The switch to the hybrid working model requires a new leadership style to match.
Without it, our people will start to feel less connected to their roles and the company, leading to a drop in morale and productivity, as well as an unwanted (and costly) rise in staff turnover rates.
So what can we do to meet the needs of remote working teams?
We can start by checking out the latest research from business solutions provider Brother.co.uk. It looks at 7 of the biggest hybrid working challenges and the best tips for making it less stressful and more productive for our teams.
Here's a look at 7 ways to become a better hybrid working manager.
Tip 1: Invest in the right equipment
Managers should encourage their hybrid working team to invest in equipment for a dedicated home workspace. Some of the things people need to work effectively from home include ergonomic chairs to prevent aches and pain, height-adjustable desks, headsets, and webcams for seamless Zoom catch-ups
And, of course, there's the Wi-Fi issue. All of your team must have a reliable and fast internet connection. Otherwise, hybrid working will become a frustrating and disorganised experience for everybody. A study published by LinkedIn found that home workers need at least 25 Mbps of download speed.
There are no legal requirements to provide equipment or offer any financial assistance. But any support the business can offer will be greatly appreciated by your team and will likely improve their productivity and personal well-being.
Discuss options with your line manager to see what support is available, emphasising that investing in hybrid working equipment is also about investing in people.
Tip 2: Find the right digital collaboration tool
A digital workplace messaging tool or platform is essential. They streamline communication and workflows and keep you and your team accountable. They'll also simplify scheduling issues and online meetings.
There are loads of options out there, with many offering free trials. Do as much research as possible before selecting a platform.
Some of your best options include:
Slack: An instant messaging tool compatible with multiple devices and platforms.
Asana: A work management platform to help teams organize, track, and manage workflows. Excellent for more complex project management workflows and organising projects with freelancers.
Google Drive: Allows you to create and share work online and access documents from anywhere in real-time. Free and very user-friendly.
Do not (we repeat, do not) try and run your team of hybrid workers by email, Facebook messenger, or a Whatsapp group. So people actually do this. It's unprofessional and inefficient.
Tip 3: Make space for the socials
A 2021 survey reported that over a third of workers had found it harder to make friends and maintain relationships with colleagues since switching to hybrid working, with more than 8 out of 10 (81%) saying they had experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Help your team create a human connection while working from home by introducing (virtual) break-out areas and scheduling Zoom coffee catch-ups around mid-morning and lunchtime.
Some remote teams have a dedicated #watercooler or #officegossip channel on Slack, giving people a space where they chat, support each other, plan the next social event, or share a bit of gossip. Just remind everyone that all comments are recorded - #keepitprofessionalguys
Encourage your team to be mindful and care for their mental health while working from home. Meditation, chatting on the phone with a friend during lunch, a micro workout, or simply going for a walk are excellent ways to recharge the mind in preparation for the late afternoon slog.
Read more: Six Serious Challenges of Hybrid Work And How to Overcome Them
Tip 4: Focus on productivity
Hybrid working and micromanaging don't jive together. Give your team the space and autonomy they need to get the job done in the way that suits them best. This is what hybrid/remote work is all about.
Ditch stressing about stats and focus on productivity instead. After all, achieving outcomes, meeting deadlines, and producing work with real business value is far more important than hitting a KPI target, like the number of minutes logged on.
Get the best out of your people by empowering them to take charge of their time. Reward output and tangible 'wins,' not a set of KPIs stats that look impressive but offer little business value.
Tip 5: Check-in
Find the right balance between the hands-off leadership style and letting team members know you're always available when they need you.
Hybrid workers don't want to be smothered by micro-managers or a constant flow of messages requesting another ‘status update.' But long periods of 'email' radio silence and slow response times can leave hybrid workers feeling isolated, underappreciated, and, ultimately, demotivated.
Incorporate daily catch-ups with your guys to help them manage workloads, offer feedback, or raise concerns. Or spend a few minutes saying 'Hi' and getting to know each other. Little touches like this can make a massive difference in building and maintaining hybrid working relationships. It could be a quick email exchange, a five-minute Zoom call, or a facetime catch-up.
Keep the vibe casual and friendly, showing a genuine interest in how your team members are feeling and the work challenges they face. You're coming to them as a supporter/mentor, not as their ‘boss.’
Not every catch-up is remote-compatible. Regarding formal 1-2-1 discussions, review performances, and especially disciplinary procedures, schedule an IRL (in real life) meeting. These meetings often involve difficult and sensitive conversations that don't translate properly over Zoom.
Discover: The Missing Tool in your Hybrid Work Plan
Tip 6: Be flexible
The main goal of a hybrid working model is to give employees flexibility in how, where, and when they work.
Employees should feel they have the flexibility to work between home and office and the flexibility to choose working hours that (within reason) fit around their home life.
Managers should offer flexitime options whenever possible, allowing workers to log on later in the morning or take extended afternoon lunch breaks, then make the time up later in the evening. This is the ideal hybrid working model for parents with young children. It also allows the rest of your team to work when they work best, increasing overall team output and efficiency.
Consistency is key. Be flexible but within set limits. Stress that any flexi-time requests must be evaluated in line with the business needs. This is, after all, still a professional environment.
Tip 7: Draw up guidelines
Set clear expectations by drafting a hybrid-working policy, then link it to a folder everyone on your team can access.
Clear guidelines will help preempt any confusion or ambiguity over flexible working times and the hybrid work code of conduct, i.e., not logging onto Zoom calls in your PJs.
A hybrid work document is not a legal requirement. But it should still be taken very seriously. Work closely with senior management and human resources while putting it together, ensuring any 'policies' align with legal requirements and employer obligations.
Good leaders adapt when they need to and change with the times. So start integrating these tips into your management style to continue being an effective leader within the new hybrid working model.