Helping Others to be Seen (and Known) in a Hybrid World

What’s your current pattern for where and when you work? Are you working from an office full time? Are you working from home for some or all of the time? Working 9-5 on weekdays? Or flexible hours, working outside of the traditional work hours, fitting around other commitments you have? Is your pattern the same as it was before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic? Chances are, it’s not. Covid, for all the damage it has done to so many of us, has caused a revolution in the work world, unlike anything seen since at least the birth of the internet and email. Many of my recent conversations with clients and colleagues have touched on the now-common context question of “How often do you go into the office these days?” Quite often, the answer is along the lines of “hardly ever.” Many workplaces are still almost entirely remote, with little intention to move back to fully in-person.

At this point, it would be hard for many to do so. Most of us are now very used to the flexibility afforded by working remotely. Indeed, a recent ADP study of 32,000 workers from 17 countries found that nearly two thirds of employees would undertake a job search if they were required to return to the office full time. And of course, many organizations have used the transformation in the work world to hire employees who live elsewhere in the country – and elsewhere in the world – making a return to fully in-person workspaces virtually impossible (no pun intended). But with expensive-to-maintain workspaces and pricey real-estate adding to the desire to connect in person, may workspaces are requiring employees to work in a hybrid fashion, coming into the office once or twice each week. Of course, doing so means that workspaces are often only 20% occupied, and depending on the office set-up, employees might only see a couple of other people each day, leading to an increased sense of isolation. I have heard of at least one instance of someone joining a workplace only to find that she rarely ever saw anyone else in the office – a month in, she was considering leaving before someone outside of her group finally came over and introduced themselves. She had felt invisible.

Unless there is conscious effort to build visibility for each person in the workplace, they can feel unseen and unknown, and won’t be motivated to do good work or to stick around. As a recent Harvard Business Review article suggests, building this visibility is not easy, but it is certainly possible, and, to put it more bluntly, it is necessary. But without the informal pre- and post-meeting check-ins and the break room conversations (and the ‘mandatory fun‘ events!), how might you work on building that visibility for your team this week? How might you help people to feel seen and known? Gabriela Mauch’s HBR article gives us some good starting points.

This Week’s Tips:

Gabriela Mauch’s HBR article suggests that team leaders move from “Informing” team members to “Engaging” them and ultimately to “Empowering” them in three different areas:

  1. Transparency. Allow back-and-forth conversations about your team’s/organization’s goals and plans. Informing employees of the goals and plans should be a bare minimum. Engaging them in developing them is a good next step. Empowering them to create their own goals and plans provides ownership and investment in success.
  2. Access. Often, only a certain set of stakeholders has access to metrics and information regarding sales, clients, or other business. Move towards more open access of information; your team may see patterns or openings that no one else had noticed, which may also help them to do their job better.
  3. Action. Incorporate feedback on an ongoing basis, whether it comes from your manager or your team. Empowering this feedback loop helps them to know they’re making a real contribution, while using the open access data allows your team to make adjustments to their own work on an ongoing basis.

Try these out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! We’d love to hear from you.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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