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Managing in a Hybrid Workplace

Set Clear and Realistic Expectations

Seek employee input about the new way of working. Supervisors should leverage the Department Needs Assessment and Team Agreement to help your team communicate and collaborate by discussing and agreeing to certain principles and guidelines that reflect the diversity of workstyles on the team. This will provide opportunity to lead your team in establishing team agreements that clearly outline how the team will work together and support diverse workstyles for applicable on-site and/or remote workforces.

Integrate Technology Tools to Harmonize All Employees

Employees need to have the right technologies in place so they can work just as effectively as they did before.

  • The Office of Information Technology provides services and resources for remote work including video conferencing and collaboration, file access and storage, and remote desktop and VPN.
  • Leverage the Returning to Rutgers technology checklist that includes information and reminders about returning equipment, connecting to the network, and getting tech help.

As you go through this process, don't forget to get input from your employees. Remember, this is about enabling your people to do their best work and putting the right technologies in place could be key for their happiness, success, and key for the success of FlexWork@RU.

Review and Improve Your Working Model

Assess what's working and what's not

Every three months is a good time to gather employee feedback, review your own metrics, and reflect on how things are going. Then, you can improve your approach until the hybrid model simply becomes part of your department’s culture. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate whether the new model is meeting the needs of your department and the needs of your employees.
  • Assess how employees are spending their time to better understand any efficiencies the hybrid model is creating, or how it's shifted the way people are spending their time.
  • Get employees' input about how effective they feel within the new model. They may be getting all their tasks done, but working longer hours, perhaps because they don't have an optimal setup at home.

Promote Collaboration and Connection

Manage where, when, and how people are working regularly. Provide everyone with clear visibility into each team members' work arrangements. Once everyone's flexible work arrangement is submitted and approved in the FlexWork@RU System you could create a master spreadsheet for your team to document:

  1. Where they're working each day (on campus or remote): This information can be helpful in several ways. For example, your employees might decide to meet in person on days when they're in the office or maybe they'll avoid setting up too many calls when a team member has decided to work remotely.
  2. When they plan to work: This will depend on how much flexibility your team has and the type of work that they do, so you'll have to think about what approach makes the most sense. Perhaps your employees only need to provide certain core hours when they're available. Or if workers are largely independent during the day, they might only need to note when they're not available.
  3. Best way to reach employees each day: Ask your team members to think about how they prefer to be contacted or what makes the most sense for the environment they'll be in. With all this information in hand, both you and your team members will be well-equipped for a smooth transition to the hybrid working model.
Communicate effectively with your team

There's no question that digital communication tools will be key to hybrid working. However, these tools can create small misunderstandings. Think about how easy it is to misinterpret something as simple as an email or text from the way it's written, to how it's punctuated, to the amount of time it takes someone to reply, and now we have Zoom, which has added a new layer of complexity. We should recognize that even if our intentions are good, our communication styles and behaviors can easily be misinterpreted by others. Poor communication practices can also result in workplace inefficiencies. Here’s how to avoid them:

  • While getting a quick reply may be important, it's important that you and your employees include enough detail in your communication to avoid ambiguity. Ensure you're not sacrificing accuracy and thoughtfulness for speed.
  • Encourage your team to find the right balance and make sure they also know when it's best to communicate via chat versus email or Zoom.
Encourage visibility and openness among teammates

One of the main reasons why organizations are adopting a hybrid approach is to provide balance between being in-person and remote for flexibility. But the reality is that hybrid team members may struggle to form strong relationships with each other. One of the most important responsibilities you have as a manager is to help your hybrid team members stay connected. Here’s how:

  • Host virtual meetups One idea is to hold virtual lunches or coffee breaks. Alternatively, identify in-person collaboration days or in-office lunch days to gather and connect.
  • Encourage mentoring opportunities and one-on-one meetups, or you could offer interactive learning experiences or games where team members can work together. By doing this, they'll be building new skills and creating stronger bonds with each other
  • Incorporate opportunities for connection into everyday activities. Start every meeting with a quick round table where everyone provides a personal update, or you could encourage your employees to share a photo of the week on a team channel on Microsoft Teams. Getting a glimpse into each other's lives, whether its their families, their pets, their hobbies, can go a long way towards bringing people closer together

Create a Culture That Promotes Inclusion and Feedback

Ensure all employee voices are heard

It's important that you give your employees a voice and ensure that all workers are being heard fairly and equally. When workers feel heard, they're more engaged and more productive, they have a sense of purpose and belonging at work and there's usually a strong culture of openness and psychological safety. Here’s how:

  • Find ways to gather feedback from all of your team members regardless of their location. Schedule more frequent check-ins with your employees.
  • Reward team members who take the initiative to provide feedback.
  • If someone speaks up during a meeting, rather than quickly addressing their comments and moving on, take a moment to thank them and encourage others to chime in as well.
Avoid the bias of physical presence and favoritism

It's human nature to form stronger relationships with people if you spend time with them in person. In the workplace, this could mean that you're getting to know your office workers better than your remote workers. Here’s how to avoid bias:

  • Reference the Expectations for Remote Work website for information as it relates to FlexWork@RU.
  • Boost the visibility of your remote team members by making sure that you engage equally with your employees who are in the same room and those who are attending virtually.
  • Examine the broader cultural issues that are at play. Educating yourself and your team members about the concept of unconscious bias and how it affects remote workers. You should encourage staff to talk openly about their concerns and above all you'll need to reflect on your own biases and behaviors when it comes to managing remote employees.
Create opportunities to solicit and act on feedback

It’s important that you gather everyone's input and act on it because department’s hybrid approach probably won't work perfectly right away, and you have to be able to admit this and learn how to adapt. Recognize that as a leader, you can only know so much about what is or isn't working for your people. There are lots of ways to do this that will work both for your remote and office space employees. Here’s how:

  • You could have an online feedback portal or a forum where workers can discuss their ideas and opinions.
  • Or you can send out a short pulse survey to check how your team members are feeling, and whether there are any concerns they want to bring up.
  • Hold Ask Me Anything meetings, where they can offer their input in a safe space.
  • Ask employees for their feedback during informal chats or when you meet with them one-on-one, since some people may shy away from speaking up in a group setting.
  • Establish a two-way feedback loop, where you're constantly following up with your staff about how you're addressing their concerns.

Content for this toolkit was adapted from the course Develop Essential Skills to Manage in a Hybrid Workplace through LinkedIn Learning.