Return-To-Work Culture: Three Guidelines For Seeding Successful Hybrid Teams

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Return-To-Work Culture: Three Guidelines For Seeding Successful Hybrid Teams

Written by: Lorna Borenstein, Forbes Councils Member

CEO and founder of Grokker, the on-demand video wellbeing solution, personalized to match employees’ interests, abilities and goals.


Social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing and daily temperature checks are just three hallmarks of the Covid-19 era workplace. At the same time, home-based employees are dialing into video meeting marathons followed by virtual happy hours in an attempt to stay connected while physically separated. These juxtaposing realities of the hybrid team — a mix of employees working remotely from home and others working from a corporate location — have quickly become the new normal, but what has been less examined are the most effective ways to manage the well-being of employees who are working anywhere and everywhere.

Regardless of where they’re physically performing their duties, employees continue to grapple with the increased burden Covid-19 has placed on their everyday lives, from lack of access to child care to extra time required to shop for groceries. They’re also buried under stress and uncertainty created by the ongoing pandemic, wondering when a vaccine will be available and how this will affect the U.S. election. Meanwhile, employers are acclimating as best they can and many are now asking some employees to continue to work remotely on an ongoing basis to ensure their workforces remain productive, healthy and safe for the long run.

This presents a novel situation for which employers need a plan — and accessible solutions — they can count on to reach for in order to protect their diverse employee base. Here are three guidelines for moving forward at a time when the situation keeps changing and employees need peace of mind.

Define a new-ish normal.

Your employees need a sense of normalcy — now. You can’t afford to wait until the dust settles. The American Psychological Association reports that 70% of employed adults today say work is a significant source of stress in their lives. When you consider that work is just one of many stress-inducing factors in their lives right now, it’s no surprise that so many people are nearing burnout.

This is where employers can step in to provide stability and make the best of working in complex hybrid team situations. A McKinsey article imagining the post-pandemic workforce notes that mixing virtual and on-site work can potentially create feelings of isolation or disenfranchisement, due to the absence of historical organizational norms and practices “… that help create a common culture, generate social cohesion, and build shared trust.”

Your challenge, then, is to establish a cultural common-ground between the at-office and at-home employees and find opportunities to make the team feel connected around the same expected norms and behaviors. Ask yourself:

• What elements of our pre-pandemic culture can survive in a hybrid environment? 

• How can corporate and team leadership support employees, wherever they are, on a daily basis?

• What virtual tools and resources can we provide employees to help them manage workloads, feelings of disconnection, and even self-care?

The answers to these questions will help you identify what you can do to promote and sustain the “best of both worlds” in ways that affect everyone advantageously.

Communicate clear guidelines.

The next logical step is to let employees know what you’re doing to protect their work-life boundaries, balance and sense of belonging during these uncertain times. While the simple act of communicating puts people at ease, providing flexible rules and regular routines will help everyone feel safe and calm when so much of the world remains in flux.

You’ll need to set practical and cultural expectations so employees are comfortable at every turn. For example:

• Start virtual and in-person meetings with five minutes of friendly nonwork-related chat to infuse a sense of humanity into the workday.

• Avoid booking meetings during lunchtime and empower employees to step away from their workstation to recharge, take a walk, talk to a peer, meditate, listen to a book or whatever works for them.

• Create a standing invitation to attend a weekly virtual team trivia session. With their team counting on them to help them win, they’ll be there.

• Schedule regular “What’s New At The Office” virtual tours so folks at home feel in-the-know, and set up weekly “Get To Know You” sessions so everyone feels more personally connected.

• Be mindful of sacred family time. If you want people’s best work and undivided attention, don’t make them delay feeding their kids or elderly parents. Most issues that arise in the evening can wait until morning.

Keep in mind some special considerations with technology. The “always-on” nature of remote working, in particular, can lead to tech burnout that has the potential to cannibalize any additional virtual efforts you impose to support employees.

That’s why you need to plan carefully to keep employees’ digital experiences positive. A study that examined technology’s impact on employees’ health and well-being during the pandemic by Aetna International, a client of Grokker, recommends erecting guardrails to help employees unplug outside office hours, limiting work-related communications to work hours and being available through one-to-one calls to offer emotional and professional support.

Provide permission and tools for self-care. 

Even with a strong culture and compassionate leadership, many employers are presently ill-equipped to administer well-being programs to a dispersed group of workers. They’re simply not set up to support hybrid teams. But effective well-being programs — specifically, the mind/body effects of prioritized well-being — are what help employees recharge and bring their best selves to all that they do.

Providing flexibility when possible to allow employees to take care of themselves and their loved ones’ physical and emotional needs will only benefit morale. Digital, on-demand programs are a practical option because employees can pick up their smartphone or tablet whenever they need a workout, a guided meditation or recipe and meet their need for self-care in ways that work for them. 

Let’s face it: Even after the pandemic, when the masks and temperature checks are an artifact of history, employees will continue to hit roadblocks while juggling their work and personal lives, and without the right resources, well-being and productivity will suffer. The bottom line is that whether they’re working from home or coming into the physical office, employees need employer support and permission to take care of themselves, so they can show up to work feeling ready to face the day.

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via Forbes – Leadership “”

September 9, 2020 at 05:02AM

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Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman