Hybrid workplace

Aligning Hybrid Work with Employee and Leadership Expectations

Joe White
April 9th, 2024

When the pandemic started, remote work was seen as a temporary solution. Today, employees continue to demand flexibility in their work schedules. Remote workers enjoy a better work-life balance and prevent themselves from burnout.

Companies are relenting since using hybrid work models attracts talented employees. But it takes more than transforming a work environment to ensure a successful hybrid work model. 

Companies also need to reevaluate their leadership strategies. What works with a fully in-office team won’t work with a hybrid team. Leading a hybrid team requires a different approach and skill set. 

By learning how to manage a hybrid team, you set up your employees and leaders for success. In this article, we’ll learn more about the challenges facing hybrid teams. We’ll also discuss practical solutions for hybrid leadership.

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What are hybrid work challenges for leaders?

Hybrid work is more than picking a workplace model and setting up remote collaboration tools and communication channels. It also requires business leaders to track metrics and engage in initiatives that facilitate more productive workflows and a better employee experience.

Hybrid work arrangements bring along new communication challenges. A remote team still needs the same effective and collaborative work environment. Here are a few challenges employees may face in a hybrid work model:

Lack of trust and guidance

Employees want autonomy, which means leaders should trust hybrid workers to contribute just as much as in-office employees. Clear communication and guidelines on expectations will help improve employee engagement.

Lack of inclusivity and connection 

Remote employees may not feel as recognized as in-office employees, which can result in low talent retention or poor work culture. It can also create a power imbalance between in-person and remote employees. Power differences can lead to weak collaboration and performance.

Lack of trained management

Leaders need training on how to manage a hybrid team. Managers need different skills and mindsets to empower and manage hybrid employees. Without trained hybrid leaders, cohesion, and informed decision-making, the workplace will suffer.

When employees face these challenges, it’s up to the leaders to make changes to ensure a successful workplace. It may sound like it’s more work for leaders. In reality, it’s about acquiring new skills and best practices.

What are hybrid work challenges for leaders?

How do you lead hybrid work?

There are a few skills to succeed as a leader of a hybrid workforce:

  • Build trust
  • Empower employees
  • Enable collaboration
  • Establish productive team climates
  • Support employee well-being
  • Build company culture
  • Provide effective communication

Perhaps surprisingly, the right skill set is only part of the equation for building a successful hybrid workplace. According to Gartner, 78% of HR leaders say mindsets are more of a challenge than skill sets. Often, poor hybrid leaders fail to embrace hybrid models because they think remote work is a risk or want to stick to the traditional in-person model.

However, a strong hybrid leader views workplace transformation as an opportunity. They are open-minded about building a hybrid work environment with high levels of engagement. Mindset can make all the difference in a successful hybrid model.

Gartner also established 4 types of hybrid workplace leaders:

  • Champions: Open mindset and right skills
  • Strivers: Open mindset but lacks skills
  • Resistors: Closed mindset but right skills
  • Laggards: Closed mindset and lack of skills

Evaluating your current leadership can help you pinpoint where you may need development and training. Showing leaders a different perspective can make them more supportive. Likewise, helping them develop a skill will help companies build a better hybrid workplace.

How you do lead hybrid work?

How do you engage employees in a hybrid workplace?

Hybrid leaders are responsible for engaging employees. Beyond just productivity, hybrid leaders also need to build an employee-centric culture. There are a few ways that can promote healthy and productive team members. Hybrid leaders may want to:

Establish clear expectations

Companies need to create guidelines for managing their hybrid workforce. Employees can’t meet your expectations if you don’t set them. Clear expectations can improve performance and engagement. You could compile guidelines into a formal guide or send regular, ongoing emails. 

The most important goal is to ensure guidelines reduce confusion among employees. Specific guidelines on actions like cameras being on or off on video calls can ensure transparency.

Frequent opportunities to meet with management

All professional development opportunities should be accessible to in-person and remote employees. A hybrid manager needs to ensure all employees receive feedback, guidance, and support.

Regardless of work location, employees should feel like they have a connection with their managers. Leaders can provide this by offering feedback, scheduling check-ins, and recognizing notable performance.

Offer training on communication

Hybrid workplaces bring different types of communication problems. Since many interactions happen online, it’s easy to misinterpret what is happening. There may even be a slight delay compared to simply walking over to someone’s cubicle to ask a question.

With this different communication style, employees may want training on how to interact in a hybrid environment. Employees can learn how to effectively communicate and avoid conflict. It’s also a good time to discuss expectations regarding online availability and acceptable behavior.

On the other hand, some actions could damage your hybrid work environment. You want to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Micromanaging employees: There is usually no need to track your employees’ keystrokes or use other invasive monitoring tools. Instead of micromanaging to ensure remote employees are working, you can try trusting them. Using a value-based approach makes employees feel empowered in their work.
  • Only recognizing in-person employees: If it’s a hybrid meeting, don’t only talk to people in the physical room with you. Engage with your remote employees who are tuning in on video conferencing software. Likewise, if you have a social event in-office, consider having a virtual event for your remote employees. It will help them feel included and part of the team. 
  • Making conflict personal: Did your colleague not immediately respond to your Slack message? It doesn’t mean that they are out shopping instead of working. Try to assume positive intent and don’t make small problems into big issues.

Engaging employees in a hybrid workplace starts with changing your perspective on how work is accomplished. Many individual tasks can happen remotely. However, some collaborative work may require face-to-face interactions. 

Knowing the difference can help you determine when employees should be on-site or can stay remote. Some other ways to increase hybrid employee engagement include:

  • Ensure team members are building relationships with each other. Team-building activities are still crucial for a virtual team. Some ideas include virtual games, happy hours, or non-work Slack channels.
  • Provide employees with all the technological tools and apps they need to succeed. Beyond digital tools, check if your employees need office supplies to work remotely.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution for hybrid teams. A hybrid leader will need a willingness to experiment in order to find the best hybrid model for their team. Staying agile, testing solutions, and constantly learning will help you find a solution that works. Just make sure you don’t accidentally foster an unstable work environment for your team with too much testing.

Making the office worth it

A lot of discussion around hybrid work is centered around how to work remotely. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your office space. An optimized office is a crucial part of making a hybrid environment succeed.

Incentives like free lunch or social events are nice ways to encourage employees to come into the office. However, an office designed around your teams’ needs is the true facilitator of collaboration and productivity.

Creating an optimized work environment requires data and a thorough understanding of your employees’ work styles. 

That’s why collecting feedback from your employees is so valuable. It gives them a platform to discuss their views and pain points. Maybe hybrid employees come to the office for peace and quiet. Or they only want to go to the office for collaborative events. Information like this can help inform your office layout.

Gathering data is the next step to creating an efficient office space. Presence data, like badge swipes and Wifi logins, can provide insights into how employees are using or not using your office. Real-time workplace reports and dashboards can give you a better understanding of office utilization.

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Using tools like OfficeSpace Software can help you manage your workspace efficiently. You can make informed decisions about whether you need to downsize or acquire additional office spaces. But just as importantly, you can create a safe and productive workplace for your teams.

OfficeSpace collects and analyzes a variety of metrics that provide real-time insights on how your employees use the office space. Armed with this information, you can create an effective workplace strategy that meets everyone’s needs.