Skills for Thriving in a Hybrid Work Environment (A)

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Skills for Thriving in a Hybrid Work Environment (A)

Three relational skills needed for employees to thrive in a hybrid work environment include self-advocacy, time management, and relationship building. Conversely, three relational skills for managers to thrive in a hybrid work environment are empathy, motivational skills, and emotional intelligence. Three key relational skills needed for leaders to thrive in a hybrid work environment include open vulnerability, informal interactions, and inclusion.

Employees

Self-Advocacy

  • In a hybrid work environment, some employees may work in the office and others remotely. Employees who work remotely often feel less visible compared to their counterparts at the office even if they are outperforming them. It is up to the employees to make their needs known to the company.
  • According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), self-advocacy is crucial skill that all employees should have. However, it is particularly important for women since many studies imply that “women are not as effective at self-advocacy as male colleagues because they feel uncomfortable asking, because gender stereotypes inhibits them.”
  • In addition, a study by HBR found that “men rate their performance 33% higher than equally performing women.”
  • As more organizations embrace hybrid environments, it is important to be more up-front when discussing matters to do with flexibility and compensation.
  • Working from home is of benefit to both the employer and the employee, therefore, workers should not be hesitant whenever they have work-related problems and should expect to be treated in the same way as their colleagues.
  • Employees should be comfortable advocating for their needs to ensure that they get enough training, professional development opportunities, one-on-one communication with superiors, and support.
  • Employees should not feel shy when it comes to asking questions since their managers are there to develop them as team members. Self-advocacy is important in companies where a significant number of the employees do not work remotely.

Time Management

  • Employees with proper time management skills boost their productivity. When employees plan and execute tasks, they become more confident in their work and improve their work-life balance. According to a study conducted by Tiny Pulse, employees are 10% more likely to continue working for their companies if they have a good work-life balance.
  • A 2020 scientific study revealed that there was a strong correlation between time management and productivity. According to the study, “the link between time management and job performance seems to increase over the years: time management is more likely to get people a positive performance review at work today than in the early 1990s.”
  • To improve their time management skills, employees have to prioritize and schedule. Employees should prioritize the most important tasks and create personal deadlines. In addition, asking for help from colleagues through a video call can help to ease the workload.
  • Employees should be realistic with their deadlines and take regular breaks. Also, it is advisable to experiment different strategies when it comes to time management and select the most suitable one.
  • Examples of time management approaches include the Pomodoro Technique, the ALPEN method, and the Pickle Jar Theory. In addition, there are several online time management tools that can help employees organize their time.

Relationship Building

  • Employees who are skilled at building relationships both virtually and face-to-face benefit from hybrid environments compared to those who are not great at relationship building.
  • In addition, employees who have political awareness and a good network can identify beneficial positions and situations. Employees who can build strong relationships can bridge the gap between remote working and face-to-face and take advantage of informal connections to find any missing information.
  • According to HBR, “hybrid environments reward employees who think and act adaptably and flexibly, who are able to organize and coordinate across a complex and dynamic environment, and who are able to establish and provide evidence of their own trustworthiness when working in a context of low visibility.”
  • Conversely, employees who are not good at building relationships in virtual and face-to-face environments have a hard time working with collaborators that have this skill. Workers that are less skilled in such a complex environment could constantly be out of touch with managers and colleagues. To build strong relationships at work, employees have to be good listeners, empathetic, and engaging.

Managers

Empathy

  • An empathetic leader is one who can contextualize behavior and performance. It requires developing high levels of trust, care, and culture of acceptance within teams. Empathetic leadership calls for leaders to step out of their comfort zone, keep communication channels open, and build connections.
  • According to the Harvard Business Review, “85% of HR leaders at midsize companies agreed that it’s more important now for managers to demonstrate empathy than it was before the pandemic.” In addition, a 2021 study by Gartner revealed that managers who are highly empathetic have a positive impact on the performance of their employees compared to those who have low levels of empathy. The study also revealed that employees in organizations that have empathy-based management have a high likelihood of agreeing that they have an inclusive work environment.
  • Empathetic leadership requires practice. Therefore, managers should be provided with the opportunities to practice so that they learn to lead with empathy. For instance, Zillow has a program where managers have one-on-one conversations with each other on their current managerial challenges, which helps them engage in vulnerable conversations and practice their empathy with one another.
  • Managers need to adopt an equitable approach when working with their teams. “Equitable leadership is more nuanced and requires a greater understanding of more personal issues that affect their team members, but it is the crux of building resilient relationships.” Therefore, managers should consider factors that affect the quality of interaction in a hybrid work environment, such as, childcare duties when schools are closed, the presence of roommates and partners, and living quarters.

