In today’s working environment, managers of employees both in-office and around the world need to learn a new level of agility - as all roads are leading towards hybrid work models. It’s not just about mastering remote work management skills or being a great in-person manager, it’s also about finding time to balance all forms of hybrid work.
Piece of cake, right? Not so much.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes managers will make in a hybrid office:
Micromanagement was already a problem before the pandemic. And that didn’t slow down during fully-remote work—micromanagers just got creative. Peeking over the shoulder turned into keeping tabs on your every move on Slack or Hangouts.
In our State of Remote Work report, 90% of employees said they’re as productive or even more so when they work remote. But managers are still concerned about remote work. 36% of managers told us they are concerned about employee productivity. And 36% are worried about reduced focus. Even so, finding new ways to peek over an employee’s shoulder won’t be the solution to quell those worries.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to manage your hybrid employees is to give them space. Refocusing after a single distraction can take up to 23 minutes.
While face time is important, nonstop meetings can impede productivity time. That “meeting that could have been an email” is costing you valuable time and dollars.
Establish “autonomous working hours” or a “no-meeting day” to ensure your management isn’t getting the way of your team’s actual work. Grant your team the autonomy to focus on deep work. That uninterrupted space provides levels of productivity and balance you can’t replicate.
It can be difficult to “turn off” the workday when your office is also your kitchen. Hybrid workers report putting in more hours remotely than they do at the office. Yet only 11% of managers are concerned about employee burnout.
“Butts in seats” mentality isn’t working, whether your employees are down the hall or across the country. Measuring time inputs that don’t reflect on work quality won’t help your bottom line. If anything, it can impede employee happiness and cause resentment. This mentality is what leads to Joe staying in the office overnight, or to Alice working through lunch and dinner even though her desk is right by her fridge.
And the golden rule rings true: no texting out of working hours. This practice has become so invasive some countries are outlawing it entirely. Give your teammates the personal time they deserve. If they can’t separate from work at the end of the day, they’ll find other ways to disengage with work.
Hybrid work means you can’t have a “one size fits all” approach to management. You have to take new perspectives into account when making decisions, like buying catered lunch for a meeting and sending delivery gift cards to your attendees dialing in on Zoom. You also need to take into account what isn’t in your perspective—when you’re in an office with 10% of your team, how do you acknowledge the other 90%? How do you make sure everyone’s hard work is visible?
A good manager needs to balance the hybrid needs of employees regardless of their location. Employees who have returned to in-person working say that they feel more included when at the office. Simple practices go a long way to make employees feel seen and heard, like replicating the watercooler in a Slack channel or having a weekly kudos session.
Don’t discount the impact of in-the-moment training. An Excel function you can walk someone through while standing next to them may be a huge obstacle someone in another location isn’t solving. Some managers benefit from having “office hours” on a Slack Huddle where anyone can pop in and ask a quick question like this. Find a feedback loop that works for your team and your availability.
Regardless of location, use both face time and digital channels to acknowledge successes as they come in and celebrate ways your people can grow. Continue to identify coaching opportunities and stress the importance of them in your regular 1:1s. Your team can only succeed if you invest in them.
The biggest mistake any manager can make is assuming everyone shares the same experience.
Top-down decision-making can often lead to folks being forgotten. A sudden shift to in-person working may mean a remote-first employee has to scramble to find childcare. An employee may want to be in the office every day because it’s the only place they get reliable internet access. Avoid making sweeping decisions without considering each employee’s needs.
If you’re in the office, remember that your coworkers at home may be managing children who are learning virtually or a partner whose desk is right behind them. And if you’re remote, consider that your coworkers in the office might miss being able to walk up to your desk to ask you a quick question every now and then.
Our new work reality is not business as usual, and that needs to be acknowledged. Give your employees regular pulse checks to get out of your own headspace. You’ll make more informed decisions that help your team.
Do you and your employees have all the tools they need to do their jobs effectively? What does that look like in the office? What does that look like at home? Are you providing the same experience for both?
Equip your employees with the right technology to communicate and collaborate with each other. That means proper video technology, internet access, project management tools, and an up-to-date computer. It can also mean ergonomic desk furniture, a hearty supply of caffeine, and a noise-canceling headset.
Many employers provide a one-time work from home expense. Others provide a monthly stipend. What your company provides may differ, but it’s up to you to ensure your employees can do their job with what they have.
It’s not just about the tools, either—how are you preparing your communication? Are you planning your meetings around both on-site and remote needs? Build a list of hybrid meeting musts your team should follow. That includes hand raise systems so people can contribute to video calls, proper visual cues like Powerpoint slides or an on-screen whiteboard, and a call system (“This is Sarah speaking…”). Your meeting experience should feel the same for all hybrid types.
Effective hybrid management is a learning experience. And your teammates are learning it along with you. Use your time with your employees to gauge how well you’re managing this new work environment. Listening to their feedback will help you elevate their experience and find new ways to flourish.
Don’t forget that we are all building the future of hybrid work together. Download our free guide to manage remote employees as you create your own management best practices for a hybrid workplace.