Hybrid and remote work: 3 new leadership rules

Struggling to manage hybrid or remote workgroups? Let these three rules guide your strategy
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In 2020, most companies empowered their employees to work from their homes, ushering in an era of remote work. While this work model has been met with challenges, it has also become a welcome shift for workers looking for flexibility and a new way to manage work/life balance.

Because some tasks can only be accomplished in-office and some employees enjoy the resources and socialization that an office provides, many companies have also adopted a hybrid work model. Enterprise leaders must learn to embrace this new style of work and determine the best practices that will create a healthy, thriving culture, even when employees are in and out of the office or scattered across time zones.

What guidelines should you implement for the hybrid workforce? Let’s look at three and discuss how to best approach each one.

1. Build a framework for work/life balance

Remote work has brought many benefits, but it has also resulted in unintended consequences, primarily the loss of structure that an office setting provides. Working in an office offers a set, daily routine that has proven difficult for many to replicate while working at home. Working from home gives employees the flexibility to manage their personal lives and work as they want, but the downside is that employees working from home tend to start work earlier, sign off later, and take fewer breaks throughout the day – all of which can be detrimental to well-being. Maintaining healthy practices and making a clear distinction between work and home life has challenged even the most diligent and structured people.

[ Related read: Hybrid work: 3 cultural pitfalls to avoid. ]

According to Harvard Business Review, wellness is one of the newest metrics that companies will use to understand their employees moving forward. Enterprise leaders need to actively work to ensure mental health preservation tactics are part of their employees’ routine. If leaders don’t proactively take this step, employee burnout will likely increase.

Offering regular training sessions on time management is one tactic to ensure employees are focusing on high-impact work. It’s easy for employees (and leaders, for that matter) to spend so much time on Zoom that little remains for the work that actually needs to get done. Providing time management resources empowers employees to prioritize their work and manage their tasks to create the greatest impact while avoiding burnout.

While mental health is top-of-mind for most people, it can be difficult to know how to manage it. Access to mental health resources, whether it’s through a mobile application, meditation sessions, or a knowledge center on your intranet, can give employees concrete guidance on how to manage their mental and emotional well-being. These resources help employees minimize stress levels, educate them on the warning signs of burnout, and increase their awareness of how to manage their mental health while at work.

Organizations should also invest in training for leaders and managers to better support hybrid workers. Leadership should recognize the warning signs of potential mental health issues and have resources available and ready to offer support. Take a proactive role in helping employees maintain healthy habits – burnout impacts not only individual employees but the business as a whole.

2. Create a sense of belonging

Hybrid and remote work can break down an employee’s sense of belonging and connection to a group and can negatively impact team cohesion. This is especially true for newer team members who may have experienced a fully remote onboarding process during the pandemic. While Zoom socials can be enjoyable and help coworkers reconnect, they cannot entirely replicate the sense of community that in-person interactions provide.

Prioritize opportunities to connect in person, especially if they are related to onboarding, and encourage collaboration and fun to create a vibrant work environment. This adds value for each individual employee as well as to the business. Additionally, make active plans to engage employees both in-person and remotely – with a greater emphasis on the remote end of this connection.

Make active plans to engage employees both in-person and remotely – with a greater emphasis on the remote end of this connection.

It is also more important than ever to connect with employees emotionally and display empathy for any personal challenges they may be facing. Remember that the lines between home and work have blurred, and at-home stressors may be more likely to impact work performance than when an office enabled more separation and compartmentalization.

If employees are hesitant to share personal issues with you, displaying emotional intelligence in your conversations can help build trust. This, in turn, will give you a greater opportunity to help.

[ Also read: How to show empathy to hybrid work teams ]

3. Learn to accommodate employees' lifestyles

Companies that promote a well-adjusted work/life balance need to ensure that they deliver on their promises. Employees are increasingly looking for companies that will accommodate their lifestyles and habits and are unwilling to adjust their lifestyles to match a corporate culture.

Over the past two years, people have a new understanding of how their work impacts their personal values and way of life. Some will appreciate the extra family time that remote work or a flexible schedule allows, others might miss the social interactions in the office, and still others are simply relieved to skip the commute.

With a hybrid work model, leadership teams should be open to the idea of an asynchronous work schedule that employees can tailor to their daily lives. While there will always be some mandatory meetings, many tech employees can accomplish most of their work on their own time, perhaps touching base with managers once a week or so for large projects. Potential new hires are seeking out organizations that treat them as trustworthy professionals and that offer the flexibility to create work schedules that fit their lifestyle needs. Businesses that are not transparent and consistent on this will miss opportunities to attract top talent.

The hybrid workplace model is here to stay. It’s essential that your employees are equipped to perform at their best and that they feel a sense of connection both in the office and at home. In addition, workers are more interested in benefits around well-being than ever before. To keep your employees happy, healthy, and invested, provide them with flexible work models, benefits around mental and physical well-being, and new techniques to maintain a vibrant company culture.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Lizzie Burton is the Executive Vice President (EVP) of People & Culture at Snow Software. She is responsible for developing and overseeing Snow’s global people strategy, cultivating and enhancing employee experience, and enabling the retention and recruitment of top talent.