Motivational Skills

  • Motivating workers through purpose and connecting their tasks to the overall company goals is important in ensuring that there are high levels of engagement and productivity.
  • Motivational skills are important for managers since hybrid work environments face the challenge of a us versus them" culture, which reduces motivation among employees.
  • According to a study by McKinsey that focused on 46 Global Capacity Centers, 17% of the respondents noted that the lack of motivation in employees and teams was among “the top three reasons attributed to a fall in productivity while working remotely during COVID-19.”
  • Organizations should acknowledge and support the role managers play when it comes to shaping the motivational environment. This could be done through workshops and one-to-one advice sessions.
  • Employees can also be motivated through proper coaching. According to a BCG report, coaching is an important skill for managers who work in a hybrid environment. In a hybrid environment, managers need to have good coaching skills because they convey most of an organization’s values to employees. In addition, coaching helps employees to remain engaged in their assigned tasks, develop their skills, and maintain performance.
  • In addition, allowing workers to experiment and solve crucial problems in their roles has a positive impact on their motivation. A survey by the Harvard Business Review revealed that employees who work remotely are less motivated. Experimentation is one way of motivating employees who work remotely. According to the study, “experimentation results in a 45-point increase in employee motivation.”

Emotional Intelligence

  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage one’s own emotions and that of others.
  • According to McKinsey, “more than 40% of workers reported a decline in mental health over the last year.” In addition, four out of 10 respondents noted that no supervisor or coworker in the last year called them to see how they were doing.
  • Research from Gallup notes that despite the high levels of employee burnout, remote workers can have high engagement if they have organizational communication that makes them feel supported and connected. Therefore, a strong EQ can resolve the issues that arise from a hybrid work environment.
  • Furthermore, EQ creates an engaging and more inclusive work environment that makes employees feel safe and heard, which leads to more diverse, creative, and innovative thinking.
  • To promote better EQ for a hybrid workforce, managers should always check in on their teams. They should conduct casual chats and regular pulse checks to ensure that there is an open flow of communication on a daily basis. Furthermore, having discussions via video conferencing is essential in understanding what employees need to feel supported.

Leaders

Open Vulnerability

  • Lack of information and uncertainty is common in a hybrid work environment because employees do not have the common physical spaces to interact with their colleagues, exchange information, and resolve doubts.
  • According to Gartner “organizations with high levels of trust increase their average employee engagement by 76% over organizations with low levels of trust.” To gain trust from employees, there has to be a high level of transparency between leaders and team members. About 76% of employees have stated that there is a need for transparency from their employers.
  • Leaders should create an environment where employees are comfortable with sharing their personal and professional vulnerabilities.
  • It is noteworthy that an open environment that is transparent does not mean that employees are willing to share their vulnerabilities. However, when leaders become openly vulnerable, they will be in a position to manage their fears and positively impact the psychological well-being of their employees.
  • According to Harvard Business Review, leaders should expose their vulnerabilities by sharing their personal challenges and constraints when it comes to working in a hybrid environment. They should be vulnerable and willing to share that they do not have a clear plan and be willing to explain how they are managing their challenges. Creating an environment where there is open vulnerability will encourage employees to be candid with their leaders.

Informal Interactions

  • Unplanned encounters and informal interactions result in idea-sharing, which is important to organizations. According to McKinsey, “informal interactions provide a starting point for collegial relationships in which people collaborate on areas of shared interest, thereby bridging organizational silos and strengthening social networks and shared trust within your company.”
  • Informal interactions can be difficult to have especially in a virtual environment. Therefore, leaders require new approaches to foster these interactions both on-site and remotely.
  • One way of encouraging informal interactions is by allocating specific times in meetings for employees to discuss any issues or topics. Additionally, leaders can have an open-door policy and virtual fireside chats to build a forum for less formal interactions. The main aim is to make employees feel like they can talk to leaders just the way they do in the elevator or at the company cafeteria.
  • Other ways of encouraging informal interactions include virtual social events, coffee rooms, and conferences. Leaders should also text their team members for informal check-ins, which will create the habit of communicating informally.

Inclusion

  • Inclusive environments are created by the behaviors of leaders. Effective people management calls for inclusive behavior because it supports foundational business goals and leads to better outcomes.
  • Having an inclusive culture is also important to employees. A McKinsey study found that “39 percent of all respondents say they have turned down or decided not to pursue a job because of a perceived lack of inclusion at an organization.” In addition, teams that have more inclusion make better decisions.
  • To encourage inclusion, leaders should be more empathetic and vulnerable. For instance, they should strive to know their employees on a personal level.
  • Leaders should also ask employees about their needs, acknowledge them, and come up with ways of catering to them. Moreover, leaders should challenge personal assumptions and try to understand the experiences of other people in the organization.
  • Building a space that accommodates diverse perspectives and encourages people to participate can bring about inclusivity in an organization. To do so, leaders can send meeting agendas ahead of time and get the opinions of each team member at least once during a meeting.
  • Other ways that inclusion can be encouraged by leaders in a hybrid environment include allocating time for networking, remote team building, and mentoring team members.
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