7 Keys to Leadership in a Hybrid Office Environment

There is no question that the recent pandemic has changed working in the office forever. What was once a workplace where everyone commuted to work together daily, has now become a hybrid environment where some team members rarely meet physically, and others see each other one or two days per week, while not working remotely from their home office.

This transformation challenges the leadership of every business owner and raises many fears and concerns from all involved. How will work productivity and quality be impacted, and what effect will it have on personal careers, job satisfaction, and work-life balance? In my role as business advisor, I am struggling to anticipate and find answers, just like the rest of you.

In this context, I was pleased to find some positive guidance from real experts in a new book, “Thrive With A Hybrid Workplace,” by Felice Ekelman, JD, and Julie Kantor, PhD. These authors bring a wealth of knowledge from their decades of practicing executive coaching and psychology, as well as business employment law, with real companies both before and during the transition.

I especially like and agree with their focus on how to be an inspirational leader and build new interpersonal glue among your team members, whether they see you and each other regularly, occasionally, or perhaps only virtually. I will paraphrase here their seven recommendations for how to move forward in this new environment, with my own perspective added:

  1. Culture – same values bridging office and remote. Define and share your values and mission, respecting all personal values. Create a learning environment by empowering both local and remote employees to make relevant decisions and meet deliverables on their own. Communicate your desire to achieve work-life balance for all team members.

In my experience, a great office culture will enhance every team member productivity, as well as personal satisfaction. For example, Google has consistently been ranked as one of the best company cultures, and claim big numbers, because of their focus on culture.

  1. Change – make “journey of change” apply to all. All change is hard, so you need to provide a process that applies equally to local and remote team members. Avoid micro-management and over-compensation, always clarifying roles and responsibilities, and avoiding unnecessary meetings. Take one small step at a time into the hybrid process.

I have found that attempting business change without a clear process that everyone feels a part of is a recipe for failure. According to Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, only thirty percent of all change programs succeed. Make yours happen positively.

  1. Connection – build interpersonal glue with each. In hybrid work environments, it’s important that leaders schedule regular office hours, and do virtual and live walk-arounds.  Help your team generate team rituals and encourage networking. Create mentorship programs and conduct positive team building activities both off-site and on-site.

I advise you to use all the skills you use to build remote client connections in your efforts to build team member connections within remote and hybrid internal teams. Evolve your approach over time to build and maintain win-win relationships for years to come.

  1. Communication – show intentionality regularly. Clear and consistent communication is essential in establishing trust in leaders and between team members Team members cannot read your mind when they are working in the office sometimes and working remotely other times. Time factors should always be considered in advance.
  1. Collaboration – sponsor hybrid action meetings. Modes of collaboration need to be expanded, redefined, and standardized. Use shared-document platforms, in-house message systems, and online whiteboards, to maximize sharing and minimize miscommunication. Schedule video meetings carefully to avoid wasted time.
  1. Compassion – show caring for each team member. Sharing someone else’s emotions requires listening and making them feel heard. It also requires actively inquiring and acknowledging concerns without being critical.  Always respond to mistakes in a calm and respectful way, and provide support for physical and mental burnout.
  1. Coaching – Practice active listening and feedback. Every team member wants to grow, and people generally view their jobs, local or remote, as the place where growth can occur. They need you to be accessible on a planned and unplanned basis. You can help them set goals, and you need to provide resources and access to training required.

We all know that engaged employees are necessary but not sufficient to maximize growth and survive in this world of global competition and constant change. Individual and company-wide success entails becoming an employer of choice, hiring, and retaining the right employees, and maximizing productivity. Start today to adapt to this change, recognizing that you are already late.

Related: 6 Keys To Improving the Odds in Founding Your Own Business