Leadership in the hybrid workplace
For obvious reasons, it’s more difficult to lead in a hybrid workplace than in an office where everyone’s physically present or, as has been the case during the pandemic, where everyone’s working from home. When the team is constantly changing shape, though, with some of its members working remotely and others working on-site, you need to practice a different kind of leadership using the tools and processes that can provide appropriate support, guidance, and inclusion.
It’s perfectly natural and indeed all too common for a leader to focus on co-workers physically present in the office while neglecting those working off-site. To prevent this from happening, and to ensure successful leadership in the hybrid workplace, you need to:
- Manage employees’ assignments and expectations in an efficient, clear, and motivational manner. As “management by walking around” is very limited in a hybrid work environment, it’s vital to be as explicit as possible when assigning tasks. This includes not only the specification, scope, quality, delivery, and reporting of the assignment but also the feedback you must provide. If feedback is poorly managed, even the most dedicated employee will lose his or her drive and motivation. Tools that will efficiently take care of this problem are for instance Microsoft Planner, Trello, Slack, or the intranet’s built-in task management and notification functionality, such as Omnia’s My Task function. And make sure you assign and monitor tasks in a consistent and uniform manner for all employees, regardless of how or where they work. Otherwise, there’s a risk they may feel confused and insecure and your actions will be interpreted as being discriminatory.
- Focus on results, not on hours and processes. In order for a hybrid workplace to function successfully, you need to pay less attention to employees’ work hours and daily work routines. The results and quality of their work are the only things that really matter. Not when or how their work has been carried out. Instead of trying to supervise your employees’ work schedules and the hours they put in, which can easily create a manager-employee trust gap, focus on providing the resources that will help them perform even better. Institute daily check-ups with every team member via chat applications, Teams, or the intranet’s collaboration spaces. Make sure it’s easy for them to find process descriptions, guidelines, tools, documents, and other information as well as the competencies they may need in the organization. You can, for instance, use intranet or Teams templates containing all necessary resources for a certain project, process, or task. Read more about how this works in the blog post Building a successful digital workplace. Step 4: Facilitating collaboration.
- Include everyone. There’s always a risk that remote workers are unintentionally neglected when it comes to both scheduled and spontaneous meetings in the office. It’s consequently important that unplanned physical meetings should be unequivocally avoided. Instead, make it a habit always to organize meetings via Teams or similar meeting applications so that everyone in the group has an equal opportunity to participate. Learn more about how to make hybrid meetings more successful and efficient in the blog post Adapting the digital workplace for efficient hybrid work under the section Conditions for efficient hybrid meetings.
- Overcommunicate. The need for planned and structured communication is significantly greater in a hybrid workplace compared to one that’s office-based. When everyone’s sitting side by side, invisible collegial communication occurs, binding the team and creating a sense of togetherness. Additionally, the informal coffee talk is of great importance for employee engagement and corporate culture. But when half the office is intermittently working from home, the physical distance must be bridged with the aid of structured communicative efforts. This includes everything from the planning of regular group and individual online meetings to daily notifications about what’s going on in the project, team, or company. Discussions and knowledge-sharing on the intranet’s forums, Yammer, or similar enterprise networking platforms also strengthen organizational bonds.
- Regularly check the pulse of every employee and team, since there’s a greater risk of hidden health problems, alienation, and declining engagement in a hybrid work environment. If you only meet online, it can be difficult to detect group conflicts, lack of motivation, or whether an employee is feeling unwell. It’s consequently important to create conditions that allow you to regularly monitor the health and wellbeing of your employees and to check whether or not they feel motivated, included, and involved in the organization’s common goals. In small groups, this can of course be done through individual meetings, but in larger organizations, you can easily conduct and follow up employee pulse checks via the intranet's form tool or cloud services such as SurveyMonkey. In Omnia, there is, for example, an easy-to-use questionnaire tool for conducting simple surveys (Quick Polls).
For more information on how your workplace and processes can be adapted for the hybrid way of working, read the blog post Adapting the digital workplace for efficient hybrid work.