As people gradually get vaccinated, businesses are considering whether to bring their employees back to the workplace. However, employees have a wide range of feelings about working in-office or remotely. Some may feel resentful of being asked to return to the office, while others can hardly wait to chat face-to-face with coworkers. A full 55% of employees want to work remotely at least three days a week, so the hybrid workplace will most likely become the new normal.

As a result, organizations are faced with navigating a hybrid workspace in which some employees come into the office while others work remotely. Needless to say, this arrangement brings distinct challenges. Let’s take a look at the main areas where managers need to focus their energies to successfully lead a hybrid workforce.

Achieving good synergy

Managers must take extra steps to promote creativity, innovative thinking, and team spirit in a hybrid workforce. 

How can you do that? Here are a few key ways:

  • Define new cultural norms.
  • Take a remote-first approach.
  • Hold in-person meetups for everyone.

Set new cultural norms by defining what you want to keep about your old culture and what you want to change. Working hours are one aspect of culture that affects employees’ everyday work. When defining your workflow, consider how to balance in-house employees’ structured hours with remote employees’ desire for flexibility (a common theme across organizations).

Further, take a remote-first approach by making all group meetings and events remote-friendly. Continue holding online workplace events for everyone to participate in or add a virtual component to events, even if you’re holding some of them in person. You can also invite remote employees to join your monthly pizza party if they live in the same city!

Hold in-person meetups in a way that feels safe after everyone has been vaccinated. In the warmer months, gather outdoors for a picnic or a volunteering event so you can reconnect face-to-face from time to time. Even if you don’t see each other on a daily basis, developing an in-person camaraderie can help build stronger relationships.

Promoting strong communication

Organizations need to implement tools and strategies that will foster strong communication across geographical distances. Schedule informal check-ins with remote employees frequently to replace the quick water cooler chats of the workplace. Promote a culture of caring by frequently asking remote as well as in-house employees about their lives.

Define who needs to be involved in which decisions, who needs what type of information, and how you’ll communicate as a team. Create forums for idea sharing, encouraging in-house employees to use virtual collaboration tools. By bringing all voices to the same table whenever possible, you’ll spark innovative thinking.

Enhancing engagement 

Take steps to ensure all employees reach optimal engagement in their work. Survey employees on how their job duties have or have not changed during the pandemic. Find out what they wish they were doing more or less of in their daily work using quick pulse surveys. Then, work to adapt job responsibilities whenever possible so each employee feels satisfied with their role. 

Help each employee find the right balance of working from home and working from the office. Some may prefer to come in a couple of days per week, while others want to work remotely 90% of the time. Ask about their preferences and work to accommodate them.

Ensuring fairness

In-person employees may be more likely to develop a rapport with their boss. Further, their boss may be more likely to fully see their contributions. Thus, organizations need to go the extra mile to ensure remote employees’ skills and impact are seen and appreciated. Keeping a log of employees’ milestones and progress informed by frequent check-ins will help keep their achievements more front-of-mind. Make sure to give remote employees due praise during team meetings so everyone sees their contributions, too.

Despite the distinct challenges of managing both in-house and remote employees, you can develop and maintain strong team synergy. Instilling a positive workplace culture, keeping everyone engaged, and ensuring strong communication will play leading roles in this effort. Throughout the transition and beyond, demonstrate compassion for employees’ feelings about the changes they’re undergoing, and you’ll gain their loyalty for a long time to come.