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9 Ways to Manage Hybrid Employees for Better Productivity

March 23, 2023

Contributor: Jordan Turner

You’ll also facilitate employee collaboration and connection.

Today, 66% of HR leaders say their organizations currently have a hybrid work model, and 30% say they are planning to adopt one. As such, it’s imperative to evolve your policies to accommodate this standard.

To provide employees with the support they need to navigate hybrid work and remain productive and engaged, start with these nine tips.

No. 1: Identify your employees’ work values

Eighty-seven percent of HR leaders say employees expect a personalized work experience that suits their unique needs. And considering managers interact with employees most frequently, they play a significant role and influence in their daily experiences. Prepare managers to make clear to employees that the organization understands their work values — some, for example, may see work as part of their identity where others see it as a transaction — and strives to personalize their work experience. 

To facilitate effective conversations, offer managers guidance — through conversation starters, value statements, organizational resources and discussion guides — on how to best surface what employees value in their work and craft tailored experiences that boost engagement and productivity.

No. 2: Focus on flexibility

In today’s hybrid work landscape, where many people are juggling work and family commitments in their own homes, radical flexibility — an expansive view that includes how much, with whom and on what employees work — is key to enabling employees to complete their work however and whenever is easiest and most productive for them. 

“Adapting a standardized, daily in-office work model to a formalized hybrid work model that offers employees flexibility to customize their schedules is logistically challenging, and many leaders fear losses in productivity and performance,” says Caitlin Duffy, Research Director in Gartner’s HR practice. “However, organizations that offer radical flexibility have 40% more high-performing employees compared to organizations that don’t.”

No. 3: Foster connections

CEOs rate culture as their biggest concern when it comes to hybrid policies. Facilitating intentional moments of connection can help maintain organizational culture and performance without sacrificing flexibility. 

Periodic in-person meetings and on-site work with managers are moments of connection that improve performance, inclusion and engagement in a hybrid model. However, only 40% of organizations are implementing these practices.

No. 4: Reinforce what the organization has to offer

Employees continue to reevaluate their priorities, and they may be contemplating alternate ways to get what they want out of life, both personally and professionally — which may spark burnout and disengagement. “Show employees that you plan to look out for them in the long term,” says Duffy. 

Companies spend years building a set of values that describes how much they care and how it's important for them to create great experiences for their employees. Make sure to showcase what your organization already offers while also investing in new ways to drive employees’ personal and professional growth, skills development and employability.

No. 5: Trust your employees

“One of the best things you can do as a manager is to put utmost trust and confidence in your employees that they will do the right thing — which they will if employers provide a support structure and clear expectations,” says Duffy. 

Managers may be concerned about — and even frustrated by — losing the constant visibility of their employees they once had, but don’t respond by micromanaging, which will only disengage and fatigue already stressed employees. Instead, try to understand each employee’s unique circumstances and lean on established performance management systems, if needed.

No. 6: Increase transparency and visibility

Transparency and setting clear expectations have always been organizational best practices, but they are even more essential in a hybrid model, where employees have less visibility into colleagues’ work lives and experience more variability in working processes. 

“Enable employees to spend less time figuring out how to do the work and more time actually doing the work,” says Duffy. Visibility into others’ schedules is one way to improve employee performance, engagement and inclusion in a hybrid model. However, less than half of organizations do this.

No. 7: Embrace different work modes to spark innovation

Many leaders may still believe teams need to return to the office to generate innovative work, and 41% of HR leaders think innovation has worsened due to hybrid work. However, the reality is that asynchronous collaboration has nearly the same impact on team innovation as synchronous work. 

“To succeed in the new normal, organizations must balance different collaboration modes — both synchronous and asynchronous — to unlock employees’ full potential,” says Duffy. “This requires a deeper understanding of employees and the work they do.” For example, extroverted employees may perform best with access to on-site, in-person collaboration, while introverted employees may excel when working individually in their own spaces. New hires may benefit from working on-site alongside their peers, while caregivers may find that collaborating virtually best accommodates their schedules.

No. 8: Amplify recognition

Effective recognition motivates recipients and serves as a strong signal of behaviors their colleagues should strive to emulate. Recognition doesn’t need to be monetary; consider public acknowledgment, tokens of appreciation, high-visibility development opportunities and low-cost perks. 

Given decreased visibility in a hybrid work environment, use simple pulse surveys to ask specific questions or track output to collect data and find opportunities for recognition. By meeting with employees and asking what barriers they have overcome or how their peers have helped them, you can identify behaviors worth recognizing and reward and share the accomplishments of teams and individuals more broadly.

No. 9: Equip teams with the right technology and tools

This may require more than just a mobile phone and laptop. Even if you don’t have an extensive set of technology and collaboration tools available or budget to offer them, you can equip employees to function effectively both remotely and on-site. But don’t assume that people automatically know how to operate with virtual communications — or are comfortable working in that environment. 

Acknowledge that virtual communications are different — and won’t be perfect — but should still be professional and respectful. Be mindful that they may be less comfortable and effective for some, and create norms around how to escalate ineffective virtual exchanges. For example, if you haven’t settled an issue within six emails, the conversation may need to shift to a virtual meeting to get closure.

Caitlin Duffy is a research director in the human resources practice. Her team covers topics such as employee experience design and delivery, engagement, EVP strategy, hybrid work and culture. Her work also extends into broader talent management topics such as DEI and the future of work.

This article has been updated from the April 2, 2020 original to reflect new events, conditions and research.

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