How Leaders Can Thrive In A Hybrid Work Environment
If you’re one of the countless people whose professional growth was disrupted by the pandemic—whether due to job loss, industry disruption, or something else—now is the time to regain control of your career. Companies in nearly every industry have rapidly ramped up hiring, and the shift to remote work that occurred during the pandemic has […]
If you’re one of the countless people whose professional growth was disrupted by the pandemic—whether due to job loss, industry disruption, or something else—now is the time to regain control of your career. Companies in nearly every industry have rapidly ramped up hiring, and the shift to remote work that occurred during the pandemic has created new business models and new ways of working.
In short, opportunities abound. As you search for the next best step, adopt an opportunistic mindset. If you’re strategic and flexible about how you approach your professional development in the months ahead, you’ll be able to soar.
The shift to hybrid
The pandemic caught most companies off guard and forced leaders to reassess their ability to adapt to crisis and uncertainty. Before the pandemic, many businesses had already begun working toward digital transformation, employing remote workers or contractors, and taking other steps to improve organizational agility. However, few were prepared to deal with the unprecedented shift that transformed the business landscape in 2020.
Leaders who were able to navigate the crisis don’t want to be caught off guard again, which is partly why 60% of employers expect to invest more in the tools and training necessary for hybrid work. Executives across industries have realized that they can still be productive when employees work remotely—and in some cases, teams are even more productive than they were before the pandemic. At the same time, many leaders aren’t ready to completely abandon the office.
The hybrid model gives us the best of both worlds. By rotating a large portion of their workforces in and out of offices, organizations can provide employees with the flexibility they desire without sacrificing the benefits of sharing the same physical space.
But what does this shift to a new workforce model mean for you—and for your personal brand?
More freedom, more responsibility
The trend toward giving employees more freedom and flexibility has many important implications for your professional growth. For starters, it means you’ll need to be more discerning as a job seeker when it comes to assessing the values and corporate culture of a potential employer.
If you prefer to work remotely, you might be tempted to assume that a company with a hybrid work model is more “employee friendly” than one that requires its team to be in the office. But unless leaders work hard to foster a harmonious culture, remote workers can easily feel disconnected and unseen, with few opportunities to showcase the traits that make them unique. According to LiveCareer, more than one-third of remote workers said collaboration and communication were significant challenges.
The good news? Shifting models are creating more professional mobility than ever. Instead of gradually climbing the corporate ladder, you’ll have more opportunities to make vertical and horizontal moves that align with your aspirations. To capitalize on these opportunities and maximize your success in the new world of work, follow these three steps:
1. Develop tailor-made performance boosters for a hybrid environment.
Dr. Dan Harrison, founder and CEO of Harrison Assessments, knows that some executives are still wary of relying on geographically dispersed teams. “Some companies are hesitant to embrace the new hybrid working environment,” Harrison says. “They’re eager to return to ‘business as usual’ and may cling to the idea that the best way to foster collaboration is via in-person meetings.”
If your employer is experimenting with a hybrid workforce model, you can ease their concerns (and drive your own growth) by figuring out ways to maximize your performance, as well as the performance of the teams you manage. Think about the conditions you and your people need to be most effective and generate protocols that enhance these conditions in specific formats (face-to-face and online).
Perhaps you’re most productive early in the morning or late at night. If so, adjust your hours accordingly. Maybe your people have made it clear that they love minimizing distractions. Maybe certain types of presentations are just better in a conference room, and one-on-one coaching works better over Zoom. Regardless of what you need to be most effective, you’ll have the best shot at creating it through open and honest communication. The goal is to avoid having employees sit in a cubicle saying to themselves, “I could be doing this at home,” or enduring a snoozer of a webinar that would have been so much more engaging in person.
2. Develop an effective time-management system.
After receiving feedback and creating your inventories of what works best remotely and what works best in person, allocate the precious resource of time accordingly. To succeed in a hybrid environment, create a schedule that’s optimized for the work that needs to be done while creating a sense of consistency and habit.
It can help to learn about how other leaders structure their days. One study found that CEOs spend 61% of their time in face-to-face meetings. While digital meetings offer plenty of advantages, meeting remotely isn’t always optimal. In-person meetings make it easier to cultivate the mutual trust and understanding that high-quality relationships demand, but once the process is clear, the schedule needs to be predictable so that Tuesday morning signals a specific expectation, while Friday afternoon creates a different one. Hybrid should not mean you never know what to expect from one day to the next, and it especially shouldn’t mean that you waste time preparing for one format when it turns out that another platform is being implemented at the last minute.
3. Be deliberate about learning.
To keep up in a business landscape that’s changing faster than ever, you must continue to grow. According to McKinsey, more companies are prioritizing employee upskilling; LinkedIn research suggests that these initiatives are especially important to younger generations. Still, you shouldn’t rely solely on a company to guide your development.
To avoid stagnation, you continually need to take responsibility for learning new skills, and the in-demand skills the moment are related to hybrid work, ranging from emerging technology to effective communication and collaboration, or even techniques for combatting stress. Think about what skills you want to develop, who the best mentor would be, and how this growth will apply in the new normal.
The business world is evolving fast. By examining your performance, effectively managing your time, and deliberately seeking out new knowledge, you can ensure that you continue to evolve with it, exuding your unique self every step of the way.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.