We all know Hybrid Work is one of the newest and biggest trends in the professional working world. These important job changes have developed different ways of thinking. Managing a hybrid workforce definitely requires a different form of thinking. Managers and teams must review how they develop and motivate to get the best from their people in this new hybrid world.

Careful consideration of the policies, procedures, and processes is needed to optimize productivity. At the same time, we also need to create an inclusive workplace culture for all, regardless of where you’re working from.

In addition to optimizing productivity through a thoughtful review of policies, procedures, and processes, it’s crucial to foster an inclusive workplace culture where active listening plays an important role. Active listening ensures that every team member’s voice is heard and valued, regardless of their physical location.

There are three issues in particular that concern me about long-term (permanent) hybrid working. How do we maximize our human connection, create positive team energy, and build a positive performance culture? We will discuss this further in our Expert Roundup with Q&As from people with successful companies and experts on the topic.

What are the most important aspects to care about to have a successful online meeting?

Since online meetings take away the ability to read non-verbal cues, it’s tough to translate the energy and insights that come from face-to-face meetings into the digital realm. That’s why keeping participants engaged should be one of the most important aspects of care that can lead to a successful online meeting. And to keep participants motivated, meetings should be kept as short as possible with just the necessary people present, starting with planning an icebreaker session pre-meeting, remote team building activity, or short, interactive quiz.

Another crucial factor is to make sure that everyone (especially the speakers and meeting hosts– if any) has a solid, stable internet connection. The frozen screen, a lag in audio, or just straight up getting disconnected will not only make meetings more time-consuming but also make it really hard for participants to focus on keeping up with the topics.

Andre Oentoro, CEO and Founder of Breadnbeyond

How to manage time in an online meeting

Meetings can be productive and help crack the most difficult problems, but they can also be unnecessary and time-consuming. When done the right way, meetings can work wonders in the workplace. Hence, I think the most important aspects of a successful online meeting aren’t that different from offline ones. 

The first important aspect to take into consideration is how much time your participants will be taking out of their day to join your meeting, so you should keep it brief to avoid wasting anyone’s time. Meetings that are over 30 minutes tend to be counterproductive. 

The second aspect to care about is organization. To avoid getting sidetracked, it’s important to have an agenda in place so everyone knows what to expect from the meeting, what the talking points are, and to keep the meeting on track.

The last aspect would be the valuable subject matter. Although routine meetings can be redundant, it’s important to try to give participants some value when they leave. You can do this by giving call-to-actions, discussions, or by discussing plans for the following meeting to continue the flow of an organization. 

Ebnu Sudarso, Co-Founder of Milkwhale

How to get the most out of an employee development plan

A well-structured employee development plan sets the right expectations early on. It saves you a lot of stress, emotional energy and time down the line. Negative feedback conversations are often connected to the original expectations of an employee when they started in their new position. Many negative conversations with a direct report can often be traced back to a lack of clarity upfront from the line manager or unrealistic expectations (on both sides).

Taylor Wells

How can you find beneficial ways to communicate in meetings?

When conducting an online meeting, it’s important to be mindful of the time and agenda. Having multiple online meetings can be counterproductive if your employees are working remotely. Instead of giving freedom for employees to finish their tasks, they are forced to attend every virtual meeting here and there.

That’s why keeping the meeting short is beneficial for both ends. A longer online meeting can bore participants, and it doesn’t give much end value for the discussed topic as the meeting will probably stretch into some sort of unnecessary talk.

Make sure to be on time when scheduling a virtual meeting and have the agenda set beforehand. That way, the meeting can go according to the plan, and the discussion won’t stretch away from the main problem.  

Natasha Rei, Digital Marketing Manager of Explainerd 

What communication skills do you think are the most important for a hybrid work manager?

Managers frequently have a laser-like emphasis on reaching a certain goal, but in a hybrid work setting, that approach can make communication transactional. A task is assigned, carried out by someone, reviewed by the manager, and crossed off the employee’s list.

The human element and chances to develop a deeper connection with employees may disappear as a result of this type of communication. An excellent initial step is to take some time to go over constructive criticism and provide open communication all along the process.

