Work has changed. Studies such as a recent report by Accenture show that 63% of high-revenue growth companies now embrace hybrid workforce models, while 51% of employers prefer the hybrid working model.
The ongoing pandemic has driven many office-based workers across the globe to work from home, accelerating the growth of hybrid working.
As vaccination programs gain traction, many companies are announcing back-to-office strategies that combine remote and office-based work.
Managers understand the benefit of this model and recognize that they too may need to change how they work to realize the advantages of the hybrid model.
Before we look at changes in management and new types of management outcomes, what exactly is hybrid work?
What is Hybrid Work?
Hybrid workforce models combine employees who work remotely and office-based employees.
In fact, in most emerging hybrid models, employees are given the option to decide whether they are more productive in the traditional office environment, at home, or in a combination of both potential workspaces.
Many hybrid workplaces see employees working in rotation for two or three days per week using hot-desking (a system allocating desks to workers only when required).
This enables employees to enjoy the advantages of remote working and get the benefits of face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, which helps break down any lingering sense of isolation.
What Traits Should Managers of Hybrid Workforces Focus On?
Managers and employees will need to adapt to hybrid working. From a management aspect, adaptation can involve obtaining the right technological tools to enable hot-desking, remote work, and processes for evaluating remote performance.
Technology can enhance hybrid work up to a point. However, your management style may also need to change to match what has been called the new normal resulting from pandemic conditions. The new normal has unique needs.
Below are some of the essential characteristics or traits recommended for hybrid workforce managers:
The lines separating work and home life have blurred, and maintaining a healthy balance is difficult. Microsoft Pulse's research showed that leaders who intentionally support their teams in setting work-life boundaries have happier employees. They are also more likely to collaborate with their employees, value their input, and recognize their contributions to the company.
Translated to companies today, employees will feel more motivated and empowered if managers support, listen to employees, and validate their challenges.
The key differentiator? Empathy. An old and simple way of describing empathy is “to walk in another person’s shoes.” Translated to companies today, employees will feel more motivated and empowered if managers support, listen to employees, and validate their challenges. Motivated employees tend to be more productive and engaged, which in turn increases productivity and revenues.
But empathy goes much further. An empathetic manager can detect potential future issues before they even arise. By taking the time to consider how a team might feel if a manager or other team members take specific actions, potential problems can be quickly eliminated before they arise.
Another scenario is where a manager who was accustomed to sending emails late at night before the pandemic needs to refrain from this now because team members working at home are trying to avoid working at times when attention to the family is the priority.
Simply put, the empathetic manager will understand that a good work-life balance has become a more significant challenge with the advent of working from home.
Many employers were skeptical or wary of remote working when the pandemic saw offices locking down. They simply did not trust their employees to remain productive at home. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the feeling is mutual, as 1 in every 3 employees says they do not trust their employer.
Mutual trust is critical when companies adopt the hybrid working model, and it requires a collaborative approach and good communications. If a manager has control issues, or if there is a lack of trust among the teams and managers, it may make the hybrid working model challenging.
Building trust is not easy, but it starts with being trustworthy, empathetic and creating an environment in which team members feel valued and heard.
Can employees voice their opinions freely without fear of retribution? When they express their opinion, does the manager really listen to them? In different kinds of company cultures, there can be difficulties in being frank, so employees and managers will need to be sensitive to these concerns in this new normal.
Ideally, trust-building comes more easily when companies have fostered an open and transparent culture, where there are plenty of occasions for getting 360-degree feedback
Ideally, trust-building comes more easily when companies have fostered an open and transparent culture, where there are plenty of occasions for getting 360-degree feedback from employees in one-on-ones, through surveys, and by organizing all-hands meetings. The days of one-way communication are gone. Trust grows in environments of plentiful and clear communications.
Curiosity is an essential part of management. It’s critical for growth and change, but it’s also a characteristic that’s often overlooked. While curiosity in its simplest form is asking questions, integrating curiosity into leadership uses that trait strategically and thoughtfully.
If the pandemic has taught the world one thing, how we respond to change is an indicator of adaptability, coping skills, and the ability to perceive new opportunities within change conditions.
The right questions—driven by curiosity—can guide the way to growth for an organization, even in the most adverse situations.
The right questions—driven by curiosity—can guide the way to growth for an organization, even in the most adverse situations. Curiosity can enhance mutual understanding and engagement between managers and employees and ensure business teams thrive.
Many leaders lack the innate curiosity to ask the right questions, while others may worry about the honest responses expected from questions. However, successful leaders ask bold questions, listen to answers without judgment, are open to new ideas, and are willing to implement change.
By asking questions, not only will a manager get honest answers which can drive the business forward, but the action models openness and curiosity for your team members. What better way to show your team that they too can ask questions and be heard than by doing it yourself?
Self-awareness is an understanding of your traits, behaviors and how these affect the people around you. It may sound simple, but it can be challenging to get clarity from your own perspective. In the wake of the pandemic, a manager needs to be self-aware.
Without self-awareness, anyone can be the culmination of subtle (and not-so-subtle) prejudices, biases, and preferences.
Without self-awareness, anyone can be the culmination of subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices, biases, and preferences. Managers need to conduct a periodic self-review to consider their weaknesses, triggers, strengths, motivators, preferences, and biases. This ensures that any problematic or misplaced motivations do not interfere with being a fair and equitable manager.
Research shows that when people have a realistic picture of themselves, they are more confident, better decision-makers, have improved relationships, and communicate better. These qualities, in turn, make them better leaders.
Work is all about what you get done, not where you get it done. To build mutual trust in a hybrid working model, it is best to focus on the outcomes rather than the hours that an employee has “clocked in”.
Work is all about what you get done, not where you get it done.
Setting and communicating clear goals and deadlines can help employees excel at their tasks. Finding time to provide them with guidance when the manager and employee are not together is also helpful. Setting and communicating expectations and allocating responsibilities fairly and appropriately all make for efficiently executed work. Setting up a time for actionable feedback through regular one-on-ones and check-ins builds trust among teams and managers.
As the traditional office changes and evolves into a more flexible format, conventional measures of success will also change. Ensuring that everyone knows the part they have to play and when they need to deliver is enough; the teams can adapt their working arrangements to achieve their set goals.
One thing is clear. The future is becoming more flexible, and managers will need to adapt accordingly.
Empowering employees to adopt a hybrid way of working can be smooth and positive, especially if the team is using the right toolset -- such as the one we offer here at Zynq.
Adopting a new set of skills and cultivating traits to lead well in the new normal means showing empathy, developing trust, staying curious, practicing self-awareness, and setting objectives to let teams and managers fulfill their greatest potential.