According to the 2021 Pulse of the American Worker Survey from Prudential, 87 percent of employees want to continue working from home at least one day a week, and 68 percent agree that a hybrid work structure is ideal. Moreover, 42 percent will search for another job if their current organization doesn’t offer some kind of remote option long-term.
As the data indicates, pivoting to a hybrid work structure will help you retain valuable team members and attract new talent. But the adjustment phase can be a challenge as everyone acclimates to yet another transition. Use these four leadership strategies to empower your team to succeed in the new hybrid work environment for the foreseeable future.
Emphasize safety and comfort in the office
Since a hybrid work structure requires in-office work at least some of the time, leaders need to help employees make sure they feel comfortable whenever they’re on-site. After all, a recent McKinsey poll found that nearly 50 percent of remote workers are anxious about office re-entry and think this transition will negatively impact their mental health due to fears of COVID-19 exposure.
Business leaders can relieve much of this stress by keeping the office as clean and safe as possible—beyond just requiring masks on-site and practicing social distancing. According to a survey of businesses across the country by the commercial cleaning experts at SERVPRO:
- 34 percent use a CDC-approved cleaning company and a janitorial service
- 63 percent ensure that the office is cleaned several times every day
- 92 percent limit group meetings to allow for social distancing
- 51 percent provide extra hand sanitizer or hand sanitizing stations in the workplace
- 35 percent take peoples’ temperatures each morning before they enter the office
Consider implementing some of these effective cleaning and safety protocols in your own business to make those coming into the office feel less anxious.
Build a seamless technology foundation
As the business landscape becomes increasingly virtual, 70 percent of executives plan to invest in a new IT infrastructure and 72 percent in virtual collaboration tools, PwC’s U.S. Remote Work Survey reveals. But, as the research also indicates, some people still find it challenging to collaborate with other team members or access critical information over digital tools and platforms.
Another survey from Office Depot found that 96 percent of people need technology to execute their roles, but only one in five think their organization will help them troubleshoot tech issues. One in four paid out of pocket to increase their WiFi speed, and 38 percent were not likely to be reimbursed for this or other related expenses. And when tech frustrations occur “extremely often,” 92 percent will consider looking for a new job. With this feedback in mind, it’s vital leaders ensure that all team members have a seamless, consistent, and equitable technology experience, whether onsite or in a remote location.
Take the time to carefully research and invest in the right tools for your organization, including an HR management platform, time-tracking tools, project management software, a culture-building platform, communication platforms such as Zoom and Slack, and other necessary technology. Make sure people have a strong internet connection and high-quality devices at home and in the office. And don’t leave it to them to figure it out on their own—build an IT infrastructure to help with home network infrastructure challenges, minimize cybersecurity threats, and maximize productivity through IT support.
Communicate frequently, clearly, and openly
After the massive shift to remote work at the onset of the pandemic, 21 percent of respondents in the 2021 State of Remote Work Report from Buffer said difficulties with collaboration and communication were their biggest struggle with working remotely. At the same time, the report highlights the risk of burnout. This means leaders in the new hybrid workplace face a unique communication challenge: How do you keep the whole team connected, in communication, and up-to-date without overwhelming them?
Achieving the ideal communication balance will probably require some trial and error on the front end. By inviting and incorporating team feedback along the way, leaders can find a communication strategy that promotes transparency and cohesion and clarifies expectations and common goals virtually and in person. Follow these tips to develop a strategy for your team:
- Keep messages concise and to the point to hold the recipient’s attention.
- Centralize all modes of communication (video, phone, email, and chat) on just one platform if possible.
- Use synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (lag-time) communication channels for people working in different time zones.
- Properly prepare for meetings by scheduling in advance, emailing an agenda to team members the day before, setting time limits for agenda items, and equipping onsite meeting rooms with the technology and network bandwidth needed for remote workers to participate fully.
Encourage unplugging by setting boundaries of your own with clearly defined, not-reachable hours.
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Be flexible and inclusive in your recruitment
Because a hybrid team may not be confined to a single location or a fixed number of hours, you can cast the recruitment net wide to attract a diverse talent pool. After all, now you can hire candidates regardless of where they live. Remote work opportunities also offer greater flexibility for people companies traditionally overlook due to geography, familial obligations, and other considerations. When companies open up opportunities like these, they widen their talent pool and foster a workplace of inclusion.
So how do you prioritize inclusion in recruitment and hiring practices? Here are some inclusive recruitment practices from Harver to implement:
- Educate both recruitment personnel and managers involved in the hiring process on the importance of diversity and the most common hiring biases so that they’re aware of them.
- Widen your candidate reach by using different channels to advertise your job openings such as job fairs at universities you don’t normally visit.
- Consider an AI recruitment tool which can examine your candidates objectively.
- Build a diverse talent pool by broadening qualifications.
- Involve diverse people in the hiring process to invite different perspectives and feedback.
Strong leadership will ease the transition to a hybrid workplace
If you plan on moving to a hybrid work structure for the long term, it’s crucial to adapt your leadership strategies to this environment’s unique dynamics and challenges. By considering health and safety practices, technology, communication techniques, and inclusivity in recruitment, you can help your team thrive as they ease into the hybrid future.
From Jesse Relkin
Jesse Relkin is the founder and CEO of C-POP Content Marketing based in Tampa Bay, Florida. She has been a freelance writer and marketing professional for more than a decade. In her free time, she enjoys reading poolside and listening to podcasts while doing mindless household chores.