Moreover, managers must employ the most fundamental yet frequently disregarded skill: active listening, in order for work to get done more effectively. Managers should endeavor to grasp what their team members intend to get and what matters most to them?

Managers should stay attentive while employees respond to these concerns. They should reiterate the facts, sentiments, and principles they have heard throughout the conversation. The majority of listeners believe that it is easier to listen to facts, yet communicators report feeling more understood when you reiterate their thoughts and ideals. It is much easier for both parties to feel connected when listening to values, concerns, and more.

Ammara Tariq, Marketing manager at Chanty

What strategy can companies implement to ensure effective communication and collaboration between remote and in-office workers in a hybrid work environment?

Hybrid work environments require effective communication and collaboration between remote and in-office workers. Companies can implement strategies such as using smart office systems like ONES to enable virtual collaboration and real-time communication.

For instance, seamless hot desking allows employees to book a desk in advance and ensure a smooth transition from remote to in-office work. Regular check-ins and team meetings can also help to build rapport and ensure everyone is on the same page. Additionally, data visualization tools can help remote, and in-office workers stay informed about team and company performance in real-time, promoting transparency and collaboration. By providing employees with access to smart office systems, companies can create a more connected and productive work environment for all employees, regardless of their location.

Charles Ma, Marketing Manager at ONES Software Limited

What do you consider to be the main steps to build a strong hybrid work culture?

To build a strong, hybrid work culture, one needs to understand that it will and should differ from a more traditional, work culture that you’d see in an organization where virtually everyone and perhaps everyone works in person all of the time. Just as Zoom meetings and conferences are not, cannot, and should not be the same as in-person meetings, the same is true with hybrid work environments.

Work culture has always differed organization-to-organization, department-to-department, and team-to-team. You may have loved the culture under your old boss but when she left the company and was replaced by a new manager, that new manager will inevitably change the culture because they’re a different person and will therefore manage differently. The culture you experienced when working in person will differ if you’re working remotely part or especially all of the time even if you’re working for the same company, in the same department, part of the same team, and for the same manager. That’s okay and we shouldn’t fight against that. We should understand that the cultures will be different and then work to make the new culture as rewarding as possible for all concerned, including the employee and the organization.

The company that I founded, College Recruiter, has been fully remote since 1997. In that 25-year period of time, what we’ve learned as critical to building a good culture is that communication needs to be proactive, thoughtful, and direct. It is also vital that everyone is accountable. Some repel the word accountable as they infer that it means they’ll be punished if they make an error. But accountability cuts both ways when implemented properly. Too often, managers will instruct their direct reports to do something but not provide them with guidance as to when that work needs to be completed. The manager may trust the judgment of their direct report but the manager may also not have taken the extra step to consider and then communicate when they need the work done.

That’s on the manager. They need to do just that and the employee then needs to directly acknowledge whether the deadline is reasonable or not and, if not, why and when they can get the work done. That way, both the manager and the employee are on the same page regarding what is “reasonable” and if the employee gets the work done during that period of time, both they and the manager will know that the deadline was met. That kind of communication is more difficult but fosters trust and healthy collaboration, which are vital to creating, enhancing, and maintaining a strong work culture in a hybrid or even fully remote work environment.

Steven Rothberg, Founder at College Recruiter

What hardware do hybrid workers need to balance their work between their home and office?

Hybrid workers should be able to take their work home and vice versa. So, the setup should include a high-performance laptop that does not compromise portability. It is also a great idea to provide workers with an external monitor for their WFH setup. It has been proven to increase the overall productivity by a long shot. Ergonomics and comfort are also two other important factors. Therefore, having dedicated mice or trackpads are also valuable additions to a hybrid-work hardware collection. If you want a hybrid worker to spend hours on the job every day, the inclusion of a comfort-oriented chair will be worthwhile.

An employer must also ensure that workers have access to high-speed internet. In the case of creative professionals like video editors and audio engineers, they also need powerful speakers and headphones. We also need to emphasize the need for a basic set of accessories, such as USB-C and Thunderbolt docks. So, when they have to work from the office or home, a single connection can power their setup.

