The widespread shift from working in-office to working virtually has challenged leaders to effectively manage workplaces. The future of work will involve a blend of both in-office and remote working and it’s fundamental for organisations to cohesively manage this hybrid workforce while maintaining workplace culture.
Business leaders have a more challenging role than ever before. But threats to health, the economy and general uncertainty, have made the role of the leader even more important. With the dawn of the new hybrid work environment, it’s necessary for leaders to support employees no matter where they are working.
We spoke to business and leadership expert Mandy Holloway to offer a refreshing managerial perspective and provide some insights to help tackle the issues many leaders are grappling with as they move forward.
Mandy Holloway is a big advocate for positive workplaces that foster a supportive and unifying culture in a hybrid landscape. The future of work will look different, but according to Mandy, it’s up to managers to lead with empathy, equity, inclusion and empower individuals as they navigate the way ahead.
Why is the hybrid workplace a challenge for leaders?
It may seem daunting at first for leaders as they try to balance varying employee preferences while ensuring teams continue to work towards high productivity levels and constructively collaborate.
Some staff members may be enthusiastic to get back to working in the office while others may want to continue working from home. And for some, they’ll want a mix of both. It takes adaptability and willingness to trial new methods to successfully lead hybrid teams.
In the new working landscape, leaders may encounter difficulties with digital inclusion and ensuring all workers have the necessary equipment to do their job, maintaining workplace culture and sustaining effective communication with all staff, in and out of the office.
In this evolving hybrid workforce, Mandy says that leaders can better manage with trust and empowerment at the forefront of their processes. “Leadership now can’t be about control or power,” says Mandy, “It has to be about vulnerability, trust, and empowerment.”
Hybrid workplace leadership best practices:
Create company values
Company values are essential to impart guiding principles, common goals, and positive company culture for the sake of every individual.
Mandy believes that the organisational leaders who have struck gold are those that have acknowledged the wants and needs of all employees and called upon their input in formulating the company values. Mandy says that this helps to equalise and unify staff and as such, “upholds respect as well as inspiring empathy in the workplace”.
Encourage professional development
Professional development should always be a priority in the workplace and shouldn’t ever be limited to the in-office work setting.
By heightening empathetic leadership, managers can assist individuals and teams to consistently “grow and develop their capabilities” which Mandy believes will make “employees feel valued and supported”.
Leaders should actively encourage their staff to strive to be their best. Through this continual pursuit for individual and organisational excellence, success is inevitable.
Promote autonomy, inclusion, and transparency
It’s critical for leaders to “emulate the behaviour and work ethic they want to see in their employees. This helps staff to be more solution-oriented,” says Mandy.
There also must be intentional, genuine connection and interaction as this contributes to better communication and understanding in the workplace.
“Leaders need to have better conversations,” says Mandy. “This will empower their employees to make constructive decisions. It puts trust in them. The hybrid workplace will challenge leaders to converse and communicate better and sometimes, that means having hard conversations with emotionally charged content. It’s important for leaders to be prepared and skilled to do this, even via Zoom.”
Leaders need to connect with their staff at a human level in order for them to feel seen, heard and understood. This will boost the morale of individuals and teams which is extremely valuable in managing hybrid workplaces while supporting their overall output.
Deploy tech to support digital working
Employees need to have the right tools for them to successfully work in or out of the office. This means that all workers need to have equal access to technology and resources.
It’s important that technology functions as an enabler for all staff and not a deterrent. Making sure every employee is up to speed with the implemented technology can help leaders and their organisations stay ahead of the game. Workplace transformation can be more smooth sailing when staff are well-informed and onboard. This will help them to better engage with their work and be inspired to deliver results.
Cultivate learning agility and resilience
Agility and the ability to not just adapt, but thrive, are key in achieving success. Leaders should make sure they’re regularly checking in with their employees to gauge what’s working well and what needs improvement within the hybrid workforce.
It’s also fundamental for organisations to prioritise the mental and physical well-being of their people. Mandy believes that this will reduce the “likelihood of burnout while strengthening the resilience of individuals” which is more crucial than ever.
Focus on connection across boundaries
Connection is key and it should never be limited to face-to-face interactions. Leaders need to have an open and earnest dialogue to connect with staff and revitalise workplace culture, in and out of the office.
“We need to recognise that we’re dealing with whole people and really embrace human kindness,” says Mandy, “Leaders who are doing that are the ones who are charging ahead.”
As the ‘new normal’ that is hybrid working asserts its place, it’s imperative for business leaders to manage a hybrid workplace that’s applicable and practical to all team members. It’s important, now more than ever, for workplaces to adapt in ways that are considered rather than reactionary. To find out more information on how to successfully prepare for the new world of work, read A progressive leader’s guide to the future of work in Australia.