- Only 20% of leaders rated themselves as ‘very effective’ at leading virtual teams according to DDI, Global Leadership Forecast, 2021
- 73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay according to the Work Trend Index, Edelman Data x Intelligence, 2021
- 54% of of employees report feeling overworked according to the Work Trend Index, Edelman Data x Intelligence, 2021
- 60% of employers expect to invest more in the tools and training necessary for hybrid work, according to PwC
- More than ⅓ of remote workers said collaboration and communication were significant challenges, according to LiveCareer
- CEOs spend 61% of their time in face to face meetings, according to research quoted by HBR
- And, as you might guess, this list could easily go on for quite a while.
Aka issues you can work on once we all establish they are real, palpable and affecting everyday leadership in the hybrid workplace.
- First, the tension between people choosing their schedule versus being imposed to be active and responsive 24/7
- Secondly, the tension between people who feel isolated at home and those who feel smothered by too much digital communication
- Finally, the tension between what’s possible in a hybrid workplace and what we should make our peace with
It’s not easy, trying to bridge a gap that has become a generational issue. But it’s not impossible either.
Of course. All changes come across as rough around the edges when they first happen. They take adjustment and internalization. In the case of hybrid workplaces, lots of that were necessary to fully accommodate the changing needs of what is rapidly becoming the largest chunk of the global workforce – Millennials and GenZ.
While there is no recipe for all companies, and leadership is definitely a pressing issue that has the power to change the entire workplace dynamics, there are good, healthy starting points for every company. Here’s what we look after:
Empathy and Inclusivity
It’s as much a cliché as it is the naked truth that what our strength as individuals lies in our diversity. It’s becoming more and more apparent that this is one of *those* transferable skills that can benefit organizations the most. It’s perhaps redundant to list all of the times in recent history when progress wouldn’t have happened without sharp minds that step out of the ordinary with every single thought they bring to the table.
But with great benefit comes great responsibility. Because we’re so fundamentally different and alien to one another, we need an inclusive environment where we’re given the freedom to prosper in our own ways. This ideal is simply unattainable without creating an inclusive and empathetic workspace.
The hybrid workplace makes these differences stand out more, because of our limited interactions, and the sense of lesser connectivity. It’s why it became vital for a company to breed leaders that are capable of understanding and celebrating diversity.
Miscommunication happens. In real life as much as in the hybrid workplace as well. So do mistakes, whether we like it or not. A world without fault is far from our horizons, but we can start by being realistic about our prognoses and to take into account as many preemptive strategies as possible.
One of them is conflict resolution – understanding what generates conflict and how to efficiently capitalize on different points of view, without this process turning into personal vendettas or toxic relationships.
Management Through Accountability
This one is directly opposed to micromanagement. While leadership and management are two different, separate things and should be looked at as such, management is part of leading a team. In the spirit of openness, each team member should ideally strive to reach the same group objectives as their colleagues.
And while it sounds really easy, this ideal couldn’t be more ambitious. One thing that office culture has deemed as toxic unfortunately later then it should have become apparent is this quantitative style of management. Being at the office all day from 9 to 5 doesn’t mean productivity. It doesn’t mean genuine interest or progress. Sometimes, it doesn’t even mean completing tasks on time just because of the physical presence in front of a well lit desk. Leadership in the hybrid workplace should know better by now.
Accountability is the power to trust each employee – their process, their progress, their commitment and, finally, their results as well. On the bright side, accountability leaves room for evaluation, which means that there will be the occasional check-in, but without it becoming a dark, dense cloud over the head of every team member.
It used to mean starting and finishing work at different hours, on different schedules. Now it represents so much more. It is the power of understanding and celebrating our differences, but in a proactive, work-related manner.
Choosing to work from home or from the office are valid human responses to different types of personality, depending on very intimate motivators that each of us operates under.
Trying to constantly accommodate these diverse ways of being productive is definitely a priority for every healthy workplace.
Open Communication And Trust
These are real skills. Not real as in as-opposed-to-the-other-ones-that-are-fake real, but as very-rare-to-come-across real. This is why every leader should actively and constantly prioritize cultivating these skills. There is no point in life where you’ve become such a good communicator that you can afford to stop improving yourself in this department, not if you truly want to improve leadership in the hybrid workplace.
Same goes for creating an environment of trust, where your colleagues can voice their concerns and argue their opinions and create meaningful dialogue without fear of consequences.
Not having a red line of communication that’s always open leads to dissatisfaction and, in many cases, resignations. Very few people will find it comfortable to come forward with their concerns if they don’t trust the response will come from a place of trust and openness, until the very last moment, when all is lost. This type of unpreparedness is to be avoided at all costs.
- Set policies together – include people in your team in the decision making process and make them feel heard through every measure you put in place
- Create real interpersonal communication – make sure that your team has the context to get together, digitally or otherwise, to exchange ideas openly in other setups than the weekly status Zoom meet
- Cultivate individual hybrid work plans – encourage every one of your team members to voice their preferences and to actively propose their preferred schedules
- Forget micromanagement – replace it with a direct and open line of communication that’s available for everything, not just code red situations
- Build a climate of trust – this one you have to do every day as a leader, through your every single decision, no pressure.
Leadership in the hybrid workplace is *the* global opportunity we have all been expecting to create balance in our professional lives. To celebrate diversity and to become a little more mindful and introspective. The hybrid workplace has made us all evaluate our own needs, which was unfortunately unprecedented at a global scale before the pandemic.
And we can only be thankful for it, as it made us become more true to ourselves, which transfers into our professional priorities in many cases.