As we enter into the post-pandemic era and the corporate houses prepare for the inevitable "physical workplace", one thing is clear: employees all over the world are showing reluctance. The last 18 months have been nothing short of phenomenal in setting up the foundations of the 'borderless workplace'. Employees have stepped out of their cubicles for good and they are not willing to get back to being chained to their desks anymore. A study by Microsoft reveals 73% of employees want flexibility and remote working options while ~40% of employees are willing to quit out-right if the organisations are making them return to office full time.
Managers and CXOs, be prepared
While a hybrid workplace is touted to be the new normal, planning for it is a tough challenge for CXOs and the HR fraternity. Workforce trends show differences in the preferred workplaces. For instance: working mothers prefer remote work settings while generation Z is in fact looking forward to returning to the workplace. Thus, compelling leaders to unlearn and relearn how to manage the workforce all over again.
One of the biggest concerns that have been looming over the hybrid work model is the lack of perceived fairness and sense of belongingness in the team. A research study suggests that disproportionately represented members in an organization are 1.6X more likely to have low belonging and more likely to leave as a result.
Different work setting choices for different members in the same team can create a feeling of in-group versus out-group, i.e., us versus them and therefore it becomes even more imperative for the leaders and especially line managers to lead in a more inclusive manner.
Employees report twice the engagement, approximately 3X commitment and job satisfaction when the immediate managers are seen as inclusive and foster a sense of belongingness within the team.
Here are few competencies that the line managers need to effectively navigate Hybrid workforce:
#1 Emotional Intelligence
Hybrid work or not, it is important for the managers to have a high emotional quotient (EQ).
- Authenticity: As a leader, authenticity is one of the strongest traits that you can bring to the table. Being true to your values, encouraging transparency, and honest conversations can really give you a headstart in winning this war of talent and leading an effective hybrid team. Authenticity comes with the willingness to be vulnerable and engaging with others with integrity.
- Empathize: It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has had adverse effects on the mental health of employees. While some employees are struggling with burnout, others are still reeling from the devastation caused by the pandemic. Being empathetic to your team members helps in creating a psychologically safe workplace where employees can feel vulnerable and express them fully. Research suggests that empathetic leadership style gives way to higher innovation (61%), engagement, and employee retention.
- Engage Meaningfully: Feeling alienated and distant from the people who are working in different settings is one of the biggest challenges faced by CXOs in a hybrid set up. Thus, ensure that you connect with your team on a regular basis to discuss work and other things. A study by betterup suggests that manager's connect increases the sense of belongingness within the team by 17%.
It is easy for certain team members to feel disassociated with the team in a hybrid setup, especially for employees who are working in silos. Thus, for the line managers to manage a hybrid team, it is important for them to lead inclusively.
- Alignment: Be crystal clear on the vision and goals. Ensure that each member of the team has complete clarity on their role expectations and have the resources to achieve the same. Inclusive leaders provide their team with a common goal to work towards and enables them to realise it.
- Building Team Cohesion: For the physical distance to translate into a psychological distance, it is important to ensure that the team stays connected. Plan regular team catch ups where team members can connect with each other for things beyond work.
- Encouraging participation: Ensure that each team member has a voice that is heard. It is easy for voices to get lost when team members are working at different hours or different locations. Thus, encouraging every team member to contribute in team meetings, share their opinions on important decisions can help everyone feel included.
#3 Effective Communication:
The efficacy of communication channels and style needs to be re-calibrated to ensure that there is no room for miscommunication in a hybrid workplace:
- Adopt common communication channels: To ensure that the information is disseminated properly in the team, create common communication channels like a slack group to share information and other relevant information. Common communication channels, regular information updates avoids the information silos and ensure that the team is on the same page at all times.
- Accountability: The challenge of mis-communication can also be resolved by creating encouraging accountability within the team. Ensure that there are stakeholders assigned to each task to maximize productivity. Accountability creates a sense of responsibility and assigns ownership to the task. This ensures that each employee steps-up and works towards a common goal.
As much as this is a guide you can readily use to manage employee expectations in a remote setting, you truly have to find the balance that works for you and your team. Each team and each employee is different and thus needs to be managed differently in this new normal. The only way to navigate your way through this is to lead with honesty, transparency, and clear communication.
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