In a recent Zoom/Facebook Live, I talked about the challenges and opportunities inherent in this next phase of work. If you are interested in watching the replay (25 minutes), click here. However, if you would rather consume your information with fewer sound bites, here are the highlights of what I shared.
Before we dive into tips and strategies, I thought it would be helpful to understand some of the terms being thrown around (such as remote-first, co-located, and hoteling) since these are certainly things we didn’t learn about in school. LifeLabs Learning has a great glossary of definitions that I encourage you to check out in their Hybrid and Remote Playbook.
Tips for Employees
If you are frustrated or upset about your situation at work, it means that you likely have an unfulfilled expectation. You have two choices: either release the expectation or turn it into a request by stating what you need. I covered this practice at length in “The Art and Science of Making an Effective Request” if you are looking for more details.
Spend some time reflecting on what you need, what you want, what you are willing to accept, what is non-negotiable, and what is a dealbreaker. For example, perhaps you only want to be in the office 3 days a week, but you can be flexible on which days.
Before you speak with your supervisor, brainstorm a number of workable, yet creative solutions that will be viable for you within the stated parameters. The key is to challenge yourself to develop solutions that are not binary or all-or-nothing. Try to stay away from words like, “always” or “never,” and look for options that fall somewhere in the middle. For example, perhaps you need to work alternative hours to accommodate your children’s schedules, but you are willing to come into the office each day from 10 am-3 pm.
In addition to the schedule, consider what other ways you can continue to maximize your organization’s offerings to meet your professional and personal needs. For example, are there funds available for one-on-one coaching or courses that you can take to gain a new skill? Are there resources available for childcare or eldercare support? What about access to mental health and companion services through an Employee Assistance Program? Of course, the schedule and location are important, but remember that it’s just one component of the whole package to consider as part of your well-being.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between company policy, organizational culture, and individual preference. Notice where there are hard lines and notice where there are blurry lines that might create some room for discussion. You may wish that your employer’s official policy afforded more flexibility, but it might be the case that your supervisor has discretion over the implementation of the policy for their own team. I recognize that encouraging people to advocate for themselves is a big ask, especially when there is a power differential within primarily white, male-dominated organizations, but I wanted to put it out there as food for thought.
Tips for managers and organizations
It may be hard, but when talking with your team members, commit to staying open and curious rather than defensive and judgmental. Drop into Level 2 listening (see this previous session for more details) to work towards genuine understanding.
When considering a policy or protocol, inclusion should be one of the primary drivers. Invite diverse voices into the decision-making process and actually listen to what they have to say. Run a pilot and collect feedback to gauge what is working and what is not for all participants, not just most. Rather than just considering what will be best for the majority of workers, center the experiences of the most marginalized identities when considering your plan. For example, when talking about bringing people back to the office, what are the implications for folks who are medically vulnerable or who may be caregivers for family members who are? How would the shift impact hourly employees? What would it mean for those who rely on public transportation?
All of the articles I read on this topic highlighted team cohesion and social closening as a primary objective for managers working with hybrid or remote teams. Facilitating connections has to be deliberate and intentional because it can’t just happen by happenstance when people are working in different locations.
One of my mentors, Rae Ringel, wrote a fabulous piece for the Harvard Business Review with several questions to consider when determining if we really need to meet in-person. The TL:DR takeaway is to prioritize gatherings that have relationship-based objectives vs. those that are task-based and focused on information sharing. She includes a great chart that correlates goal complexity with the need to meet in-person or virtually.
Even if your team or organization have already been in a hybrid or remote set-up for a while, this free resource from LifeLab Learning is a terrific tool to facilitate a self-audit to see if there are items missing that you can include in this next phase of work. If you adopt a learner's mindset, there are always things that can be improved!
Good luck! I would love to hear what works (or doesn’t!) for you. If there are other resources you have found to be successful that you would like to share with the One Eleven Leadership community, please reach out!
If you (or someone you know) could benefit from working with a certified coach and trained facilitator who will provide customized, holistic, and tireless support as you or your team identify and take action towards your goals, please reach out to One Eleven Leadership to set up a complimentary consultation.