A recent report showed that 83% of workers surveyed preferred a hybrid model of working, data that is reflected by the mass increase in flexible work opportunities. Employees certainly love it, but what about management?
With hybrid working becoming the new gold standard, many new challenges have arisen for managers, falling under the umbrella of: how do you co-ordinate, collaborate and motivate your team whilst balancing, flexible, office and even remote workers?
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Organisation is key, with people working across a variety of different locations, mediums and even time zones, it is important to keep things from falling apart. Whilst organising office-based employees may be relatively simple, making things work with some of the team working from home can be tricky, especially if they have flexi-time or out of work commitments.
It is best to establish meetings, for example, well ahead of time. Last minute won’t do, you need to allow everyone a chance to adjust their schedules and make the necessary arrangements to attend. When setting up lines of communication think ‘need to know’, chat groups can be a real asset, but also a curse if set up improperly. Design a suite of rooms for matters of escalating importance, that will be seen by the appropriate people or have specific uses, to avoid notification overload.
Use of workflow or scheduling tools is a lifesaver when it comes organisation. With the ability to assign tasks, projects and deadlines, instructions and requests don’t get lost and everyone knows what is required of them. That being said, a Monday check in is a great way to set things off on a high point, giving you the chance to answer any follow up questions there and then, along with any problems that may come up.
That and it is a good excuse for a social call to see how everyone is.
Which leads us to team harmony. It is easy for ‘us and them’ mentalities to spring up if people feel isolated, so make sure to prioritise inclusion. Try to ensure that no part of your office workers day cannot be shared by their home counterparts. Everything should feel seamless, or as close as you can get it.
This will mean that when it comes to discussing team relevant work, office members must be encouraged to use your communications platform to share information and ideas. This not only keeps everyone in the loop, but presents a greater opportunity for new ideas and creativity, as more minds are present. This extends to meetings too, they must all take place digitally.
Be innovative and try to replicate fun parts of the day you may have enjoyed before the pandemic. For example, if pre-pandemic you shared lunch with your team, keep up an online version, or dream up a digital equivalent, with the main focus being an excuse to engage socially.
Monitoring your team for signs of stress or disquiet is much harder when you don’t see them in person. It is easy for them to hide things, or experience feelings of isolation, whilst physically cut off from the rest of the team.
Make sure to check in regularly, but don’t assume anything, you don’t want to appear condescending. A change in a team members behaviour could just be one bad day, rather than a great build up of stress, so probe carefully.
Burnout in particular is a major threat to employee happiness and performance in these unprecedented times, often brought on by a lack of work-life balance. Ask your team for feedback on how their current working situation and workload is suiting them.
It is also common for employees to have missed vacation time due to pandemic restrictions, with up to 40% not having taken paid leave to unwind and relax, even if at home. If you notice this in your team, contact them, downtime is important both for their state of mind and productivity, and whilst you can’t force them to take time off, it is worth making a case for the benefits.
Managing a hybrid team is new territory and no one can predict every scenario that you may be faced with, but the one thing that will save you is learning to roll with the punches, bending instead of breaking. A flexible mode of working requires a flexible management style, in order to be able to react appropriately to new situations.
Working parents, for example, are under huge pressure to keep up with their work as well as the see-sawing demands of their children. Whilst schools are at least now open in most countries, there is the very real threat of further lockdowns, which may once again, plunge many lives into chaos.
Coming up with contingency plans, built around team understanding, will allow you to move past these obstacles with everyone on the same page, a good recipe for long term success.
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