Hybrid working is here to stay, but we have to recognise that important changes need to be made in order to thrive in this new world. Working remotely gives employees greater flexibility and global connectivity. It also allows organisations to recruit more widely, enabling team members to join from almost anywhere. Many organisations have moved all their staff to hybrid working and downsized their offices, enabling colleagues to balance their work and life commitments more easily. The office for many people is now a tech platform, we can work from anywhere. What is there not to like?
All true, but of course any change brings new issues and hybrid working can result in many employees feeling less connected, with a sense of loss and lack of community within the workplace.
Collaboration can be the first thing impacted. Studies have shown two thirds of employees feel less connected at home; individuals feel like a ‘worker’ not a member of a ‘family’. If people begin to feel like workers rather than team members, there is evidence that it will impact negatively on morale and productivity.
When we spend less time working together face to face, we need to invest more time as leaders in our communication, checking in with colleagues both formally and informally. We need to be aware of proximity bias. Proximity bias describes how leaders tend to treat workers who are physically closer to them more favourably, and stems from the antiquated assumption that those who work remotely are less productive than those who work from the office. Proximity bias is not intentional, the mental short cut for managers can be that they make decisions on familiarity rather than objectives views. It can sometimes feel easier to evaluate the work of onsite employees and you can end up offering them more interesting projects because they are visible.
The opportunities for creating a more diverse workforce can suffer, people can feel a greater sense of exclusion; we have to be aware of how we communicate and engage with our employees and colleagues, to create a tangible sense of community where we all belong.
At Starfish we recognise that life is changing at speed, and we are here to help organisations in this unpredictable age by staying ahead of the curve and thinking creatively. We’ve recently run a series of webinars to help navigate the challenges that the new hybrid working world brings.
The visibility framework, recently shared by Victoria McLean CEO of City CV, in our webinar with Public Services People Managers’ Association (PPMA), gave us some interesting observations. Remote teams need consistent, inclusive interactions—but they need to be the right type, done in the correct way. This can be done in three ways.
What can we do as leaders to support visibility with our teams and colleagues?
Hybrid working has shifted the focus for people and as leaders we need to invest in new approaches to ensure we are listening, communicating, and providing a work community which maximises potential. It is an ongoing process of connection, review, and response. No one has all the answers, and it is a constantly evolving leadership issue that needs focus and commitment. What is important is to recognise this, and put in place as much support throughout your organisations to support your team members to thrive.