In this edition of Is This Mic On? we tackle the question of, “How do I manage my hybrid workforce as the world opens up?” Read on to hear what we had to say about blending new and old skills, being intentional, and using common sense.
I’ve found such a great rhythm working with my direct reports during this WFH time. Someone who’s been with our company for almost 10 years said it’s the best communication our team has ever had. *Brushes invisible dirt off shoulder* Our company hasn’t made an official announcement on a return to office policy, but it sounds like it will be a hybrid of sorts. In talking with my team, some folks plan to come back (myself included) and others plan to stay remote.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m (VERY) ready for life to get back to normal, but I’m worried about what will happen to my team. How do I make sure I’m giving everyone the proper attention in navigating this new situation as well as meeting their shifting needs? I feel like I just mastered my managerial style and now I have to start all over. *sigh*
– Caught in the middle
The good news: you’re not starting all over. You’re blending new, old, current, past, future. While being a part of a hybrid workforce also means hybrid-of-where-people-are, hybrid is also combining what works from all forms.
So start with an inventory. Some goods about both in-person communications, and virtual communications.
- Those random conversations that cultivate relationships, from weekend happenings to lamenting about the commute to celebrating the first spring day.
- Quick-hit banter that can get a considerable amount of work done, from short questions to gut checks, to socializing an idea.
- Whiteboards. Or any hi-tech collaboration tool of the same ilk. But we really just like a good whiteboard and a not-dried-out erasable marker.
- Intentional conversations that pull together the exact right group of people (not just those who happen to sit closest to you), regardless of geography.
- A democratized meeting room that – with a strong meeting facilitator – allows for more voices, new voices, a diversity of voices. For example, everyone has to come off of mute to speak.
- Shorter meetings, fewer people in the meetings (if you’re following a best practice in every prevent-Zoom-fatigue article published this year). And with shorter meetings, it also ensures we’re using that meeting time for actual conversations. And using asynchronous communication to get status updates/data reviews/task lists published in advance.
And for each, that’s just three (after all, it’s SNP: IYKYK). What’s your inventory? Make a list.
Now, create your hybrid workforce approach.
The Greatest Hits album of communication strategies. Keep meetings short. When it’s a brainstorm, plan for it. Invite the right people to it, and let them get into the room. Use the facilitation skills that you’ve honed this year (threading!) to bring new voices into the virtual conversation…in the in-person room.
You’re not starting all over. While in-person work is returning – from meetings to all-hands to brainstorms – virtual is here to stay. So: hybrid is here to stay. Go into it with intention. Choose the best from each, and remember that the skills translate.
And remember: most companies had some form of hybrid well before today, and well before the pandemic. You’ve done this before. Team members who live and work outside of the HQ. As you open up these conversations, remember that. For some team members, “returning to the office” means “staying in the same place I’ve been for years.” Be sure that you are not unintentionally turning your HQ into an overbearing mothership. Worth repeating: you’ve likely done this before. Now you get to do it better, smarter, more efficiently.
Go ahead and brush that dirt off your shoulder once again.