How to Engage Employees in the New Hybrid Workplace Model

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by Joe Hart | 8 October 2020

Many companies are migrating back to the office with some employees still working remotely on either a full-time or part-time basis. And, with concerns of a second wave of the virus looming, remote work may very well be the reality for the foreseeable future. Whether your team is working remotely or together in person, it’s clear that today’s workforce is faced with a major choice. What is the best way to move forward in the COVID-19 era?

There are arguments that can be made both for and against a remote and in-person work environments, but I’d like to take a moment to address a mix of the two: a hybrid workplace. This new model will likely be the norm as companies seek to keep their employees as safe as possible without losing valuable connections that are best achieved face-to-face.

It’s up to an organization’s leadership to help their teams survive and thrive during these unconventional times. It will take plenty of diligence and intention to foster an engaging hybrid workplace environment between those working in the office and at home. Here are three helpful methods to consider.

Focus on strong team-building initiatives

During the onset of the pandemic, the switch to remote work essentially happened overnight. And, as we all know, change can be very uncomfortable – especially when you’re not prepared. Many employees were left feeling disconnected from their teams and are still battling these barriers today. Now more than ever, companies need to be focused on strong team-building efforts. Fortunately, there are plenty of virtual team-building activities out there that can accommodate a hybrid workplace.

At Dale Carnegie, for example, we might use an ice breaker opening on a Zoom meeting, posing questions such as “what’s one thing you’ve seen in the business in the last two weeks that you’re excited about?” and “who is one person you’d like to recognize or thank?” The team member can type in a colleague’s name into the chat function and then explain why they want to thank them.

Create opportunities for teams to share experiences

Research has shown that teams who share positive emotions together are stronger and more resilient. Specific emotions and feelings we’ve identified here at Dale Carnegie that promote engagement and resilience include connection, value and empowerment. These shared emotions can occur much more naturally when teams are working together in person.

To foster this shared environment in a hybrid workplace, leadership must create opportunities for teams to build up interpersonal skills and share experiences, especially those that evoke positive emotions. In addition to the team-building activities discussed earlier, this can also be accomplished during regular all-company meetings or smaller breakout sessions between teams. Create a regular cadence in which teams group up over Zoom or in the office (in full adherence to health and safety guidelines) to review shared objectives and goals. This should also be an opportunity for teams to round up and share individual and team “wins” and other accomplished goals.

Don’t forget about your employees’ professional development

Employee development and continued learning opportunities may or may not be among the top priorities for organizational leaders at this time. However, it’s a valuable workplace element that cannot go ignored for too long. According to the 2019 “Future of Work and Employee Learning” report from Sitel Group, 37% of current employees say they would leave their current job/employer if they were not offered training to learn new skills.

There are plenty of wonderful learning opportunities that can be accomplished digitally, but instructor-led training remains a top method for deeper discussions and evaluation of key concepts. Live online classrooms or in-person training are ideal due to the collaborative learning and group dialogue. In today’s hybrid workplace, it all comes down to nailing down a format that offers a happy medium. With many employees working from home and in-person meetings not always feasible, consider the capabilities of live training and instruction via video communications platforms like Zoom. This will ensure each team member has the same opportunity to engage and feel connected.

While these transitions between remote and in-person work are not easy, it’s essential that organizational leaders put as much planning and intention into operating within a remote or hybrid workplace. Continued professional development and interpersonal relationships should be top priorities. With hard work and resilience, these goals can be achieved in any workplace format.

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