In 2020, we asked, “When will things return to normal?” and assumed that 2021 would emerge as the answer. Not quite, but we are on the way there with many companies embracing a combination of both in-person and virtual work. However, this hybrid workplace throws up some unique leadership and productivity challenges. Here are four ways to meet those challenges head-on.
For over a year now, we have seen a see-sawing equilibrium with lockdowns being enforced, then relaxed, and then reapplied in response to medical realities. The prospect of a specific “everything returns to normal” event is non-existent; it is a battle between the efficacy of vaccines and a virus fighting back with new strains.
As a business leader, your job is to anticipate and plan for momentum despite this fluidity. That means not committing your organization to a single optimistic outlook but tempering your hope with caution. Plan as much for a return to on-site work as for another necessary lockdown; even the experts simply do not know what tomorrow holds.
Employees are now straddling both sides of a virtual fence that represents your organization’s enterprise cybersecurity measures. That puts every shared document and image, and every conversation between on-site and off-site personnel at greater risk of being compromised. Unfortunately, it is often financially unfeasible to extend elevated cybersecurity cover to every employee in their homes.
The compromise is to instill in each person the importance of data security in the hybrid workplace. Establish protocols that specify the type of information that may be shared, encryption requirements, and rules governing the use of personal devices and unsecured networks.
Embrace Financial Flexibility
One distinct advantage of the current situation for corporations is the decrease in operational expenditure. The hybrid workplace brings with it lower utility costs and office supplies requirements, and even reduced real estate prices. This is not the time to hoard the savings but to reinvest them into the company and its people.
Equip your team so they may work as effectively and as productively, regardless of their physical location. This may be achieved through company-purchased devices and tools or as an allowance provided to each employee to procure their own. The objective is to create a hybrid workforce adept at its role in either circumstance.
Numerous studies have shown that the lockdowns have had adverse effects on workers’ mental health. Others indicate that most employees feel excluded when they are working off-site as part of a hybrid team. While it is not possible to perfectly simulate the workplace of old, you can lay the groundwork for better employee engagement through good interaction policies:
- Regularly scheduled meetings at all levels.
- No (or minimal) deviation from set performance standards.
- Fewer (but not zero) casual online interactions that dilute the online workspace.
In essence, shift away from emulating connection and instead take a step towards meaningful communication. That adherence to established work expectations is good for both the organization and the individual.
Are you looking for more advice on what a hybrid model may look like in your organization? Please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss further.