Hardware at the organizational level also plays an important role. Employees who work from home should be able to become an active part of on-premises meetings and vice versa. Meeting rooms and hardware suited for a hybrid work culture will be a great step in this step. These hardware additions will make it easier for workers to balance their home and office lives.

Rajesh Namase, Co-Founder of TechRT.com

Tips for working from home to prevent distractions and increase productivity

  • Implement a self-care morning routine: Because working from home saves you the hassle of commuting to the office, you now have the opportunity for self-care.
  • Create a Dedicated Office Space: Working from home does not mean working in bed or on the couch while your favorite show is on. One way of preventing this is by creating a professional atmosphere that is private and quiet for you to work.
  • Use A Planner: Plan out your week using a physical or digital planner! This will help with managing your time and prioritizing your tasks.
  • Avoid Personal Cellphones and Other Electronics: It is recommended that turning off your phone notifications during work hours will help maintain concentration.
  • Avoid Multitasking: Set boundaries between doing your work during work hours and leave the household chores and personal tasks for after.

The Art of Business

What all to consider when creating a remote workforce?

A remote workforce comes with an expectation of excellent work quality and enhanced productivity. There are many reasons businesses adopt a more remote-friendly workplace but are they prepared for its reality? 

To get remote-friendly, these organizations must first consider some critical areas that cover everything from a sense of inclusion to the work culture required in a remote setup.

Communication and Collaboration

Communication portals must be implemented to increase employee engagement and motivation and track progress in real-time. This can mean a bare minimum of ensuring conferencing systems and social chat channels for the remote teams.

Remote Workforce Policy

A simple, fair, and easy-to-understand policy should be developed and agreed upon by all employees who will work remotely, regardless of frequency. For a practical approach, it is crucial to comprehend what is and isn’t acceptable with the proper procedures to be followed.

Compensation

Companies must define a clear and consistent compensation structure for remote and physical employees. This will help the company stay aligned with its business goals while also setting a clear picture of compensation for the newly staffed remote employees.

Security

When sending confidential information over the internet, security should come first. Any reputable provider of a communication/collaboration tool or data storage system should be able to provide security information upon request.

Remote work is a new reality and can be a win-win for the employer and the employee if done correctly. Companies should definitely consider these four factors if they are genuinely ready to retain the top global talent in a virtual work environment.

Crispino Santamaria, Social Media Manager at Wishup

What are the pros of working from home?

  • Working from home provides more flexibility to the employees by working at their own convenience.
  • Reduces stress, as the employee can manage both family and work together.
  • Great savings of time and money, as it straight away saves your valuable time required to commute to the office and the expense involved in traveling.
  • Working from home pays you often more than full-time jobs as you directly work with the clients and per-hour billing is directly paid to you.

Pune First

What do you consider to be the top 3 benefits of remote working?

Remote work has various benefits both for employees and companies. In my opinion, the top 3 advantages for your team are:

Work-life balance is easier to maintain: you can hop on the call, then do your laundry or take your kid from kindergarten. You can have much more flexible working hours while doing your job remotely, focusing more on your family and friends.

Time and money savings: you don’t commute every day, so you can wake up later and don’t waste your time and money on getting to the office. This means less stress caused by traffic jams, being late, etc.

Your geographic location doesn’t limit you anymore: you can go on workation and do your job from the comfort of any place that has a fine internet connection. You can work for international brands from your home country – it doesn’t matter anymore where you are, you can work for almost every company in the world remotely.

Piotr Sedzik, CEO of Applover

What are the main 3 tools a hybrid team needs to share and edit documents to work productively?

