When the pandemic struck, many of us faced unexpected challenges, juggling work and life. Some of us have suddenly taken on extremely atypical caregiving or teaching responsibilities, others have been confined to small living spaces day in and day out, while being catapulted into a seemingly open work-from-home setup.
In new ways, we’ve realized the benefits of a much more flexible work environment and support system. Today, many of us want to maintain this greater flexibility in the way we work, while continuing to grow and prosper in our careers. Step into the hybrid workplace.
Now more than ever, it’s time to embrace new, agile and inclusive ways of working. While a hybrid working model can certainly meet our growing need for flexibility, success will lie in helping foster a working environment that is not limited or affected by where or how someone is. ‘A work.
In the past 20+ months, employers have learned that remote work inequality is one of the main challenges that accompanies working in mixed teams. For those of us in leadership roles, we have the opportunity to continue to evolve what inclusion looks like in today’s hybrid workplace. I suggest starting with the following three opportunities:
Raise awareness of inclusion in a hybrid model
With a hybrid working model, it is important that employers equip their employees with the skills necessary for effective and inclusive collaboration with people who work in different locations.
● Provide advice on how to reduce stigma in person so that everyone has the opportunity to make an impact, no matter where they are.
● Have hybrid teams create custom plans based on the individual needs of team members, including location and schedule.
● Foster a culture of belonging by encouraging teams to have open conversations, both virtually and in person, that provide a safe space to share needs and recommendations on what works and what doesn’t.
Build meaningful connections and relationships between hybrid teams
While it may seem easier to connect with colleagues who work with you in person – or it may just be a role model that is more familiar to you – it is essential that we give everyone an equal chance to connect.
From chatting with employees throughout the pandemic, I learned that something as simple as having a meaningful connection and face-to-face conversation (even via video) with a peer or leader was one of the main reasons someone decided to stay with the company. As we move to our hybrid work environments, we must continue to invest in collaborative technologies and train the workforce in digital skills so that everyone can bond personally, whether virtual or in person.
Create learning and development opportunities for everyone
As you develop your hybrid workplace plans, establish how employees will have equitable access to learning and development opportunities. Make sure you remove unnecessary restrictions on where, when and how your employees learn, and keep the programs simple and user-focused.
Also consider new resources and training specifically focused on leadership skills to manage and work in mixed teams. Keep in mind that the hybrid workplace is still a relatively new concept to many, and it will take new skills to flourish. Personalized training such as “how to get the most out of virtual meetings” or “how to present when you’re not in the room” will go a long way in ensuring fair visibility for remote employees.
These are three ideas that I have seen working in our company. There is no playbook to follow. Our hybrid journeys won’t be perfect, but I’m confident that by providing more choice for employees, we can support a workplace that can work for everyone.
With intentional planning, a willingness to reinvent the possible, and helpful implementation guidance, we can create effective and inclusive hybrid work environments to help employees succeed. And let’s not forget to give ourselves and each other a little grace and patience as we get there.
Kimberly Jones is Head of Talent Strategy and People Experience at PwC. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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