For many people, it’s easy to think of hybrid working like hybrid cars – we know they’re out there, we know they’re a good thing, but why? And how?
Even before 2020, hybrid working was being touted as the next big thing. Organisations were starting to make in-roads into adopting this ‘half in, half out’ way of working, and studies were starting to emerge about why it was so beneficial. Fast forward a couple of years, and it feels like hybrid working has been with us for decades. The thing is, most companies have been so busy implementing hybrid working practices, they haven’t had the time to stop and think of the most important thing of all: how to introduce them effectively.
Sacred to any organisation is the notion of connection, and communication. At first glance, hybrid working seems at odds with this. Nevertheless, there are a few ways organisations can drive connection through hybrid working; let’s take a look.
There’s No Such Thing As Over-Communication
Even the unhyphenated version of ‘over-communication’ gets flagged by spellcheck, so that shows you it doesn’t exist! Leaders must compensate for the lack of physical facetime and ‘live’ socialisation opportunities that office work affords. Schedule daily, weekly, and other regular meetings. These might cover banal subjects which would be normally discussed at someone’s desk, but bringing them online offers welcome normality.
Even though many people will prefer hybrid working and take to virtual meetings like a duck to water, many others will not and might feel lonely or ostracised as a result. Empathise with those who miss a typical nine to five. Seek ways to draw them in. Take extra time with them on a one-on-one basis, if needed.
With more meetings comes a greater need to organise the week. Leaders should take charge of this – employees will expect nothing less. Regular meetings and catchups should be exactly that – regular. Block them in everyone’s diaries as a recurring appointment, i.e., at the same time on the same day. Commit to sustaining these meetings and never stop. Gently encourage attendance by communicating exclusively through these meetings and giving feedback to those who miss them. Over time, a culture of regular, anticipated meetings will form. Connection will inevitably follow.
Make the Virtual Environment Fun
The mere mention of ‘Zoom’ or ‘Slack’ needn’t make your team shudder. Take some time to learn about ways to make virtual meetings fun and interactive. One cheap and easy tool to use is Kahoot, a virtual quiz application. Everyone loves a quiz, right? Polling apps such as Mentimeter (and Kahoot, again) give employees a say, as well as being fun. Alternatively, keep things low-tech by simply swapping meeting hosts, encouraging funny Zoom backgrounds, or factoring in time at the end of the meeting for something social such as “My plans for the weekend are…”.
Maximise Time in the Office
Make those few days in the office count. Find a day when most of – if not all – the team are in and set up a meeting to discuss hybrid working norms. This meeting could be used to drive solidarity and values too.
Lean heavily on in-office socialisation. Arrange the occasional team lunch and relax the rules, for example, around dress code or even allowing pets. Encourage people who struggle connecting virtually to schedule collaborative work for when they are in the office, and solo projects for the home (remember to over-communicate with them, especially!).
Final Thoughts: Give the People What THEY Want
If you’re still searching for the answer to that “How?” question, then maybe direct it to your team instead. Ask them, “How can we drive connection for you?” The above list is by no means exhaustive, and many leaders are still finding their way through hybrid working –this is completely understandable.
Talking to your team – especially those who are warier – might open your eyes to a solution or intervention you’ve never considered before. For the team itself, being the part-architect of their unit’s foray into this brave new working world can be an empowering feeling and a driver of connection in itself.