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5 Strategies for Effectively Managing People in the New Hybrid World

Pave the way for a highly engaged and productive workplace, no matter where employees are located.

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As businesses consider their workplaces in a post-pandemic world, it’s clear they’re not going back to business as usual. In the aftermath of breaking numerous barriers around the definition of remote and hybrid work, companies need to rethink and retool their vision for the future.

The worldwide experience and work-from-home experiment ushered in a heightened shared awareness of the importance of inclusion and belonging. Simply put, we're more connected as a global community and care more about people than in the past. 

Hybrid work is here to stay

Hand in hand with this heightened awareness, the past year triggered a change in employee expectations and wants, not least of which is the flexibility to work remotely. A 2021 study on the Hybrid Workplace sheds light on just how strongly employees feel about this issue.

A McKinsey & Company article notes that 25% of employees said they would consider switching employers if their organization returns to fully on-site work. In fact, people quitting for new opportunities is the highest it has been in two decades. Nearly four million Americans quit their jobs in April, the most on record. Moreover, one in four workers say the ability to work from home is so important that they are willing to take a 10-to-20% pay cut to do so.

Remote work triggers problems

While both employees and their employers realized benefits through remote work, they also experienced its attendant problems. The Voodle report shows employees are struggling in key ways. Notably, 59% feel more productive when they have deeper connections with the people they work with, yet 53% feel it’s difficult to create and maintain authentic relationships working remotely.

Underlying all these struggles is a lack of human connection. As a tribal species, we have felt the strain of missing the invisible ties that bind. In fact, that absence ranks as the most challenging aspect of adjusting to remote work, according to the Hybrid Workplace report. When relationship building is shortchanged, it’s harder to build trust, which in turn may lead to more conflict, decreased productivity and ultimately attrition.

Related: Come Back Stronger: 3 Ways Leaders Can Rebuild Connection and Trust

Strategies managers can implement immediately

Considering the potential short- and long-term damage companies can suffer if hybrid-work problems fester, now is the time for managers to develop a plan for success. Adopting the following strategies can pave the way for a highly engaged and productive workplace, no matter where employees are located.

1. Embrace the new hybrid world

Since our new way of working is here to stay, it’s best to accept this change and evolve your managerial approach accordingly. On a practical level, start getting creative about how you hire and onboard employees — as well as how you structure teams and projects — in this new reality. Supporting more asynchronous collaboration is vital and will reduce meeting time or let it pivot to more meaningful interactions.

2. Prioritize relationship building

The success of every team is built on relationships between its members and the trust they develop over time through informal and spontaneous conversations about personal lives — the connective tissue in meaningful relationships. It’s essential to prioritize these connection points and make it easy for your employees to engage in them, even when they’re not face-to-face in person. In fact, the more remote the team, the more connecting touchpoints are needed.

3. Make collaboration easy

You and your employees likely discovered many tools that made it possible to brainstorm, share ideas, edit work and more during the past year. Regardless of how you enabled remote work, now is the time to research options and evaluate what will best serve employees moving forward. Many software companies have innovated exciting new tools in just the past six months. Ask your teams to participate as you explore new options so you can co-create a better hybrid work environment. 

Related: How to Collaborate Without Wasting Time

4. Find new ways to be more accessible

Management-by-walking-around is effective because your employees can more easily ask a question or raise a concern. Informal access is the key so consider how to support open “office” hours when you’re not near each other. Proactively reach out, reminding your team often that you are available to connect. Also, provide an anonymous place to share questions or concerns and create a perpetual digital whiteboard where people can post ideas. 

5. Embrace learning, failing and improving

The hybrid world is still unfolding and will continue to do so for quite some time. Be open to trying new things, failing, learning and adjusting as you find what works best for you and your team. Continually solicit feedback from your team and pause quarterly to reflect on lessons learned. And be sure to share your own fallibility so employees truly feel you’re all in this together. All these measures help build psychological safety, which Dr. Amy Edmondson defines as feeling safe enough to share questions, concerns, and mistakes — something that is the cornerstone of high-performing teams. 

Related: How to Create a Learning Culture in the Workplace

This is an amazing time to reimagine the workplace. By rethinking how to manage people — and helping people move through this transition — leaders can pave the way for the best possible outcomes as employees reunite.

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Britt Andreatta is international keynote speaker and author on the topics of learning, change, teams and the future of innovation. She is the CEO of 7th Mind Inc. and former CLO of Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning).