Hybrid environments, where some employees work remotely and others on-site, have become the new norm. While accelerated by widespread social distancing measures and local regulations, hybrid work was an inevitable change.
While hybrid settings offer real advantages, including flexibility for employees and reduced overhead costs for office space, it also presents some significant new challenges for businesses.
Knowing how to build and maintain meaningful relationships in this new context is a struggle for both employees and leadership. Instant messaging and video calls are a far cry from in-office meetings, and it’s easy for remote workers to feel (and be) left out of the loop.
Foster a sense of community
Ultimately, meeting the needs of employees in a hybrid environment requires adopting new strategies. Feeling disconnected from their peers and leadership is one of the chief complaints of remote workers.
Gone are the impromptu water-cooler connections, lunch dates, and coffee breaks. Spontaneous interactions lead to innovation, knowledge sharing, improve people’s mood, make them feel closer to their coworkers, and help break up the day—all essential factors for maintaining an excellent work-life balance.
A sense of community benefits everyone in the company. While remote work does present some hurdles, there are simple ways to ensure people still feel involved:
- Schedule time before and after meetings for people to chat. Don’t regulate this time: it might be work-related, it might not. The important thing is to get people talking spontaneously.
- Celebrate important milestones and events, like birthdays, work anniversaries, and goals being met. Aim for a mix of professional and personal things to celebrate and include everyone who wishes to be involved in the events.
- Add social channels to whatever communication service you use, like Slack or Google Chat. Again, try not to regulate people’s time here. If they’re chatting, it’s probably because they need it. Grow your community and business together.
- Schedule the community building time during the workday, so it’s easier for everyone to participate and disconnect once the workday is over.
- If you provide lunch to the staff at a meeting in the office – order food for your remote employees or offer them a stipend to get a meal, so they feel like they are part of the in-office team.
Collaboration facilitates positive relationships in the workplace. The easier it is to collaborate, the smoother work will flow, and the less frustrating it will be for everybody involved. When the tools and systems aren’t in place for easy collaboration, employees become frustrated, leading to in-fighting, miscommunications, longer turnaround times, and friction with management.
Thanks to a wide array of collaborative tools like Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams, this is now easier than ever. Take stock of your processes and speak to your employees. Invest in solutions to streamline it.
An example could be having team meetings with a large screen monitor at the head of the table, which shows all the remote employees on screen, and using a webcam to show the in-office staff on the other side of the table. Everyone can feel heard and seen.
Create an inclusive culture
The past two years have caused additional stress in your team members’ personal and professional lives. Subtle frustrations may have slipped under the radar in a traditional working environment, where easy interpersonal interactions lifted morale and softened the blow of outdated company culture—but this is no longer the case.
Diversity in the workplace is crucial for building an innovative and resilient team. But implementation of diversity to create inclusivity is a step often overlooked or lacking according to employees. This can significantly impact the kinds of relationships people form with the company and its leaders.
Inclusivity might look different in a hybrid setting. Speak with your employees individually and make sure they feel welcome, appreciated, valued, and aligned with company values. Encourage open dialogues and enlist help from experts to create psychological safety in the workplace.
Pay extra attention to accessibility issues. There is a growing technology gap among remote workers. Some might not have the equipment or resources they need to perform their job or attend meetings with confidence. Conduct a confidential assessment of your staff looking at internet access, computer specs, web camera, lighting, desk setup, phone lines, or other essentials for their duties and help those lacking resources.
What actions will you take?
Creating meaningful employee relationships in hybrid environments can be a challenge. Provide opportunities for socializing, facilitate collaboration for more enjoyable interactions, ensure company culture is working for, not against, your efforts, and ensure your team has the tools and resources they need to level the playing field at work.
With these strategies in mind, your employees will have more meaningful relationships with each other, the business, and its leaders. CareerPoint can support your team members with individualized career coaching which can focus on relationships and improving workplace morale. Click here to learn more.
Ready to take your team to the next level? Book a 15 min discovery call