Implementing a hybrid working model can bring huge benefits in terms of recruitment and retention, employee engagement, cost saving and productivity. But there are a number of specific challenges involved, and addressing these early can make the difference when it comes to successful implementation.
Strong working relationships are enormously important to your business, but during the pandemic, when many employees were suddenly thrust into homeworking, some working relationships between colleagues suffered, where they were strong previously, and certainly many new employees joining an organisation for the first time struggled to build relationships quickly.
Implementing hybrid working successfully means ensuring you do what you can to facilitate strong relationships. There are a number of steps you can take to achieve this:
A good social connection can be enormously powerful, and can really develop working relationships well. Organise social events and try to find budget for team activities where you can, to foster that social interaction. Set an example and prioritise these so that managers can also see the importance, and participate.
Support for new starters
Building relationships is especially key for new joiners, and it can be very difficult if everyone is working on a hybrid basis. Recognise the importance of new employees establishing those internal networks and connections, and implement structures to help them do it, including mentoring, facilitated meetings, buddy systems or similar.
Access to managers
If people aren’t in the office at the same time, popping in to see the manager for a quick query isn’t possible in the same way. Employees may feel their query is not serious enough to arrange a call or send an email. Encourage managers to make themselves available for these types of queries, perhaps at set times of day, or by checking in just quickly with people very regularly.
Arrange networking events
You may not have held specific networking events previously, and may not have felt them necessary, but with people working remotely, it may be a good idea to have virtual or in-person events specifically for networking internally, enabling people to expand their professional connections.
Although some people don’t feel that comfortable with cameras, it is undoubtedly more difficult to develop a relationship with someone you don’t see, so do encourage use of cameras in meetings, and even photos on messaging platforms as well, to facilitate relationship-building through visual cues.
As well as more structured meetings, you can also create informal workspaces to promote collaboration and team working when people are in the office together, really making the most of that opportunity.
Emphasise in-person relationship building
Encouraging employees to use their in-person time for fostering professional relationships can make a difference, prioritising this over independent tasks or online work they could just as easily do from home.
Senior leaders should explicitly grant permission for this, and actively encourage employees and managers to invest time in building and maintaining effective relationships.
Building effective relationships in hybrid work environments requires intentional efforts and supportive structures. It’s challenging, but by implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, you can cultivate strong connections among your team, fostering a sense of belonging and productivity in the business, and ensuring the benefits of hybrid working aren’t undermined by relationships drifting or becoming too distant.
If you’d like some advice on avoiding difficult relationships whilst implementing hybrid working, do get in touch.