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The secrets to managing a hybrid workplace

Ring Central Blog

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4 min read

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The workplace is changing right before our eyes. Just a year ago, we were buckled in for a long period of remote work. Now we’re bracing for yet another major shift: hybrid work. Except this isn’t just a temporary arrangement. Companies are staying hybrid for good—which means we’ll have to rethink what success looks like. 

One of the major areas that’s ripe for re-examination is how managers lead their teams. While the ultimate objective is unchanged—helping employees meet their goals and achieve their best results—a fundamental shift to how people work also requires revising what it means to be an effective leader

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It’s a lesson the most successful organizations of the work-from-home era have already grasped. According to a report from McKinsey, the companies that saw the greatest productivity during the pandemic also made the most explicit efforts to help managers deal with the unique challenges of leading remotely. 

Among businesses that saw the best results during WFH, 57% said they both established strategies on how to lead remote teams differently and trained managers on the required skills. Only 36% of companies that lagged during the pandemic said the same.

So what do leaders need to do to support their workers and drive better results from hybrid work? It’s all about brushing up on specific management skills and rethinking outdated notions of work.

1. Communication at the forefront

Communication is the backbone of almost every aspect of work, and leaders will need to make an explicit effort to enable optimal interactions with and within their teams. That’s easy in the office when communicating requires no more effort than walking a few steps to the desk or office of a teammate. 

But when people don’t share a space, communication requires more intentional effort. This means implementing the tools, processes and working on soft skills that promote better communication between managers and reports, teammates, cross-functional partners and other working relationships.

2. Drop old productivity measures

Focusing on how long people spend clocked in vs. the results they achieve can be a counterproductive way to assess performance. Instead of placing the value on meaningful outcomes, this metric really only encourages employees to spend more time looking busy. And 89% of employees waste time at work every day,

This increases the risk of burnout without necessarily driving better work. Instead, focus on the results people are achieving (and if lags are occurring, consider what other barriers might be standing in workers’ way).

3. Don’t forget to level set

When people work from separate locations and/or have different schedules, it’s easy for silos to develop—and there’s a risk that chasms and misalignments can widen and become a serious problem before they’re recognized and fixed. As such, ensuring that everyone has full clarity on goals and expectations is paramount. 

4. Trust is key

It’s understandable that when managers can’t see their employees at work, they may have questions about how workers are managing their time or performing their tasks. But it’s critical to resist the urge to micromanage. That’s because peering over employees’ shoulders conveys a lack of trust and respect, and research shows this can erode employee engagement and effectiveness. 

5. Convey a sense of purpose

This one honestly can’t be overstated, but often gets overlooked. No one wants to feel like a hamster on a wheel. And when employees lose track of the purpose of their work, qualities such as engagement and morale—and ultimately work results—can suffer. 

Without strong connections, hybrid teams, in particular, face a greater risk of losing the thread, and that’s why their managers need to take explicit steps to convey and reinforce exactly what everyone is working towards. This includes recognizing teammates for their achievements and instituting regular touchpoints to keep everyone aligned.

6. The power of connection 

Job satisfaction isn’t just about the work—it’s about the people you work with. Studies also show strong links between how people feel about their jobs (and how they perform) and how connected they are to their colleagues. 

This remains true even when teams work from different locations: our research found that remote and hybrid teams that embrace a connected culture report better productivity and employee wellbeing. Promoting strong team bonds takes more explicit effort when you’re hybrid, and it’s a part of work that managers can’t afford to ignore.

Management for a new era of work

A move to hybrid work offers exciting benefits for employers and employees alike. But this shift can’t be approached as “business as usual.” Hybrid teams and hybrid workers have new needs that old ways of working don’t always address, and this includes how they are managed.

Even the most experienced managers will need to take a look at their habits and attitudes and make adjustments to reflect how their teams work now. But with the right approach and a concerted effort to optimize communication and team connections, the potential is enormous.

Originally published May 27, 2021

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