There is no question that the global pandemic changed the world of work. A report published by Upwork in 2020 suggested that one in four Americans would be working remotely – at least some of the time – by 2021.
Some may believe that this shift is temporary, but that doesn’t seem to be the case: by 2025, Upwork predicts an 87 percent increase in remote work from pre-pandemic levels, with more than 36.2 million Americans working remotely at least some of the time.
Mark Herschberg, the author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You presented a webinar for Ivy Exec on the tools necessary for adapting to this new normal in the workplace. With more and more employees working on hybrid teams, what skills do managers and team members need to be successful?
Determine Which Information Is Sent on Different Channels
Since the pandemic, teams have been communicating differently than they did before the shutdown. Specifically, many offices have started adopting new and varied virtual tools, including Slack, e-mail, phone calls, virtual meetings, and the like.
However, this varied communication can also breed confusion.
“Should you send this in a Slack message or in an e-mail message? Or, should you just hop on the call? Different people have different habits that they like,” Mark said.
In response to this ambiguity, managers and their teams should set expectations for the type of information that will be shared in the various channels. Being clear on how information is supposed to flow in the hybrid office also ensures all team members are kept in the loop.
Creating Processes for Giving and Receiving Feedback
The feedback process for virtual teams is more complicated than it was pre-pandemic. For instance, if a manager wants to give her employee feedback in person, she has to wait until that individual comes into the office on one of her two days a week.
“Well, now that process is a couple of days longer,” Mark adds.
That timeline doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem, as long as team members and managers know that the feedback loop may be extended.
At the same time, managers may need to be more explicit about the behavioral norms they expect for their teams. They may even have to offer behavioral feedback on how teams should interact.
Mark shares an example of feedback a manager could offer:
“Look, I know you, you were trying to express your disagreement. He’s particularly sensitive. I suggest when you disagree with him, try to take a softer tone,” he said.
Prepare for Increased Conflict
Mark argues the remote and hybrid office will create more conflict. Teams are spending less time together, especially in casual settings, so they have less bonding time and engagement.
“Many of us are working with people we haven’t met, and don’t spend as much time together in person, so you’re gonna get some conflict there,” he said.
At the same time, attitudes around the culture of work are shifting, as well.
For instance, employees may need to be firm on their work boundaries. If they have been on Zoom all day, they may need to articulate that after 6 o’clock is family time. This may be a particular shift if employees were more flexible pre-pandemic.
“We might see a shift in values, and that conflict may not be yelling, arguing, but just things that were understood or OK or the norms before may no longer be,” he said.
Mark suggests having conversations about the new set of values in a group. For instance, how do we disagree? When is it acceptable to ask people to do certain things that aren’t in their job descriptions?
“There’s a shift in people’s mindsets towards work, and so, I think it’s going to be important that we create just better communication processes, better processes for how we handle conflicts,” Mark said.
Intentionally Build Relationships
Prior to the pandemic, teams could bond more easily. Now, that social time needs to be structured in a way it wasn’t before.
Mark recommends experimenting with tools like Donut, which pairs partners together randomly for discussion and sharing.
Remote or hybrid workers interested in building their careers also need to network with others outside of their immediate department, as well.
“Having these formal social activities also will help increase the networking as you hang out with people from different departments. So, be a little more intentional with your internal networking,” Mark said.
At the same time, it’s important for remote workers to determine how their managers pass on information about new projects and opportunities. Prior to the pandemic, higher-ups may have shared information by keeping their office door open, but what are they doing now that they’re not in the office?
Manage Your Workplace Image
Hybrid teams are likely to have different schedules. Some people are in the office twice a week, while others are in the office four days a week. Team members who are present less often may have a harder time being as visible as those who are in the office more often.
“Classically, women are the primary caregivers for families, for parents, for children, and, therefore, in tradeoffs of who’s gonna pick up the kids after school,” said Mark.
The less time workers spend in the office, the more intentional they need to be in sharing their availability and using the time they are physically present well. The harder someone is to connect with, the less likely they will turn to that person again. Sharing and managing time in the office is key.
Building Your Career Toolkit
Post-pandemic workplace conditions are vastly different than before. Not only are teams working a varied number of days in the office, but workers have different boundaries, as well. To manage teams and build careers in this hybrid culture, it’s important for teams and individuals to set expectations and intentionally build connections. Replacing watercooler conversations with scheduled interactions takes more effort, but these extra steps are worth it in the long run.