The world of workplaces has undergone a great deal of change. It used to be that everyone would go into work, sit at a desk, and then go home again at the end of the day. The pandemic sent everyone home for a year and the workplace that we all knew and loved appears to be gone for good. What is taking its place is being called a “hybrid work environment”. In this new working environment, managers are going to have to discover what they will need to be doing differently. Our goals are still the same – we want to get the most out of our teams. However, how we actually go about doing that is going to be different.
Say Hello To The Hybrid Workplace
Through the turbulence caused by the pandemic, one of the constants for managers has been their relationships with their colleagues. Managers have to be constantly thinking about their daily interactions and points of connection with the people they work with. A major challenge that managers face is that without constant, in-person meetings or gatherings, how do they really know how their teams are doing?
Some team members have started returning to the office full time; however, offices in many cities are still at a fraction of their regular capacity, as businesses have opted for a hybrid working approach to stay flexible to individual employee needs. Undoubtedly, the way we are living and working today is opening up many new questions for managers – as well as new opportunities – around what great team member engagement and support truly looks like. Team member engagement isn’t a new concept. Managers know how important it is for the health and success of any business. During the pandemic companies tried all kinds of ways to “engage” their team members. These activities included virtual happy hours to trivia nights, and everything in between. However, these events usually don’t feel personal or thoughtful, and managers have spent so much time on Zoom as it is.
As a manager, you need to ask yourself the following questions. Am I being empathetic and attuned to my team members’ specific needs? Am I thoughtfully creating points of connection between team members and fostering a genuine company culture? When assessing what the best course of action is in order to meet the needs of their team members, managers always come back to the idea of intentional engagement. Intentional engagement means being deliberate and personal in how you interact with and support your team members. It means not painting team members support with a broad brush, but instead, looking at how to support each team member individually.
The New Workplace Rules
One of the most important things to recognize is that every single one of your team members has had a different experience working remotely in the past. You need to take every individual situation into account. It can make a difference if your personality is naturally more introverted or extroverted. It can make a difference if you have a spacious workspace or a small apartment and roommates. It makes a big difference if you are a caregiver for children or other family members. Clearly, there is no single way for a manager to engage with their team. Some team members have enjoyed the past year and the break from their office routine; others may be struggling and can’t wait to return to normality.
Managing a hybrid or fully remote team makes it particularly challenging for a manager to know how to bring people together and build rapport across the company. If a manager tries to use “forced connection points” – such as an excess of virtual team bonding activities or internal meetings – can actually have a counterproductive effect on team members. Managers need to think of meaningful connections as knowing when, how, or even if a meeting should take place. It’s equally important to remember that workplaces have become more inclusive over the past year. Typically, team members who worked remotely as part of an in-person team were often removed from the culture that was bred in an office. Some of those traditional boundaries are now dissolving. Since many people now have experience working as a “remote employee,” it just feels like they’re all part of one big team.
As the pandemic ebbed, parents were still under an incredible amount of stress. 63 percent of parents said they’ve lost critical support during the pandemic. Managers can step up in a number of different ways from allowing more flexible work schedules, to providing grocery or meal delivery. Even small gestures such as allowances to improve a home office space will go a long way to ensure that team members and their families continue to feel supported, regardless of where they are working. Managers need to understand that there’s no silver bullet or magic company policy that will erase the pandemic and make everything go back to the way our working lives were before. Managers need to shift their mindset to focus on the quality of how they connect with individual team members, rather than checking a “company culture box.” Fundamentally, for managers intentional engagement means personal engagement.
What All Of This Means For You
The world in which managers work has been turned completely upside down. What this means for us is that we now need to find new ways to go about doing our job. In order for us to be successful, our teams have to be productive. In order for our teams to be productive, they have to be able to work together and traditionally this has happened in the workplace. However, due to the pandemic this workplace has been transformed. How are managers supposed to work with their teams going forward?
More and more firms are changing their workplaces to now become hybrid workspaces. In this new working environment managers are going to have to find ways to get the members of their team to become engaged. Managers need to understand that each of their team members has had a different experience during the time that they were working at home. We need to be understanding. Managers need to take the time to build rapport among their team members. Managers have to understand that parents are dealing with a lot of new stressors. There is no magic that we can use to get back to normal.
Managers need to understand that the workplace is probably never going to go back to the way that it once was. The pandemic changed everything and it probably changed how we work for good. Managers need to adjust to this new working environment and we have to take the time to understand what our team members are going to be looking for going forward. If we can do a good job of this, then we can once again have our team be the successful team that they once were…
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: Do you think that managers should have more face-to-face meetings now that they can?
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