Written by Marisa Barber Mandolidis
Many employees want to go back to a hybrid work model, but what does that really mean?
I recently connected with Jo Sarpal to discuss the pros and cons of hybrid work environments and some tips she has for companies transitioning to hybrid models. Jo has been in the communications industry for over 15 years, starting her career in the non-profit sector and working her way to the business sector, through a range of industries from real estate to energy technology. For the last six years, Jo has worked as a communications consultant and owns her own business, JDS Solutions Ltd.
When discussing hybrid work, we must note one potentially major benefit – giving employees flexibility in their workday and helping them achieve more of a balanced lifestyle.
As Jo mentions, “I think this balance is something that a lot of companies talk about and want to give to their employees, but they haven’t been able to deliver on that – and now they have that chance. They’re realizing the significance of providing flexibility to their team, because it allows people to fulfill their deliverables without added pressure and stressors, like commutes and rigid work hours.”
Hybrid Work: The Popular Choice
With the potential for more balance for workers, it’s no surprise that 83% in this Accenture study reveal they prefer hybrid environments. However, there are some issues with hybrid models that need to be considered to make sure employees are supported and have what they need to thrive. Jo highlights that while working in a hybrid model, “…It can be a challenge to make sure all employees feel connected and have a consistent experience with the company culture.” To counter this, she emphasizes the importance of leaders understanding how their team communicates and how employees best receive information. “When leaders learn how to connect with their staff, they can really increase employee engagement.”
The Importance of Connection
As many of us have likely experienced, creating authentic connections with colleagues can be difficult, even in person, but a hybrid model presents different challenges. Jo suggests offices host virtual hangouts that are more socially focused – where staff are truly connecting beyond the work.
“In my experience, these connections were important to help reduce some of the stress that can come with shifts to remote and hybrid work environments. We’ve all had so many changes in the way we work over the past two years and it’s nice to have those personal connections so you can lean on your team when you’re feeling overwhelmed.”
In addition to focusing on social connection, Jo notes that leaders can also support staff with check-ins every week to see how they’re doing with hybrid work. “Ask your staff, ‘What’s working?’ ‘What are some challenges?’ ‘Is there anything we can do to support you?’
I think it’s important for internal communicators to listen to staff, talk openly and share challenges that people might be experiencing – and ways to overcome them. This can increase transparency and keep open communication lines around the transition to hybrid work.”
Understanding Your People
Overall, hybrid work models have attractive benefits.
Managers need to focus on individual staff to best understand how to support them. Not everyone may be thrilled about returning to the office in a hybrid way, but if leaders understand their team’s specific needs, it can be a much easier transition. When discussing this transition, Jo notes that companies can create a successful hybrid experience by helping people get excited about coming back to the office. “Rather than having staff come to the office for the typical 9-5 day with routine meetings and deskwork, make the office a hub that fosters staff engagement and creative brainstorming. The office should not simply return to how it was pre-COVID, it needs to be a destination for authentic connection.”
Have you started working in a hybrid environment? We’d love to hear some tips from you about creating a positive and productive hybrid space!