As more organizations continue to evaluate and evolve their return-to-work policies, many have already enforced hybrid models that require a set minimum amount of days in the office. Some organizations have even gone as far as to eliminate fully remote work options altogether. This rise in hybrid work environments has created unique challenges for senior-level managers (vice presidents and above) to address as they work to build and maintain morale across their teams while also ensuring return-to-office mandates and policies are followed.
It’s no secret: no one wants to be forced back to an office against their will. Strict policies that begin to mirror pre-pandemic work environments are not only frowned upon by employees but they cause many to consider employment elsewhere. Worse yet, when employees begin to feel the pressure of hybrid work environments, morale and levels of efficiency drop. As a leader, it becomes your job to find solutions to problems that you may feel are completely out of your control. While return-to-office mandates policies may not be within your power of influence, there are many other things that are within your ability to make for a smooth transition.
Leading a hybrid team successfully in a post-pandemic world will require strategies that value self, employees and the company’s goals.
Know Your Employees Individual Concerns
As leaders, it’s often too easy to fall into the trap of overgeneralizing issues. Whether hybrid work policies are new or have been in place for some time, the first place to start in knowing how to lead your team is to hear from them directly in a one-on-one setting. Schedule time with them to discuss the policy and understand what concerns or questions they may have. Are they excited or feeling stressed? Is the policy-making something harder for them or easier? What do they wish to see or experience on the days they come to the office? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you establish a plan forward and identify other departments or organization leaders who can help you find workable solutions.
Act-On What You Heard and Follow-up
Not every concern will be able to be addressed and some may take time to see through. Regardless of what the outcome is, always let your team members know what you’re working toward on their behalf. Whether you think a concern is small or big, that doesn’t matter. If it was brought up, it’s an opportunity to show your team that you heard them and are doing what you can to help. This action alone helps build trust and shows those who report to you that you take them as seriously as you want them to take you and their job.
Create Meaning and Structure Where Possible
One of the biggest complaints about returning to an office (besides the commute) is employees feeling like they lack a meaningful reason to come in. This can be solved with a little creativity and structure. If specific days aren’t mandated each week, have the team decide a day or two where everyone from that team comes in and schedule as many internal meetings during that day as possible. Get the team engaged with each other through lunch or coffee runs together, brainstorming sessions, live learning sessions, or 1:1s that happen on a structured cadence.
Provide Opportunity to Co-Create Solutions
Giving your employees space to lead alongside you can further build their autonomy on the team and their level of commitment to the organization. Let your team know the specific challenges you’re facing and give them the opportunity to co-create, test and learn solutions. If the challenges are team-wide, there’s no reason not to let them help address and find workable solutions with you.
Advocate for Your Team
As with anything, some concerns that come with hybrid working environments are not going to be within your control to impact alone. For those, bringing attention to and advocating for reasonable issues to be discussed and addressed with executive-level leaders is important. Help key decision-makers understand the impact of employee concerns and possible ways to alleviate the issue. While this won’t always be successful, it will help you provide important updates to your team.