and burnout.
To ensure these meetings promote engagement, rather than deter it, it’s important to keep them concise. Too long of a meeting can negatively interrupt the workflow for your employees. For both in-person and remote employees, team meetings should be held at the same time and online, to ensure inclusivity for everyone. It’s a subtle reminder that even in a hybrid situation everyone can come together as a team.
2. Make Time for Informal Conversation
When it comes to communication, it can’t all be technical and formal. Hybrid work has the potential to make meaningful relationships difficult to create and maintain. If a manager approaches their hybrid team with nothing but impersonalized work terminology, employees could wind up feeling bored, disconnected, and apathetic from day-to-day. It may take extra time and effort to fill the gap, but it will make a positive impact on the entire team. As CEO and businesswoman, Anne M. Mulcahy said, “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.” Encourage employees to speak about their passions and unique interests. Not only will you foster engagement but genuine relationships as the foundation for your team.
3. Check-In on Your Team’s Mental Health
Mental health and sharpness is a key component to being engaged and on your game throughout the workweek. At the same time, remote and hybrid work pose certain challenges to a healthy mindset. There are concerns about the ability to separate work-life from home-life when working remotely, not to mention increased feelings of disconnect and isolation. With these in mind, you should be checking on your team for signs of burnout. Be open to candidly discussing different feelings, potential overwhelm, types of stress, and your team’s levels of fatigue.
Encourage employees to check in with themselves and increase their self-awareness. This heightened sense of self could translate into their work and help them evaluate their own levels of engagement.
4. Encourage Mentorships and Teamwork Throughout the Day
Teamwork and collaboration should not be lost in a hybrid work scenario. Instead, it needs additional nurturing to ensure that everyone stays connected and continues to learn from one another. Developing genuine relationships opens the door to more personalized interactions. Team members will be willing to help each other, check in more often, and provide additional support. When everyone on the team is comfortable asking and answering questions they can really come together and sharpen their skills.
As a leader, you can foster these relationships by encouraging partner work, and implementing mentorships between employees of different tenures. Assigning a partnership in this way promotes cooperation and accountability for both teammates to set aside time to participate.
5. Communicate Clearly and Consistently
Clear, effective communication is crucial to keep all team members united. Employees are more engaged when they are aware of and made to feel confident and comfortable with the needs and overall status of the team. Part of feeling connected is being in the know. As a leader, it’s your job to consistently share information and updates. It’s important to remember that the biggest hurdle to effective communication is the assumption that it has taken place!
One of the most important things to discuss are goal-specific concerns such as expectations and priorities, but it’s also important to discuss purpose, motivations, and inspirations. This will help your team to see not just how to do things, but why they are impactful and worthwhile.
Effective communication is a two-way street, employees should be encouraged to speak up with their ideas, questions, and concerns. When your team feels empowered to ask you questions, you have the opportunity to get ahead of any ambiguities or confusion that would impact how they go about their work.
Another part of communication is feedback and taking the time to check in on your team’s performance. As a leader, you should be clear about what you’re seeing of their work, and how they are contributing to team goals. This is an opportunity for transparency that helps with accountability and focus. Helping them to know where they stand currently is an important step to plan for where they are headed. Remember, positive reinforcement goes a long way, and simple callouts throughout the week for things like being reliable, working hard, and working together, are a subtle reminder that you see your team, you recognize and appreciate all that they are contributing, and they can feel reassured to keep it up.
6. Discuss the Workflow Process Regularly
As you’re communicating, one of the most important things you can do is be there to help manage workflow. When doing this, remember to maintain that two-way dialogue. As entrepreneur and CEO Robert F. Smith said, "You have to create a workforce process and a workforce environment that makes people feel not just invited to the party, but also asked to dance. It's a matter of necessity more than anything else.” Employees who are engaged feel as if their participation and their workflow matter. As the team leader, you should reinforce this idea by working with them to manage their workload priorities alongside the team’s expectations and overarching goals.
The best way to address the workflow process is with actionable steps. Having regular conversations about individual goals and the specific progress made towards accomplishing those goals, maintains that the employee has an integral role in controlling their own success. With the support and experience from you as the team leader, coupled with the employee’s personal approach and innovation, you're creating a complementary pairing to come up with the best possible plan of attack. A plan that has the potential to innovate the entire workflow process!
7. Be Willing to Embrace Flexibility
The most central component to hybrid work is the flexibility that comes with it. If you’re going to lead a hybrid team, you need to embrace the idea of flexibility in your leadership style. When your team is made to feel trusted and empowered to navigate their schedules and work routines they may be more excited about approaching their workload. Each employee has their own different needs and abilities. You have to be willing to ebb and flow with each passing day - while balancing desired results with team member needs and preferences.
Supporting your hybrid team to accomplish results is going to take a little extra effort. Being split between two types of workflow means doubling down on communication, regularly showing support to your team, being an accessible leader, and actively bringing people together. With these seven tips, your team can build engagement on a foundation of trust, purpose, and motivation. At the end of the day, you can connect your team from anywhere to their work, their careers, one another, and the company as a whole.