Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer, Employment Hero
Hybrid working allows employees to still enjoy the benefits of remote working, without leaving all the things we like about the office behind. The biggest drawcard of the hybrid working model is the fact that it offers flexibility to your team. They can choose how and where they want to work depending on their personal circumstances, current situation and mood. Even though hybrid working is a fantastic way to run a team, there are challenges that leaders will face. Such as:
Connecting a distributed team
For all of the benefits of working at home, random conversations with colleagues at the water cooler can be one of the elements of the workplace that are really missed. Collaboration, both intentional and unintentional, can flow much easier when you have someone’s in-person energy to bounce off. This challenge is a multi-faceted one for hybrid teams. Firstly, your team will miss out on having spontaneous discussions with all of their colleagues. Secondly, those who come into the office may find themselves connecting with their teammates more often, building stronger bonds, which may make remote teammates feel isolated.
The solution: Wherever possible, take a “remote-first” approach to all meetings. Instead of having all the in-office staff attend the meeting together and dialling in the remote staff, get all staff to dial in from their desks. It can be hard to express your ideas from a laptop when everyone else is there in person, this measure makes sure that everyone has their ideas heard. Every couple of weeks allocate time in the workday for team-building activities. Just like in-person activities, these can help team members get to know each other and flex their team working muscles. Whilst it may not be completely spontaneous, getting into a regular social routine will do wonders for your team’s relationships.
Decentralising company operations
The idea that workforces might be distributed across several locations, from different cities to different countries, is quite hard for many to imagine. When running a hybrid team, you’ll have workers completing all kinds of responsibilities from various locations. In order to facilitate this, it’s important to let go of HQ as being the place where the most important tasks take place. All important information needs to be easily accessible to employees wherever they may be.
The solution: The last thing you want to be doing is relying on email to exchange important documents or information. If you’re predominantly sourcing files from a server that’s based in the ‘main’ office, or still filing paper documents in cabinets, you might be creating a lot more work for your entire team. If possible, make sure that most (if not all) of your business information and operations are cloud-based. Implement cloud storage and online collaborative documents for your whole team. If your employees do not currently have the skills to use this technology, the investment will be well worth it in time saved.
Keeping tabs on employee wellness
If someone is struggling with mental, physical, or other aspects of their personal wellness, it can be difficult to identify from a surface level. From a mental health perspective, it can be especially difficult to look out for the signs of a drop in wellbeing – which could include becoming withdrawn and antisocial or changes in appearance. It’s incredibly challenging to keep track of these things when you’re only seeing the Zoom snapshot of a teammate.
The solution: Strong connections between managers and staff can be an effective antidote to wellbeing issues. Understandably, your staff members are unlikely to make it clear in a team meeting that they’re not doing well, but in a private format they’re more likely to open up. We’re huge advocates of the regular 1:1 meeting between managers and their direct reports, not only because they’re a great opportunity to exchange work-related updates, but because they’re a confidential space to flag any other issues. De-stigmatise any discussions about mental health and take an authentic interest in wellbeing. Do they need increased flexibility? Help with prioritising work? Increased support as they move through a challenging time? These are all things that can be easily and privately arranged through a caring manager.
Welcoming new employees without physically meeting them
From the new employees perspective, starting a new role in your own home can be similarly strange and stressful. If your new workplace is disorganised with your onboarding, you might find yourself a bit stuck and without the option of seeking help from your nearest colleague. This can start your new employee off on the wrong foot, and risk having them instantly feeling disengaged with the business.
The solution: Create a bespoke online induction for your new starters. A remote induction shouldn’t just be a virtual version of your regular induction program. As well as capturing classic elements of an induction program – like collecting essential details, introducing the new starter to the team and sharing company values – it should give the incoming employee a complete understanding of the company’s culture and operations without stepping foot on site.
Prior to their first day, make sure the new employee has provided the essential information you need to make their onboarding process as seamless as possible. This includes their signed employment agreement, payroll details, and copies of any licences required for the job.
Provide a comprehensive list of information they’ll need, including policy documents, an induction schedule, system login information, and – most importantly – the contact information of their direct manager.
Make sure that your new starter gets proper face-to-face time with not only their manager, but other members of their team, on their first day.