Are you RTO (return to office) ready?

By Frank Dadah

As COVID restrictions start to ease and companies make plans to fully reopen, there is a push from employees to either stay fully remote or for the organization to adopt a hybrid work model. Leaders and Executives are trying to balance flexibility for their employees with meeting the demands of their business. Two themes have emerged when trying to construct a viable hybrid work model, the first is how to maintain the company’s culture when a portion of the population is working remotely. The second is, how to effectively manage, motivate, lead and hold accountable a hybrid work force.

Fully remote organizations have been doing it for a while now, but a hybrid work force is relatively new; it’s a challenge for one manager to lead two different workforces at the same time. Managers find it easier to engage and motivate those who are in the office with you every day, now these same leaders will need to pivot and simultaneously engage and motive those who are remote.

All eyes have shifted to organizational leadership to respond. Successful, agile organizations and leaders found strategies that worked to smooth out the  “bumps” during the abrupt shutdown, but are now looking at ways to incorporate those changes to offer increased flexibility the workforce is requesting and sometimes demanding.

Here are 10 Strategies to keep top of mind as you charge ahead.

  1. Define Purpose. Employees and organizations have become re-engaged with purpose, both as a business and as individuals. A generation ago, most people didn’t consider what a company stood for when making a purchase or accepting a job offer. Today with so many focused on change, consumers and job candidates want to know what the company stand for.

As a leader, part of your role is to inspire others to follow you. By giving your employees and customers a sense of purpose, of participating in something bigger, is a way to accomplish that. That means leading by example and reminding everyone of the “why” of your organization.

  1. Endurance, Resilience and Grit. Agile leadership requires endurance, resilience, and grit. Failure is part of growth, and it is one of the most painful parts. Many people are tempted to give up when they fail. Those who succeed are able to push through failure, endure the pain, and achieve success.
  2. Empathy. Leaders need to recognize that everyone in their organization is different and has unique circumstances and experiences. This creates more complexity in workplace dynamics. People communicate differently, have varying views of career and life success.  Leaders must understand the motivations and needs of different generations, as well as the different cultures and personalities of each individual.
  3. Communicating a shift to hybrid work. The first step should always be clear communication from leadership based on feedback and What works, and what hasn’t been working? What are the lessons learned and best practices? What are the concerns of your team and the organization?

During any period of change, your team will look to managers and key influencers for guidance and support. Make sure they are equipped to provide best practices, strategies and demonstrate accountability. Develop them to be able to manage a hybrid workforce, to help drive new behaviors within the organization, and to lead the change.

  1. Put more of an emphasis on Hybrid teams need a manager who provides clearly defined direction and removes all ambiguity with defined roles and responsibilities—starting with their own. They need a strong process by which to clarify and track commitments, progress, and deliverables.
  2. Trust. Mangers need to recognize that each person on the team has a different rhythm and workflow. Don’t micromanage it. A huge key to the success of hybrid teams is trust—trust that your employees are doing their job, even if their workflow isn’t the same as yours. Of course, if an employee has abused that trust, a different conversation must take place.
  3. Set clear expectations. It’s important to set and communicate clear expectations about how you’ll judge work performance and any practices, guidelines, or updates you, as a manager, need to For example, if starting working by 8:30 am  is non-negotiable for you or if you really need people to tell you when they’ll be away from their desks longer than an hour, it needs  to be communicated clearly from the outset. Ensure that you delegate work, empower team members to make decisions, and monitor progress.
  4. Invite constructive feedback. Despite the lack of regular face- to-face interaction, create a two-way dialogue such that team members feel comfortable providing constructive feedback to each other and to you that will enhance your and the team’s effectiveness and transparency. Find formats and meetings that make this part of your culture.
  5. Build relationships differently. Relationships take on a whole new meaning in hybrid teams. When you meet your colleagues by    the “water cooler” or coffee shop every day, you develop informal  relationships with them; they tend to form more naturally. In a remote team, you need to create situations where interactions occur, “meeting” Informal meetings should be done both online—through video conferencing—and face-to-face.
  6. Be aware of potential bias within hybrid teams. Pay attention to how your team is feeling and reacting to others within varying work situations. Unconscious biases are the implicit positive or negative preferences for things, individuals, or groups shaped through our individual experiences. These judgments can have huge implications for the way we work and make people feel they are making decisions about an individual’s capabilities, professionalism, or ability to contribute based on rational details when, in reality, these are based on our personal preferences.

When implementing a hybrid workforce, focus on over-communication, boundaries, and protocols of how to work together, and establishing relationships and trust. Hybrid work can give team members more time or flexibility they desire which helps people deal with the stresses of work in a more productive manner. However, there are others who are at their best in the office daily, away from their homes and interacting face to face. Healthy, happy, and engaged team members tend to be more productive and more focused during their work hours.

By offering workplace options, you open up your geography for talent making it is essential to learn the differences in managing a global team. Hybrid work can transform your business if it fits your culture. Adopting best practices will make your  team better communicators, collaborators and more conscious of how to work with others.

Whether your company’s future is 100% remote or some form of hybrid  or onsite and remote, these practices will modernize your organization and make it more resilient to emergencies while minimizing  risks to your company’s productivity.

About MCG Partners

MCG Partners is a leadership and talent optimization firm– aligning your business and people strategy for maximum results. MCG Partners a woman-owned consultancy and is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner. To learn more please contact Stephanie Holmgren at stephanie.holmgren@mcgpartners.com and at mcgpartners.com

Read Chuck's latest book: The Rise of the Agile Leader: Can You Make the Shift. Click to read more about it.

Categories