Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more companies have decided to implement some sort of hybrid workplace to keep their employees safe. And, as it turns out, remote work is incredibly popular among workers. ″There is ample opportunity to retain a healthy dose of that flexibility and to mix the best of both going forward,” commented Joe Ucuzoglu, CEO of Deloitte. “…This is a fundamental reshaping of the way that society goes about work.”
Employers need to adjust to the new world we have all found ourselves in if they hope to retain talent amid a bevy of workplaces that offer fully remote or hybrid workplaces for employees. But just offering a hybrid workplace isn’t enough. Employers need to make sure that they keep their teams energized and optimistic when working in this new model. To find out how employers are managing this, we reached out to C-level executives for their insights.
Contact is Key
“Stay in regular contact with your team members. Coordinate activities outside of work when you can, including grabbing coffee, going for a quick walk, or having virtual chitchat. Given the hybrid workplace, it takes more effort these days to stay connected, but it’s still possible. Doing so will also keep your spirits up and make you feel more included and a part of the team,” offers Brittany Kaiser, Independent Chair on the Board of Gryphon Digital Mining.
It can be hard to remain in contact with employees in the hybrid or WFH world, but finding ways to do so beyond the daily Slack message like Chang and Kaiser suggest are key to keeping your team energized.
Going a step further, John Furneaux, CEO of Hive thinks 1-on-1s with your employees will go a long way. “The most important keys to remote work at a startup have… been regular 1:1s with video on. Having your video on totally changes the tone of a meeting and is critical…” You lose that human connection when working from home, but being on camera can help combat that.
Support Your Staff
Pandemic or not, offering support to your employees is one of the biggest responsibilities you have as a manager. In today’s world, support is more important than ever.
“Employees are always under a lot of stress – we all are – but as a manager or team lead, it falls on you to reach out and check in when working remote or hybrid because there is less face-to-face time. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly 1-on-1s to check-in, even if it’s not work-related,” says Craig Carter, President & CEO of Jack Mason. “People are feeling anxious and they might want someone to talk to about their anxieties,” he concluded.
Expectations Should Be Clearly Defined
You will need to redefine what is to be expected when your company shifts to a hybrid model. “What worked when we were all in the office might not work so well when we are switching back and forth… it is a new world and employers need to be clear with their employees about what changes to expect and what is expected in return,” says David Wolfe, Founder and CEO of Oliver’s Apparel.
It is also important to have a discussion about working hours and how to structure the day. “Work hours are vaguer than ever. You need to make it clear what you expect from your staff while also figuring out what works best for them… It’s a balancing act,” agrees Mike Clare, CEO at Mood Health.
Prioritize, But Remain Flexible
Everything seems up in the air at the moment. With news of new strains threatening the hard-earned freedom we have all started to get accustomed to, it is more important than ever to remain flexible. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have priorities set for your team.
“I have a meeting with my employees every week to talk about what needs to be done this week, next week, next month, etc. It’s a check-in that lets them know where our company-wide priorities are so they can pick up the slack if other workers get caught up with something in their personal lives,” notes Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT.
It can be hard to create a sense of inclusion when half of your team is in the office and the other half is at home. “It sometimes seems like there is a bias towards people in the office. Like, ‘oh they are harder workers because they are here in person,’ and that sort of thing,” says Amanda E. Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer at Nailboo. “But that obviously is not the case. It is on us as leaders to nip this sort of thing in the bud.”
One way to make sure everyone feels included is to make all company meetings held via Zoom. Seeing everyone on camera helps to equalize things and make everyone feel like they are contributing to the conversation.
It is also important to include everyone when you are making your company decision to move to a hybrid workplace or not. “Some people really want to go into the office. Others would prefer to stay home and raise their kids. Who am I to make that decision on my own? I want to hear from everyone before I do,” Johnson added.
Boundaries Might Be Needed
It is important to encourage good boundaries when implementing a hybrid workplace. Lines can be blurred when you never leave for work and your house becomes your office. There can be a sense of overload that is hard to escape. Employers that set clear boundaries will see team energy improve in the long run.
“One way to set boundaries is a company-wide no-interruption time. This makes it clear that no one should be slacking or taking meetings or really be doing anything but working on what they deem the most important at that point in their day/week,” suggests Boye Fajinmi, Co-Founder & President at TheFutureParty. “We also have rules in place for meeting agendas and include notes on our emails that we will be slow to respond to outside of business hours.”
Try to mix and match ways to give your employees boundaries in order to prevent burnout and keep energy levels up.
Don’t Forget To Have Some Fun
It’s easy to forget, but work used to be fun a lot of the time. You could turn into a co-worker in the elevator on the way up to the office, or chat with everyone at the lunch table about something that happened on your way in that morning, or, if you worked at an office that had some sort of lounge, you could even throw some darts or have a drink late in the day on a Friday.
Now that many of us are at home, we might be missing those sorts of interactions that made work fun. “Don’t forget to bring some playfulness into the digital office. Try having an informal zoom hour where everyone can log in and do their work while still chatting freely like you might at the lunch table or in your open-air office,” says Summer Romasco, Brand Strategist and Marketing Director at Burner.
It’s important that work still feels like a place where you can go to interact with people. “Your workplace used to feel like a community… a place where you felt connected with other people because you were all in it together. That kind of went away for a little while during the pandemic. Any way we can try to bring that back in the hybrid workplace is a win for office morale in my book,” says Chris Hetherington, Founder and CEO of Peels.
Use the Correct Metrics for Different People
Your workplace should be diverse. That means everyone will be handling the change in the workplace/workflow differently, so you can’t expect to use the same metrics to measure their attitudes and experiences.
“Across the board, you should focus on their outputs, not inputs. Don’t track their hours or their time using certain apps. Instead, look at how much they are accomplishing. This allows them to have a sense of autonomy over their day; something that almost all employees value,” comments Danielle Calabrese, COO at De La Calle.
“And try to remember the generation and gender differences among your employees. It might be easier for your millennial workers to work from home because they are so used to technology. But your older team members? They might be struggling with the shift. You can’t hold both groups to the same KPIs. It’s just not realistic or fair. Ditto for female employees. Studies have shown they are more prone to burnout when working from home,” Calabrese finished.
You must take into account these differences when attempting to keep optimism and energy up in your hybrid workplace.