Thriving with Your Remote/Hybrid Team
Before the pandemic, many organizations and employees were skeptical about the viability of remote work.
How would it be managed? Would anything get done?
Then, seemingly overnight, quarantines and lockdowns forced many companies to pivot to allow the majority of their employees to work virtually.
“Some companies had considered a remote or hybrid work team before, but they were daunted by what they perceived would be an insurmountable learning curve,” says The River Group’s co-founder and president, Peter Thied, PhD. “The pandemic forced a rapid global deployment of a remote/hybrid working model just to keep an organization going.”
It was a true make it work moment.
The Surprise Silver Linings
“The belief was that productivity would go down,” says Thies, who has spent more than two decades counseling the leaders of global companies in making strategic organization changes. “Yet it actually seems like the productivity has gone up — but so have stress levels.”
As he explains it, “People are getting more work done because they feel they have to fill the time. There isn’t a lot of chitchat or wasted effort or long walks up and down the halls.” However, this benefit has the cost of taxing workloads, feelings of isolation and a potential erosion of culture.
Since all companies have received a “crash course” in working virtually, the resistance to the remote/hybrid team is consequently much lower post-pandemic and most leaders have recognized it is part of the next normal.
The Remote/Hybrid Team is Here to Stay
“We tell leaders, ‘just get used to it,'” Thies says. “The technology is much better and people have become more acclimated to it during this past year, so it’s not going to go away.”
Certainly, a remote/hybrid workforce has advantages. “There is the obvious cost savings in real estate and office space,” Thies says. “But an even bigger benefit will be access to talent. Companies can now have a lot more employees at manager and senior level who don’t live anywhere near major locations or HQ.”
The downsides? It’s the same for everyone. “Other companies that previously couldn’t compete for your talent because of their location can now compete for your employees,” Thies says. This means it’s imperative to keep your best talent engaged and connected to the culture, even while part of a hybrid work environment.
The New Normal
As explained in our white paper, “Emerging Stronger: Can Your Company Beat the Odds?,” navigating the new normal will require leaders to challenge core existing talent management practices.
They’ll have to re-activate employees to boost their commitment and belief in the company’s purpose and plans.
And since we know virtual distance lowers engagement and many workers already are either disengaged or not psychologically attached to their work, leaders also will have to creatively rally around employees’ important causes–a societal imperative, a new technology, a new product.
Employers also need to consider new criteria for who’s in the office on what days.
“We’re suggesting that our clients think about where collaboration is needed the most when they bring their workforces back in-person,” he says. “Perhaps earmark certain days for entire management, project or leadership teams to be together for the purpose of collaboration sessions.”
As the next normal ensues, those companies who ready themselves to address the unique challenges posed by managing remote workers will emerge stronger than those who do not adapt.