As the pandemic wanes and in-office work returns, it’s clear that our old “normal” won’t be our new one. More than 60 percent of employers surveyed by Gartner responded that they were preparing for a hybrid office future, with only one percent reporting they were planning to have employees return full-time. What is a hybrid office exactly? Employees in hybrid offices come to work fewer than five days each week, dividing their time between an in-person office a few days a week and a home office for at least one day. The benefit is these hybrid employees can still engage with coworkers in person but can eliminate the commute at least occasionally and retain the productivity benefits of working from home.
Some companies let employees decide how much they want to work from home. However, if some employees decide to work in the office more often than others, this divide could unintentionally cause a hierarchy.
As noted in a recent article, “That could include an unintended bias toward office-based staff, who have the advantage of being both visible and easily accessible, while hybrid employees are unconsciously judged as being less committed, in keeping with pre-pandemic views.”
So, as more companies shift to hybrid office models, they need to both ensure that sometimes-remote workers stay front-of-mind of managers, as well as engaged with their colleagues and company culture. With these goals in mind, what are the best employee engagement ideas for hybrid workers?
Make sure hybrid employees have a place to sit when they come into the office.
If your staff can create their own schedules, you may not have enough offices, or even desks, for everyone to have their own designated space. If this is the case, it is particularly important to create a reservation schedule that ensures sometimes-remote employees will have a place to call their own in the physical office.
The same should be true for conference rooms. “You can also support your hybrid (and remote) employees by having enough conference and call rooms. When employees work from home, they often miss out on casual desk-side conversations and can easily be left out of the loop when plans change,” Lyssa Test explains.
Share hybrid employees’ successes and contributions widely across the office.
Employees can feel they’re being overlooked if their successes are not shared in the office. At the same time, if managers don’t make it a habit to share hybrid employees’ accomplishments publicly, then they may also discover they are inadvertently ignoring these employees when staffing projects or internally promoting.
What’s more, celebrating colleagues’ success boosts everyone’s morale.
“[I]t’s worth noting that when people see someone getting recognized, not just the person who receives it, it helps build morale for the rest of the team. It can have a significant impact on motivation, whether it’s just a public shoutout or a bold recognition program where people receive rewards,” said David Rice.
Mentor and build social engagement when employees are in the office.
One of the drawbacks of working from home is that employees lose out on the social opportunities of the office. This has two implications. First, they might miss out on the “watercooler” talk if they’re not connecting with colleagues at their desks. Second, workers can feel isolated when working from home.
So, managers should mentor less-experienced colleagues when they’re in the office. Rather than connecting via video call, face-to-face mentorship fosters less-structured conversations that build more impactful connections. What’s more, this kind of exchange ensures sometimes-remote workers will stay fresh in their supervisors’ minds.
Also, schedule collegial bonding time when workers are in the office. Even if employees can set their own schedules, it’s a good idea to have regular socializing – perhaps monthly birthday celebrations or staff lunches – on a day each week or month when every person needs to be in the office. Bolstering connections between colleagues can alleviate the stress they may feel when working from home.
Develop virtual options for face-to-face meetings.
One of the ways that hybrid employees can feel left behind is if they have to miss in-person meetings. If colleagues hold a meeting that excludes a person working from home, they can miss vital information, not to mention the camaraderie building that usually occurs at the beginning of a session.
To accommodate for flexible schedules that change on a case-by-case basis, companies should aim to include video and chat features even in their in-person meetings. This way, virtual employees can see and hear everything that is happening, as well as asking and answering questions. Then, they won’t have to play catch up – and their colleagues won’t have to fill them in – every time they miss a meeting when working from home.
The Hybrid Office Is Our Workplace Future
As we return to the office after the pandemic, many of us will continue to work at home at least one day a week. While a flexible schedule can promote an improved work/life balance, some traditional workplace engagement practices will need to be modified. Primarily, hybrid offices will require more planning to keep employees feeling engaged – and welcomed – at their workplaces.
Not sure how to manage teams in a hybrid office? Try this virtual version of “Management By Walking Around”