Control in the Hybrid Workplace: Part 2
Everyone is looking for answers. C-level executives and managers are struggling to find the right and safe way to get employees back into the office. Employees are excited about the flexibility of remote work and what that could mean for their future of work.
No one really knows what the best action plan for the future is, but everyone has an opinion.
More than 75% of C-suite executives report that they expected the typical “core” employee to be back in the office 3 or more days, which is the exact opposite of employees who want to WFH two or more days a week.
Employees know they want some type of flexibility. And executives are listening.
LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2022 report shows that of more than 500 C-level executives surveyed, 81% said they’re changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility.
That’s why the term “hybrid workplace” has really taken off recently. It’s a way to mix in flexible, remote working with in-office working. And it empowers the workforce while keeping the right balance of control in management’s hands.
In Part 2 of this series, we are answering the question: Where’s the face-to-face, teamwork in a hybrid workplace? And more specifically, how do you create hybrid team building moments?
This blog post dives into why relationships are a big part of the working culture and seven ways you can create team building moments virtually, in-person, and hybrid. You can read Part 1 here.
The Importance of Workplace Relationships
Let’s talk about something on employees’ and employers’ minds right now: relationships. Or rather, the lack thereof. It’s no secret that working remotely makes it harder to develop meaningful relationships with colleagues. When you reduce interactions with your team to a weekly video call and text-based conversations, work can feel pretty transactional.
One of the main concerns that came out of COVID, was a lack of face-to-face time for both employees and managers. Remote working led to a 23% decrease in team collaboration.
In a physical workplace, professional relationships grow organically as people interact with, observe, and get to know each other. When you remove the physical workplace, you find it takes more effort to cultivate professional relationships between employees.
Here’s why that matters.
Why Team Building Is Crucial to Your Business
When employees get to know one another in healthy ways, they start to care more about each other’s well-being—professionally and personally. It’s easier to empathize with someone else when you understand where they’re coming from, how situations may affect them, and what they’re going through. That mutual understanding strengthens trust between coworkers and helps resolve disagreements.
Bonding time leads team members to care about each other’s success, celebrate each other’s wins, and give them support when they need it. And since they trust and understand one another, they want to keep working together. The relationship can help both parties do better work, increase productivity, and see their roles and tasks from other perspectives.
In 2021, Atlassian surveyed thousands of remote workers throughout the US, investigating how the distributed work model affected employees. 94% of the respondents said mutual respect and connection were critical to their team’s success, and 19% said it’s the most important factor in their sense of well-being at work.
For about one in five of your employees, professional relationships could be the single biggest thing keeping them at your company. And for nearly everyone else, it’s vital to their ability to do their job well. The vast majority of your employees crave connections with their colleagues.
How Hybrid Workplaces Can Foster Relationships
The hybrid workplace is a flexible workplace practice that empowers employees to work where and when they want, usually by balancing their time between office work and remote work.
When you implement a hybrid workplace, you are giving employees the freedom they need while creating a working environment that you are proud of. To make it work for everyone, you must figure out how to build a hybrid culture and community.
That means creating team building moments that happen in the office, remotely, and a mix of both.
Bringing the Team Building In-office
Scheduling Collaboration Time in the Office
Ultimately, there’s really no substitute for face-to-face time. Having a hybrid workplace that encourages in office time as well as remote work is crucial.
We’ve seen the purpose of the office change since the pandemic. Employees want a place to come together for meetings and group work. And it’s vital for organizations to give them that space. Creating a place for teams to come together and collaborate and brainstorm will benefit both the employee and the organization.
You can manage this by deciding on certain days and times departments should be in the office or letting the department manager be in charge of the teams in-office vs remote time. A workplace management software can help manage in-office collaboration time by allowing employees to book meeting rooms and desk space in advance.
Host Occasional Team Lunches
Sharing meals and break times is a major catalyst for relationships. It’s a natural time to share how work is going or discuss things that have nothing to do with work. Encouraging teams to schedule in-person time through monthly or quarterly lunches benefits the employees and their team and you’ll see those benefits in the way employees are engaged and content in their position.
If there are remote employees who can’t make it to these lunches, providing them with a budget or gift card to get their own lunch would help make them feel included as well.
Bonding In-person Outside of the Office
Another idea for in-person teamwork and bonding could be to book a centralized coworking space for team members farther from the office but close together. Or perhaps hosting a team retreat at the end of a big quarter to celebrate and come together.
However you do it, give your employees time and space to bond in person—especially if they don’t have that opportunity during the regular workweek.
Hybrid Forms of Team Building
Normalize Check-in Meetings
Anyone who leads a team should make a habit of spending one-on-one time with each team member. Your employees need to feel like someone in leadership understands what they’re working on, what they’re struggling with, how they want to grow, and what’s going on in their lives. Team leads are often in the best position to make each employee feel heard, respected, and cared about within your organization.
These one-on-one, check-in meetings can be in-person or virtual. Ask the employee what they prefer and get a recurring invite on the calendar. To make this initiative work well, it helps to give team leads a sort of meeting template they can use to make this time fruitful and communicate the larger vision for their relationships with their team members.
Conduct Feedback Reviews on Past Work
Team building can directly relate to work, too. While nobody likes to have their work picked apart in front of other people, it can be beneficial to everyone if you create opportunities to learn from past projects and discuss ways to improve similar work in the future. This can be a great way to smooth out processes, talk through challenges with colleagues, and pick up new techniques or approaches to particular types of work.
You may want to have the person whose work is being discussed lead the conversation, sharing what they’d do differently next time (or what they wish had gone differently) and how and why they made various decisions. Or it may be more useful to make this more collaborative, encouraging team members to ask questions and discuss the work (knowing that their own work will be on display in future meetings).
Fostering Digital Community Remotely
With the hybrid workplace comes a form of digital community and culture even if you wish it wasn’t so. But there are ways to harness digital culture and create a digital world that employees feel a part of. On top of creating in-person opportunities for your employees, you can create virtual opportunities to make everyone feel a part of the team.
Establish Channels for Shared Interests
In large companies, your employees are more likely to have coworkers with the same passions, hobbies, and interests. But the bigger your business, the harder it is to find that common ground—especially for remote employees. You can help by creating digital spaces for people to share their lives outside of work.
You can set up a channel in Teams or Slack dedicated to music. Cooking. Hobbies. Books. Movies. Games. Personal goals. Announcements. Give people a space to share things they enjoy and updates about what’s going on in their lives outside of work.
And while you don’t want thousands of Slack channels for everyone to navigate, it’s worth creating a framework for employees to add or suggest new channels of their own. Then you don’t have to guess what everyone else is interested in or where there’s the most overlap.
It can be as easy as adding an open-ended question to your employee surveys: “What’s a channel we don’t have in Teams that you’d like to add?” or “What’s something you’re interested in that you’d like to be able to share with coworkers?”
Give Out Awards Periodically
On hybrid teams, it can be tough to really get a feel for what everyone’s working on throughout the week. Even if you discuss it in team meetings, individual team members may never see the work their teammates do or know when someone has done something they’re especially proud of.
Team awards can help with this. Whether you give them out weekly or monthly, your teams could give members made-up awards to celebrate their accomplishments. It could be the same award every time, or it could be something specific to the person or project that’s being celebrated.
These awards could be monetary (like a small gift card to a local coffee shop the team member likes) or non-monetary (like a custom Slack emoji, special title, or Zoom background). Whenever a team member wins an award, they give out the next one. This encourages team members to check-in on each other and ask questions about what they’re working on and its significance, giving everyone a better sense of what their team members are up to and increasing their regular touchpoints.
A Team That Works in the Hybrid Workplace
As you can see, there are many ways to foster community and build a culture that works for you and your employees. The most important thing to remember is that relationships and team building is crucial for any organization to work well. Implement as many or as few of these 7 suggestions mentioned but whatever you do, make sure you are thinking about the ways you can create team building moments whether it’s face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid.
In the next post of the series, we discuss what’s going on in your space, what’s different with a hybrid workplace, and how you can be on top of it all and manage it with grace.