COVID-19 has helped create a new hybrid work environment that allows employees to rotate between in-office and remote work. While it has given 70% of the workforce much-needed schedule flexibility during the pandemic, it also impedes their ability to connect with co-workers and form human relationships.
Help is on the way! Here’s how you can foster a meaningful connection among your hybrid workforce.
How Connections Define a Workforce
The world might get more digital by the day, but the human connection will always be a fundamental part of the business.
Solid relationships between employees, both in-office and remote, can improve a business’s daily productivity and help build a winning culture.
Remote and hybrid schedules can interfere with productivity. A reported 54% of remote employees have difficulty connecting with their co-workers because their work setting leaves them physically and socially isolated. As a result, they don’t get the same engagement, and the quality of their work can slip.
Aside from productivity and quality, inconsistent engagement among your workforce can bring down other facets of your business, including:
- employee retention;
- career advancement; and
- creation of employee networks.
How to Foster Connections in Your Hybrid Workforce
Leaders in human resources say a tightly knit group of employees contributes more to productivity than education, experience, cognitive ability, and personality.
With that in mind, you must find innovative ways to keep your hybrid workforce included and connected. Though you might not see their faces as often, they’re every bit as important to your company’s operations as full-time office employees.
1. Emphasize purpose.
Keep your hybrid employees focused by emphasizing purpose. People who find purpose or meaning in their jobs are more engaged and likely to stay with their organizations. You can instill purpose in the following ways.
- Structure your onboarding program with chapters, checkpoints, and measurable goals.
- Encourage them to share winning stories and the progress they’ve made.
- Let them try new things and tackle new projects as they improve.
- Provide frequent feedback.
- Constantly remind them of the bigger picture (how their job makes a difference).
Since hybrid employees often work alone, they might have to interpret instructions on their own. You should establish clear responsibilities and expectations to help them understand the scope of their position.
The tips above will keep hybrid workers engaged from day one and make them feel like an integral part of the team.
2. Keep your communication lines open.
A major factor contributing to the hybrid workforce’s sense of isolation is the lack of communication with peers and superiors. If you’re not careful, your company can become siloed and develop an informal hierarchy…with hybrid employees at the bottom.
To prevent this from happening, you must keep your ears open and reach out to all employees, so they feel heard.
Check your email inbox, give them your cell phone number, and hold periodic check-ins to see how things are going. You don’t even have to talk about work. Just provide them with the opportunity to speak their minds.
When hybrid workers can confidently communicate with their co-workers, they feel more in-tune with the rest of the office and can establish a network to help them advance their careers.
3. Use collaboration tools.
Communication goes far beyond emails and phone calls these days. You must also include collaborative communication methods so your employees can see each other’s faces and engage in group discussions. The following tools can help.
- Instant Messaging Apps: Apps such as Slack and GroupMe allow your entire team to stay on the same page and give different departments their own group chats.
- Video Meeting Rooms: Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are platforms where your workforce can socialize remotely. They should hold a video conference bi-weekly or on another regular schedule.
- Cloud-Based Storage: Use Google Drive or Microsoft Office to store all of your business’s work and relevant documents in one place. Your employees can create, edit, and share their work with ease, establishing chemistry and camaraderie.
Connecting hybrid workers through group messaging, video conferences, and easily accessible documents makes them feel less like a separate group and more like part of the team.
4. Establish rituals and traditions.
From inside jokes to holiday parties, company traditions play an important role in creating a vibrant office culture. Since hybrid employees can’t always participate, you need to create alternatives for them. Some examples might include:
- shoutouts in emails and video meetings;
- personalized birthday and holiday messages;
- food deliveries to remote workers’ locations; and
- online multiplayer games.
You should also invite hybrid workers to events outside the office, such as fundraisers and happy hours. Make them feel welcome.
5. Create a mentor program.
Assign every new remote/hybrid hire with an in-office supervisor to guide them through the first few months of the job.
It’s difficult for hybrid employees to mesh with the company culture and day-to-day operations because they constantly change environments. A mentor establishes continuity with their schedules and acts as a helpful resource for them.
The hierarchy of employees can be unclear for hybrid workers, but a mentor solves this problem.
Instead of wondering who they need to report to, they can always look to their mentor for assistance. The mentor can also help them set goals, track progress, and potentially advance within the company.
One close working relationship can make all the difference. Set your hybrid workers up for success with an experienced coach.
Keeping Your Hybrid Workforce in the Loop
Isolation and lack of engagement are the main factors that contribute to a hybrid employee’s lack of productivity.
You can alleviate these problems by instilling a sense of purpose, using various lines of communication, and allowing them to collaborate with other workers seamlessly.
You can also make them feel welcome by including them in company rituals and traditions and giving them a mentor. Make them a part of the office loop, and they will be able to establish meaningful connections.