It’s an exciting time as the COVID vaccine enables us to emerge from our pandemic cocoons. Returning to our social and professional lives feels wonderful, but it’s also an adjustment.
Thinking about the post-COVID workplace may seem equal parts welcome and worrisome. Office life won’t be the same as the reality we left in March 2020. We are different people and different professionals after all that we’ve weathered.
One positive development is that many of us have honed new professional skills, including remote work skills. These stand to serve us well as the post-COVID workplace takes shape. Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain predicts that remote work is here to stay and that hybrid arrangement will become standard. “Remote workforces work best with at least some in-person office work. Fully remote teams have financial and recruiting benefits, but also suffer from lower spontaneity, more challenges forming bonds, and lower innovation.” Dr. Chamberlain explains.
Many companies are finding their happy medium with hybrid arrangements, which strike a balance between time spent in the office and at home. The hybrid model seems a fitting one for employees; a recent Glassdoor survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll, reveals that nearly 9 in 10 (86%) employees say they prefer to continue working from home at least part of the time after their offices reopen.
If you’re wondering: what will it be like to work in a hybrid professional culture? What do I need to know about hybrid work? Can I succeed at this? Trust us-you’re not alone. We’re all trying to get our minds around the flurry of changes cued by the pandemic.
Use this comprehensive hybrid work guide to get your mind around this; part professional guide and part reality check, it will help you get acclimated.
What is a hybrid workplace?
The pandemic gave many Americans an opportunity to work remotely, proving to be a positive experience. “While the COVID-19 crisis forced many employers to rethink outdated policies against remote work — mostly for the best — both history and data suggest that most workers will ultimately return to in-person work arrangements once it’s safe to do so.” Dr. Chamberlain writes. “However, the lessons learned in 2020 about the value of flexibility and working-from-home will forever change companies’ openness to hybrid office environments. In 2021 we expect workers splitting time between home and the office to be a more common workplace policy.”
According to data generated by Pew Research Center, about 20 percent of Americans worked remotely before March 2020. During the pandemic, about 71 percent of workers went remote. Some positive outcomes for employees include increased flexibility which leads to greater concentration, motivation, and productivity.
Remote work has its challenges, though. As many of us have realized over the past 16 months-Zoom fatigue is real. Working remotely can make it hard to connect with coworkers, especially for new team members who are still establishing their internal networks. Younger professionals are likewise challenged; according to Pew Research Center’s data, many Gen Z professionals found it difficult to stay engaged and productive when operating remotely.
“The physical workplace plays a critical role in nurturing workplace culture and a collective sense of purpose among employees.” Explains Nabil Sabet, Group Director at M Moser Associates. “Creating a feeling of inclusiveness, sharing vision and direction, mentoring, and making meaningful connections all contribute to an employee’s sense of belonging and safety, which contributes to a company’s culture and success. And they all happen more organically when face-to-face.”
It can be challenging for employers to create a dynamic remote culture that makes team members feel connected, inspired, engaged. “Experience has shown that bouncing ideas around, riffing off one another, exploring possibilities, and developing plans are substantially limited in digital settings. Challenges often hinder discussions in bringing energy to a group setting, reducing conversations to the tactical level, falling short of the visionary and conceptual.” Sabet adds.
A hybrid workplace stands to create the best of both worlds. It offers employees time to work in their own space, which can help them hunker down and attend to special projects like writing assignments and reports. It also provides the socially dynamic experience that comes with working in the office. It’s a win-win.
Ways to improve collaboration in a hybrid workplace.
One valuable take-away from the pandemic’s remote work revolution is that it gave employees a soft skills crash course. Communication, teamwork, resilience, self-management are all examples of these vital skills. Soft skills aid collaboration. They are character traits, personal attributes, and other non-technical abilities that help you work and communicate with other people. Some soft skills you might have to study and learn, and others might come to you naturally. These abilities are a “must-have” when there’s a remote dimension to your job.
When you accept a hybrid arrangement; it’s on you to fully function from your home office. Refining your soft skills enables you to strategize, plan for the unexpected, and keep your colleagues informed.
Consider these tips to aid your collaboration with colleagues:
Self-management: Spend your in-office days strategically. Be clear on who you need to meet and what you need to accomplish. That way, you can use that info to power you at-home crunch time. It takes your ownership and your commitment to make this arrangement work. Recognize that and then work it like a boss.
Listen: Whether you are in your home office or your workplace, part of the self-management that this arrangement requires is astute listening. Take great notes. Repeat back what you understand your colleagues to say. Make sure you’re crystal clear on details.
Your in-office days are fact-finding missions. You take what you learn back to your home office so you can crank out deliverables. Earn yourself good directions so that you can be super productive at home.
Communicate: Miscommunication wastes time and creates stress. Emails and texts are notorious for causing miscommunications. Please don’t depend on them for complex messages. A reader can’t hear the writer’s intonation or see their facial expressions. Recognize this. And create your communication strategy accordingly.
Successful communication is recipient-focused; so, consider what would be best for the person who is hearing your message rather than what feels most comfortable for you as the sender. Stop by an office or pick up the phone if your message is complex or emotional. Your goal is to shape and share your message and clearly as possible.
And take communication courses. Use your development dollars to refine your written and verbal communication skills. These make or break your ability to succeed as a hybrid or remote employee.
How to foster human connection in a hybrid work environment
One of the best parts of professional life is connecting with colleagues. Understanding who does what and knowing where to direct questions is a core part of teamwork. Be purposeful about networking with your colleagues. Make the most of your days in the office by stopping by and meeting colleagues that you don’t know. Plan lunches with your team and colleagues who are outside of your unit to continue building your internal network.
Put yourself out there and do your part to build and celebrate culture in your workplace. Request and offer help. Put your hand up when volunteers are being recruited. Serve on a committee, join an Employee Resource Group (ERG), plan an event, be a mentor or a mentee.
Forging a connection with your colleagues is an important pro skill. It’s a muscle that we have to exercise. It can be tempting to forget that when we’re straddling the challenges of hybrid work. Make an effort to stay involved with the social scene at work. It’s fun, and it will make your days in the office awesome!
How to be successful in a hybrid work environment
To succeed, you have to manage your workload and keep
yourself organized and focused deftly. Refining your communication and self-management skills are vital to your success.
“Performance measures must now shift to focus more on outputs rather than traditional inputs such as attendance, hours spent working, presence in meetings.” Sabet shares. “Working independently and autonomously will also become the norm as leaders empower their teams to make decisions and perform tasks with less direct oversight.”
It’s worth it to finesse this happy medium. A hybrid work environment can offer a true sense of balance. It can fit both introverts and extroverts, truly blending the best of both worlds to maximize productivity.
Sabet adds: “We must break old norms and push through to new ecosystems that build resilience, foster human connections, and nurture culture, purpose, and innovation. With coming to the office now a conscious choice instead of a default mode, we don’t come together just because we have to; we come together intentionally and for a purpose. We might even be more focused and productive when we do.”
Good luck! You’ve got this!