Despite several months of practice, many organizations are still actively evaluating the right balance of in-person, remote or hybrid work for eligible staff. While flexibility is a priority for employees, some leaders and managers continue to grapple with different expectations or preconceived notions that can make it challenging to fully embrace a hybrid approach.
To help companies realize the benefits that can come from a flexible work environment, I’d like to deconstruct six commonly held assumptions.
Myth #1 – Hybrid teams are less collaborative.
Prior to the pandemic, it was a widespread belief that successful coordination and problem-solving required colleagues to be in the same place at the same time. Because of these experiences, individuals may still think that collaboration is most effective in person.
In reality, teamwork can happen in real time or asynchronously when organizations provide employees with the tools to connect, communicate and problem solve via multiple media. Companies like Dropbox have come up with brilliant ways for colleagues to work together, including creating specific time windows for live collaboration and utilizing shared documents, project management systems and messaging platforms to strengthen coordination.
To change mindsets around myth #1, reframe what teamwork looks like by setting standards and investing in resources that support cooperation from different locations and time zones.
Myth #2 – Productivity decreases outside of the office.
When people are in the office, managers may associate presence with productivity. When individuals are remote, supervisors do not have that line of sight and may lack clarity about what each person is or is not accomplishing.
Leaders should not need to rely on visual cues to recognize efficiency and output. In fact, research from Wharton School has shown that the majority of businesses saw productivity remain stable or even increase in remote arrangements. To help work move along efficiently, companies can encourage autonomy while also ensuring work moves forward at the necessary pace by evaluating their technology and project management tools and expectations.
Rethink productivity assumptions by helping groups and individuals understand what autonomy and decision-making authority they have and offer best practices to encourage colleagues to keep others in-the-know on important developments.
Myth #3 – Working relationships suffer when coworkers are not together.
When team building is brought up, images of various in-person activities often come to mind. To be clear, there is certainly value in meeting face-to-face as it can enhance trust and connection. Still, strong relationships can be cultivated in a virtual space.
At Emergenetics®, we support team building in many ways including asking check-in questions at the beginning of most meetings, creating channels to give peers shout outs, hosting virtual escape rooms and utilizing our own virtual programs to ensure staff understand how to collaborate and communicate best with one another. Our internal surveys of the past two years have shown that, despite being in different places, employees continue to feel a strong connection with one another.
To revitalize working relationships, take stock of the channels available to drive connection. When events and programs are introduced that allow people to get to know one another virtually as well as learn how to honor each person’s preferences, quality relationships can be built from anywhere.
Myth #4 – Hybrid teams will be less committed to the organization.
Sometimes, commuting into the office can be equated with being more devoted to the job. After all, who except for a truly dedicated person would choose to add minutes or potentially hours onto their daily routine?
This choice often has less to do with loyalty and more to do with a person’s preferred work environment, job requirements or expectations set from leadership. Employees in any location can be equally committed to a company’s purpose when they are provided with compelling reasons to support the business, such as a galvanizing vision, a healthy compensation package, a meaningful job and a chance to contribute.
To help employee engagement thrive, evaluate the processes and procedures that are in place to empower group members to utilize their strengths, share their ideas and be recognized for their impact.
Myth #5 – Inequity is inevitable.
As I’ve noted, it’s not uncommon for assumptions to creep in about employees who commute to the office, those who are fully remote or the staff who do a bit of both. When leaders, managers and colleagues allow those thoughts to become biases, it can produce inequity.
The differences may appear in many forms such as certain groups receiving more information, being included in decision-making processes or even offered more learning, praise or promotions. Addressing these challenges requires individuals to be self-aware and attuned to their own tendencies, so they are better equipped to create an equitable atmosphere.
Reduce inequities by analyzing differences in the employee experience. If some groups regularly receive more benefits (e.g., perks, growth opportunities, etc.) or are perceived to be more successful, explore the behaviors that contribute to those discrepancies to identify new practices that support a more even playing field. For example, this post from my colleague can offer ideas to address information inequity.
Myth #6 – Hybrid teams are less engaged.
There is a perception that when individuals are remote, they are isolated and therefore less connected to the organization. However, disengagement is not the norm for flexible arrangements.
When remote-work options are available, employees are 75% more likely to report often or always being engaged. Personnel do not necessarily need to step foot on the premises to be dedicated and enthusiastically contribute. And, if leadership is embracing rather than bucking myths 1- 5 on this list, staff may very well be disengaged.
To enhance commitment, review the myths above. Evaluate whether the challenges are driven by perception – wherein staff are making assumptions – and the issues are truly coming to life. This assessment can provide insights into next steps whether those include changing mindsets or establishing new practices.
To paraphrase from Lao Tzu, it’s essential that we watch our thoughts as they become words, which become actions and ultimately habits. While the myths I’ve shared about hybrid teams do not need to become reality in any business, if these notions are given too much credit, they could become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Exploring the assumptions leaders and managers hold can reveal behaviors they may be exhibiting that are impeding organizational success. The truth is that hybrid environments can be collaborative, innovative workplaces that inspire, connect and engage employees. It all starts with believing this new way of doing things has merits and then adjusting habits to help everyone thrive.
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