“So, when I’m thinking of documents, it’s a three-parter: drafting, revising, and storage. You can’t go wrong with the classics which is why we’re using Google Docs for moment-to-moment work. There is no easier way to highlight a paragraph that doesn’t look right as my teammate on the other end will see my note in real-time.We don’t always work on the same schedule, though, which is why we use Trello to coordinate. Kanban board is a great way to visualize the progress of many documents at once without filler. I don’t need to ask for updates. I can open my board and see that our copywriter pushed a few documents to review, leave my notes and send them back if any extra work needs doing.Once everything’s said and done, it’s time to organize and store your writing. Sure, you can keep everything on the shared Google Drive, but you cannot add structure there. Besides something like nested folders, and it’s a pain to sort through them.We use our own solution – Pics.io Digital Asset Management – because it works for us. We can add metadata tags to help us find needed documents without extra clicking. I’ve also had a great experience with Atlassian in the past, and I’ve found that it works much better if the majority of your documents are for internal use.Ultimately, you don’t have to use these particular tools. You can substitute Docs with Office 365 or Trello with ClickUp and get similar results. It’s all about how your choice of tools works to counter weaknesses of hybrid teams – inability to sit side-by-side, conflicting schedules, and inconsistent access to information. Productivity is all about eliminating unnecessary downtime. In our case, we do that with the tools that I’ve listed.”

Bohdan Kryvenko,  Copywriter at Pics.io

Why do you think time tracking is so important when dealing with hybrid work teams?

What often happens in a hybrid work environment is people take on more work and responsibilities than initially planned, but the management doesn’t know that. There’s less informal communication so you hear only about the flashy, big work stuff. And all the little things get overlooked – exactly the things eat up the most time.

Time tracking, even if as simple as “I’ve worked on this, this, and this today” gives a person a chance to signal everything that’s on their plate. Otherwise, management will be wondering why a person is unproductive without realizing it’s the opposite.

Once you have data in front of you, you can start a conversation about where the time should go and who needs to do what.

Aleksandar Olic, VP of Marketing at Clockify, Pumble, and Plaky (COING).

What approach would you take to strengthen your workforce’s motivation and relationships in a hybrid environment?

In response to the demands of a hybrid workplace, now is a key time for front-level managers to keep people engaged by allowing employees the autonomy they’re seeking. But how can managers allow autonomy but also ensure productivity?

The answer? Accountability.

Managers need to be skilled in both increasing autonomy while also helping employees perform at a high level. Consider the relationship between flexibility and standards in the workplace:

• Flexibility – Standards = Low Performance

• Flexibility + Standards = Potential Performance

• Flexibility + Standards + Accountability = High Performance and High Growth

Allowing employees the flexibility to meet expectations is still possible (e.g., “I don’t care when you do this assignment, but please make sure it’s done by Friday at noon.”). However, in a hybrid culture, managers must become adept at creating very clear expectations when standards need to be met. Flexibility and standards are not enough – employees must also know that while they have the freedom to choose how assignments are completed, these assignments still have parameters.

This accountability can begin to be achieved by 1) having regular communication and by 2) quickly addressing gaps in performance and expectations. First, it’s OK to cite your expectations multiple times. Check-in regularly with your employees – not as a babysitter, but as someone who is invested in their well-being. Second, don’t be afraid to bring up times when an employee doesn’t meet expected standards of performance. And do it early! It’s much easier (and much less harmful to the organization) to discuss one or two missed deadlines and stop the problem quickly rather than letting performance suffer over weeks and months.

Justin Hale, Master Trainer at Crucial Learning

What do you consider to be the top benefits of implementing a hybrid work model?

Before ditching the office park entirely, employers should consider a hybrid work model. Here’s why: for early talent, it’s still important to have the option of an in-person work environment where they can connect with their co-workers while also having the flexibility to work from home. Often, our conceptions of remote work involve the most dramatic scenarios: someone working for an office in New York while typing on a beach on Bali. But often, remote work simply means spending some—not all—of your time working from a home office not too distant from your workplace. In fact, in a recent Tallo survey, 37% of early talent said that they preferred to work 50% of the time in an office and 50% of the time remotely.

