Managing a Hybrid Workforce: Resetting Offices, Employees & Expectations
We’ve reached it … the other side of work from home. And as companies begin to layout new plans, a variety of options are emerging. Some workers are already back in the office every day, some will continue in a work-from-home format, and many will shift to a blended schedule that includes time in the office and time at home.
And with all of these transitions, managers will have to reset expectations.
Work from home was all over the board…for good reason. Managers pulled together WFH employees and found a way of working together that was different and effective. In many instances because there wasn’t a good alternative. Because many people weren’t in the office, they weren’t aware of how different some of the choices were among managers, across teams and from company to company. We’ve heard it all, from teams that get together every morning to groups that haven’t really met as a team for more than a year. And we’ve seen it all, from employees who got no support to set a home office environment to those equipped with the lighting and camera requirements to emulate a true office setting.
That’s why the reset will be different. While managers tried ways to keep teams connected and involved with each other, the overall takeaway is that the company culture struggles when people don’t have a place and a community that brings them together. Not every day, but most days, so that individuals don’t lose the power of teamwork. And companies know that the employee experience needs to feel consistent and connected across all teams. They also know that they can manage impressions much better in a work environment.
Impressions never really went away. We noticed when someone wasn’t really dressed for work; we noticed when someone seemed distracted, and we noticed when technology failed. We saw it all, but since we were all in it together, we tried harder to focus on what we heard vs. what we saw.
And that’s where the shift begins.
Once a few people went back, the expectations came back as well. It doesn’t really matter where you are when you talk to a manager or a customer, but how you show up for that discussion does. And if someone has given you their attention, the expectation is that you will do the same.
Can you deliver a presentation with poor lighting? Sure, but the impact drops by more than 50% when people can’t see your face. Can you meet with a client from your bedroom? Sure, but it isn’t where they are anymore and they notice the difference. In fact, more than 80% say they’re distracted by it. And can you demonstrate product capabilities if your internet freezes? Sure, but more than 75% of viewers place some of that responsibility on you. They assume you weren’t prepared and didn’t check to be sure you could deliver the presentation well from your location.
The bottom line is that people working in offices now have a home-court advantage. The office environment makes it much easier to show up well. And when some people show up better than others, impressions can lead to assumptions that are hard to overcome.
Right now, and for the next few months, managers will have to reset expectations of what participation, intention and focus look like in different settings.
As employees adjust to blended schedules or hybrid settings, managers will need to redefine what work from home really means. Is it about a relaxed schedule and flexible hours? Is it a decrease in hours and more time to manage family and personal time? Or is it simply a different location with the same expectations as in-office expectations?
In short order, we will feel the shift from “we’ll make it work” to “why aren’t you doing what I’m doing” comparisons. Clarity on expectations will be key. If people are held accountable to the same expectations, then companies will need to provide the right tools to help employees improve their home work environment. And if you haven’t done so, it will take training to help a virtual employee think about intention and impressions in an “out of the office” setting.
Over the last year, we’ve trained thousands of people to leverage virtual tools and show up with meaningful intention. And while it was a survival tool for many, it has shifted to a differentiator in impressions of people, products and companies.
The gaps and comparisons will only continue as we begin to mix the format and experiences between office settings and virtual settings. It doesn’t have to be a handicap; it can be a great choice as long as it comes with guidelines and expectations. We can help you do it as you focus not just on where people will work but how they drive influence and impact in any setting.
Want some help defining expectations and managing a hybrid workforce? Schedule a call with us and we’ll share our insights and tools to help you reset your team.