Every employee has different needs, and with hybrid work here to stay, it's becoming more difficult for managers to lead their distributed workforce effectively.
In a recent study conducted by Stanford, 55% of respondents stated that they wanted to spend some time in the office and the remaining working from home. Only 25% of respondents wanted to work from home full time, and the remaining 20% wanted to return to a completely on-site office.
With your employees working from different locations, it can be difficult for you as a manager to understand their needs and act accordingly. For instance, some employees may feel excited about coming back to the office and connecting with coworkers again, while others may have health concerns that prevent them from returning yet. As a manager, it's important to try to meet the needs of every employee and be understanding of their situation. Most importantly, you need to set policies and lead your team in a fair, unbiased manner.
Here are eight essential tips to help managers like you effectively manage your hybrid workforce.
1. Nurture a purpose-driven culture
When employees can connect with the purpose behind their tasks and see the reason for it beyond the task being assigned to them, they'll be driven to work more enthusiastically. As a manager, it's your responsibility to set your team's purpose, one that aligns with your organization's values and is strong enough to inspire employees to see the big picture.
Whether they're working from home or from the office, when an employee knows the "why" behind the work they do, it elevates their sense of responsibility and makes them feel they're a part of something exceptional. Thus, setting a strong unified purpose for your team can help boost their engagement as well as the overall performance of the team.
2. Empower your team with the right amount of freedom
Micromanaging undoubtedly leads to an unhappy and disengaged workforce.
"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." —Steve Jobs
Be a manager who stands as a support system with their team and not someone who commands and controls the team. Instead of constraining your team by telling them to do every step of the process exactly your way, give them space to make their own decisions and find out which style of work suits them best.
When managing a hybrid team with distributed employees, it's especially important to provide your team with flexible work schedules. Employees who work from home often don't follow a traditional "9 to 5" office schedule, and there's usually no reason they should. Some are active at work during the early hours in the morning, while some work better in the later hours of the day. By giving employees the freedom to work flexibly at their best times, you can increase both productivity and employee morale.
Finding it difficult to monitor your remote employees work hours? With Cliq, there's no need to constantly check their availability throughout the day. Instead, take a look on the Remote Work Report in the admin panel to get a detailed summary of all the employee work hours and attendance.
3. Bring your team together
When your team is spread across multiple locations, with some working from home and others at the office, it's more difficult to foster a strong team bond.
A strong team connection in the hybrid workplace:
- Helps build trust within the team
- Encourages open communication
- Reduces internal conflicts and misunderstandings
- Allows team members to collaborate more efficiently
As a manager, it's essential to help every team member form some connection with each other to help your team communicate and collaborate efficiently without conflicts. The nature of the hybrid work model makes it harder for employees in a hybrid team to meet each other face to face regularly, so it's harder to encourage in-person activities and organic conversations.
To help your hybrid team bond, hold fun virtual events at regular intervals, convene together for virtual breaks daily, or allocate a specific day each month for team building activities. Get your team together in a video meeting or in the office on a scheduled day to help everyone on the team get to know each other better.
Schedule a #FridayFun meeting every week and bring your team together to play engaging games that help improve the team bonding.
(Our Zoho Cliq team follows this Friday ritual and trust us—it actually works)
4. Be an expert in giving and receiving feedback
If your team is using the hybrid model or some employees are completely remote, some employees may feel insecure if they don't have a clear picture of what your managerial perception of them and their work is. On the other hand, they may also hesitate to convey feedback from their side if they don't know how you'll respond.
Communicating and asking for feedback at regular intervals is of utmost importance, as it helps ensure that you and your team stay on the same page and share the same expectations. As a manager, you should be a model for embracing and implementing constructive criticism. When giving negative feedback to any team member, you must be honest and upfront but also make sure to be empathetic.
5. Foster a culture of recognition
Don't stop with just giving one-to-one reviews or group feedback sessions. Just as you point out criticisms and encourage your teammates to perform better, you should also be sure to recognize and appreciate their achievements, big or small, to make them feel valued and more driven.
Sometimes just a simple "thank you" for a task done well can put a bright smile on your employee's faces and motivate them to keep going.
"Praise in public; criticize in private." — Vince Lombardi
Unlike criticism, consider providing appreciation and recognition in an open channel or forum. This shows all employees that their work is being noted and their efforts are valued. It gives them a sense of security and in turn, keeps them happy. After all, happy employees are the most productive ones.
Just like tagging your friends on social media, you can easily notify your team members by tagging them in Cliq channels. For instance, if you want to appreciate a specific person for a job well done, then you can tag that particular user in the appreciation message using @mentions.
6. Invest time for face-to-face conversations
Face-to-face meetings are all the more necessary when you have team members working mostly or fully from home. There is a high chance for remote workers to feel they maybe missing development opportunities or chances to take on new projects, so it's important to make sure they are included just as much as on-site employees.
You can use one-on-one audio/video meetings to give remote employees constructive feedback, get to know them more, understand any challenges they face at work, and provide better support.
Challenges faced by those who completely work from home will differ from those with a hybrid fully on-site schedule. For instance, those working from the office may find it hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance, unlike hybrid or remote workers. On the other hand, those working from home maybe struggling to unplug from work. You need to understand the varied problems each one of your team members goes through to provide them with the best support and solution, so it's important to spend valuable time with each one.
Connect with your team members instantly: start a direct one-on-one audio or video call right from the Cliq home page using the Quick Plus icon.
7. Be mindful to treat everyone fairly
As a manager, you should always keep in mind that bias is one of the greatest barriers to nurturing a positive workspace. Everyone naturally has favorites, but that doesn't mean we can give them special treatment. Always ensure you give the same level of treatment to everyone otherwise you may be looked down upon as a manager for being biased.
There are cases where some employees need extra attention and time in order to catch up with the team's pace and be proactive. In such cases, it's fair to give them extra attention and encouragement. Just stay aware of the line between being empathetic and supportive and being biased when it comes to situations like this. When your employees feel they're treated fairly, they're more likely to stay productive and be loyal to the company.
8. Never let ego form a wall between you and your employees
Being humble and straightforward at work leads to stronger team bonding and more productive outcomes. None of us can be "the perfect manager" who is liked by everyone in the team. There will always be at least one person who feels you could do some things better. That's when you'll have to be compassionate and find out ways to work with that particular teammate without letting your ego get involved.
Work to make every discussion a healthy, encouraging one instead of letting it become an argument. Try to see things from the other person's shoes and help them do the same. This practice will help you and your team avoid friction and form stronger connections.
Effective leadership: One of the needs of changing workforce
The responsibilities and benefits you have as a leader differ from those of your team members. Likewise, the needs of those who work from home, those who work on a hybrid schedule, and those who completely work from the office will differ greatly. To do your best as a good leader, you must work to understand each and every one of your team members and provide them with the best experience at work. Whether it's providing flexibility at work or giving timely feedback and keeping everyone on track, it's your responsibility as a manager to handle your workforce efficiently.
Zoho Cliq offers managers a complete communication platform to help managers with hybrid teams collaborate more effectively.