This is most likely because a hybrid work model offers a healthy work-life balance by reducing the stressors of a traditional work environment while also maintaining the positive benefits of collaboration and relationship building. In addition, it has positive effects on the environment; with fewer employees coming to work, large offices are no longer needed and commute times are significantly reduced. But, most importantly, a hybrid work environment is proven to boost mental health; it gives your employees autonomy over their schedule so they can choose when to be in collaborative spaces and when to be somewhere different when they need it – both of which lead to increased productivity & employee satisfaction. Learn more about what early talent thinks of remote work.

Abbi O’Donnell, Marketing Manager at Tallo

How would you help your workforce transition to a hybrid work experience? What steps would you take to do it successfully?

To ensure a successful workforce transition to hybrid work, I suggest taking the following steps:

  1. Transition planning. You should analyze your current business processes and determine which employees are eligible for hybrid work. Usually, certain specialists like IT support staff must stay in the office every day, but they can work in shifts. For other employees, you should decide upon a suitable work schedule: for example, they can work from the office two days a week. Individual working schedules for each employee may help achieve maximum productivity when working in the hybrid model.
  2. Remote digital environment preparation. It’s necessary to provide employees with stable access to the company’s resources via VPN. Besides, you should consider setting up virtual machines that will help the employees perform all of their tasks efficiently even if they don’t have a powerful PC at home.
  3. Digital tools optimization. You need to determine a unified set of digital tools that will be used by all the employees, which will help avoid communication silos, streamline employee collaboration, and reduce security risks. It needs to include productivity tools, tools for communication and collaboration, document management, project management, employee work time and performance tracking, knowledge management, etc.
  4. New security measures were implemented. You should conduct a vulnerability assessment and penetration testing of the new IT environment, and review and adjust the established security policies and procedures. Also, I recommend blocking sensitive internal resources from external access and encrypting the hard drives of the workstations that employees took home from the office.
  5. Employee training. Conduct training for the employees that go hybrid, especially on the new security and collaboration policies. Also, a part of the training should be devoted to teaching employees to use the new digital tools or the new capabilities of the tools currently used by employees (e.g., whiteboarding and live transcription capabilities of Microsoft Teams) in remote work. This will help streamline everyday activities.

Pavel Ilyusenko, Head of PMO at ScienceSoft

What are your top challenges when managing hybrid workforce successfully?

It’s been over two years since we all had to change the way we work forever. Even though the IT industry was supposed to be one of the fastest to adapt to the new way of working, many companies faced challenges considering that most IT companies did not have a remote culture implemented before the pandemic. This was the case for Creatopy, a Romanian IT company that builds a digital ad design and automation platform. 

The hybrid work model offers both advantages and disadvantages for the company, and when implementing it for the first time, it always comes with the resistance that is so common in any change process.  

Some of the advantages of the hybrid work model are the fact that the talent pool is expanding a lot, as the location is no longer a barrier. For local companies that didn’t have a diverse workforce before, the need to adopt a diverse and inclusive culture quickly was a high priority. To address this topic, suggest implementing an English-first policy and making sure that all communication is in a language that unites everyone. 

 Another challenge was the fact that life for the colleagues working from home changed dramatically as they had to share their office with new colleagues: their kids, pets, spouses, parents, etc. Parents also had to adapt their schedules to accommodate child care in their working routines. Then we noticed a more stagnant way of life, especially for the people that are working mostly from home. We have to find solutions to create wellness programs to keep employees engaged and in shape even from a distance.   

The next challenge is making sure you have the proper managerial capabilities to handle the situation. Managers have to be prepared for a new way of measuring performance, increasing productivity, and developing people from the distance. In hybrid working, people’s performance can not be measured by the effort they put into work but by the outcome of their work.  

Another challenge that I’ve noticed is the HR role, infrastructure & local legislation. The HR role is essential in implementing hybrid working. It is the person who has to advocate for employees but protect the company’s interests at the same time. Whenever we have a conflict between the two, the HR professionals should find the best solution to balance the two sides.  

