I was struck by a comment from a manager, Alex (not their real name) on a Leadership Programme recently. Alex had just been back for their first day with all of their team together in the office as part of their new hybrid working arrangement.

they felt that they hadn’t gotten anything done

Alex said that at the end of the day they felt that they hadn’t gotten anything done – they hadn’t read or sent their usual stack of emails and they didn’t have ANY online Teams meetings. Alex had left very little (virtual) paper trail to show for their day. Alex felt underwhelmed by their first in-office experience and contribution and felt they weren’t very efficient.

However, during that day, Alex had face to face conversations with their team. They had short conversations with other stakeholders that helped get answers and decisions on their tasks and projects. They had some of those informal small conversations with people they bumped into, and reconnected with this important network.

It was only on reflection that Alex realised that they had had a very productive day – they realised they were effective.

they realised they were effective

For those returning to the office or new to leading in a hybrid arrangement, take a moment, like Alex, to assess what does effective mean as a manager in this new arrangement.

Alex became conditioned over the last two years to assess their productive days in terms of number of emails and a diary full of Teams meetings with no gaps in between.

I have had numerous conversations with team managers recently in a similar boat to Alex and it brought up thoughts and questions to be considered –

  • What does effective mean as a manager in the hybrid working world?

  • Do we need to reassess how we manage ourselves and our time?
  • How did we end up allowing our days to be filled with Teams/Zoom meetings with no breaks in between?
  • Do we need to say yes to all of these demands – can we challenge the value we bring to each meeting or event so that we are only there when adding value.

It is a change

Just as becoming a remote worker and remote manager was a change and broke old habits, so going back into the office and becoming a hybrid manager will be a change. As with all change, there is a natural human response to it.

Here are some ways to help your team with this change.

You can expect your team to experience and express some of the emotions associated with the natural response to change –

  • Don’t be surprised if some think that this hybrid won’t work and that it will go back to being in the office every day (if that is what they would like) or being able to work remotely full time (if that is what they would like). This is natural denial. To help, restate what is happening and why.
  • Some will express dissatisfaction with hybrid working – “I want to be working from home”, “I got more done working remotely than this way”, “why can’t I have my own desk? – I need to keep my stuff in one place for when I come in” , ” this doesn’t suit by family”, “whose idea was this anyway?” “I knew it wouldn’t work”.  This is natural resistance to change. To help, listen and unearth real concerns and reaffirm their value to the team and organisation.
  • Some will be curious and see opportunities in the new arrangement. To help them, encourage them to share these and include their ideas.

don’t be surprised if you are feeling and thinking the same way!

Oh, and by the way, don’t be surprised if you are feeling and thinking the same way! You might be the manager but you are a human being also experiencing change.

This may be a time to be accepting of yourself and others – accepting that you and others will feel this way and may not be over the moon with what hybrid means for you personally and professionally.

But you also want to help yourself and your team to succeed in this latest new world so it may be a good time to go back to the practices that you and many others were drawn to when your work suddenly became remote –

  • Make a conscious effort to check in on the team individually – find out what they feel is working for them and what they are finding more challenging about the move to hybrid
  • Listen – you don’t need to have a solution to every concern people express. Just being heard can help people work through how to figure out the change for themselves
  • It is OK to share if you are finding some things challenging – you are human and it can be helpful to show your vulnerability – without it turning into “you think it’s bad for you, wait till I tell you about me” conversation!
  • At regular intervals, let the group review what is working well and what they think could make it better. Whilst hybrid  may be the way it has to be, perhaps you can allow the team inform how hybrid can work best for your team.

Keep on building