Hybrid working might raise some challenges for HR as local labor legislation is not updated to the new working style, and sometimes they can create a lot of bureaucracy and are limited by some outdated regulations. There are a lot of challenges in terms of time tracking, recruitment and onboarding, and equality. Some tasks can be done remotely in a crisis; however, they are much more effectively done in person. Therefore some employees might not be able to work from home whenever they want, while others will be able to work from home unconditionally. Before adopting a hybrid approach, employers should analyze each role in detail and make sure they come up with plans that are both fair and sustainable. 

The last challenge is to create a culture where each employee takes ownership of their work, career, development, and other aspects of their employment experience. Employees should be willing to create their work environment and schedule to allow them to be in sync with their teams whenever needed. Adapting their homes to create space for offices, with or without the help of the employer, and the list can go on.  

Carmen Parge, HR Manager at Creatopy

What are the 3 key items to implement hybrid work in a customer service company successfully?

The days teams are expected to be on-site 9 to 5 are gone. We are working with more than 2000+ employees globally and know that ready or not hybrid and remote-first work is here to stay.The biggest challenge for us was to organize a hybrid workplace in a way that equally considers the needs of in-office employees and remote employees (taking into consideration different time zones and shifts) and set up an arrangement that benefits all of the employees and our clients and partners as well.

It’s clear we’re all learning as we go, but we’ve learned a lot from our clients and partners before jumping into a hybrid work plan. Our  “Work From Home” experiment in 2020 demonstrated that it is possible to give employees choice without sacrificing a company’s business plan, work ethic, and reputation. I am a strong believer that work is not a “place”—it’s what people do.

What strategies can managers use to support employees transitioning to hybrid work while ensuring productivity, communication, and work-life balance?

To support employees transitioning to hybrid work, managers should focus on productivity, communication, and work-life balance. This could be achieved by setting clear expectations and measurable goals. Robust communication is essential. Regular check-ins and effective use of collaborative technologies can bridge the gap between remote and in-office teams, ensuring everyone feels included and informed. A company should work on encouraging flexible schedules where possible and respect boundaries to prevent burnout and gain work-life balance for its employees. This can include setting core hours when everyone is available, regardless of their location.

Olena, Senior Marketing Manager of Jobgether

How can businesses effectively balance the need for cybersecurity with the flexibility and efficiency offered by a hybrid workforce model?

Allowing employees to work remotely poses ample security risks. To help mitigate these risks, security teams need to consider the unique vulnerabilities associated with work happening outside of a traditional secure perimeter and mitigate them accordingly.

  • WFH security policies & training—Empower hybrid employees by making them aware of their security responsibilities and how those responsibilities evolve based on their working location
  • User activity monitoring—Monitor web browsing, app usage, file transfers, etc, for high-risk or anomalous behavior that could indicate an insider threat or account compromise
  • Dedicated Devices—While BYOD is a great WFH perk, it’s simply far easier to protect systems that are designated for work purposes only
  • Secure access—Ensure employees have secure access to the systems and data they need for their roles. Methods include a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt data traffic between employees’ devices and your company’s network, stricter data access controls for off-site staff, and data loss prevention tools

CurrentWare.com

What are the 3 key elements of the successful hybrid work implementation?

Trust: It feels awkward or inauthentic sometimes, particularly for leaders who are typically understated in their leadership approach. However, I see it more as an opportunity for leaders to develop professionally in this area. An important thing as well is to develop a “Remote-First Mindset”- while hybrid working is like being friends with a vegetarian — you always need to keep it in mind when you’re making dinner plans.

Doubling Down on IT security: No extra comments on this. It is just better to be not vulnerable in this area rather than to deal with the consequences later.

Empathy & EQ Leadership: I see that too often businesses will try to recreate “the office environment” for remote employees. What is much more productive for the company is to try to organize asynchronous work. Asynchronous work means working independently and on your own time. Don’t feel scared – this won’t affect collaboration or cross-functional work. When an individual’s role isn’t dependent on the presence or participation of others – more creativity & extraordinary smart solutions can take place!

Empathetic skills require constant practice like muscle training. It is impossible to fake empathy, you have to step out of your comfort zone, build new connections based on shared interest, motivation, and trust.

Anastasiia Bilous, COO at New Media Services