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The hybrid workplace combines the best and worst of office and remote. As hard as it can be to humanize work at all, hybrid is the hardest. The hybrid workplace is of course more complex than either of the 100% alternatives. Success in the hybrid workplace means accounting for people working online AND people working in the office – and this means forcing everyone online even when they’re “at work.” 

But you can overcome the challenges of humanizing the hybrid workplace more easily by following a few basic principles. Here are seven of them.

1. Your “workforce” is not one thing. 

Today, even using the word “workforce” is dangerous. It implies a clumsy monolith. It used to be just dealing with different departments, different leaders, different OKRs. In remote work we moved to dealing with as many different offices as employees. Now we’ve added one last big canyon, between those at the company and those not. And full-time at one or the other, versus mixed.

Use the increase in variety as a reminder that your colleagues are individuals who have their own needs and desires. Remote work has brought the workplace into our homes. So, help the people around you find ways to align their personal goals and lives with the organization’s values. This is true whether you are their leader, or they yours! We need to think beyond ourselves, of course. At the same time, we must never lose sight of making sure our team goals matter to each team member. Beyond just drawing a salary. Online platforms like ours can help you do this.

2. In the hybrid workplace, trust is key. 

Too often we doubt that our people care enough, are doing enough, or that things will work out. This can apply equally up, down, or across. Cut it out! Distrust and power plays are dehumanizing. Nothing accelerates productivity like the speed of trust. And it cuts both ways. 78% of customers believe how a company treats its employees is one of the best indicators of its trustworthiness. 55% of executives believe a lack of trust in the workplace is a serious threat to their company, according to PWC.

It can be harder to trust one another hybrid than even in remote, since you’re never sure where the people you’re dealing with are. The hybrid workplace thus makes greater demands on our willingness to take a leap of faith than the 100% formats. The first thing is to take that leap. But you can add a sense of safety by the kind of online communication channels described below.

3. In the hybrid workplace, communication is THE key

This doesn’t mean just communicate more. It means communicate better. There is such a thing as too much communication. But it’s rare to find that at work. For sure there is no such thing as “too good” communication. You can always communicate better, with more clarity, honesty, transparency, effectiveness.

The online workspace provides a great opportunity to communicate more easily through both messaging and phone calls. But we’re so used to most of our communication happening in person that we have to build new habits. And those habits center around extraordinary communication. So communicating better means bring in compassion, kindness, consideration, and most of all, mutual support.

4. Connection

I am not even using a verb here. Connection, full stop. Make it happen. And I do not mean just sending messages and other types of communication. We’ve covered that. I mean actually, authentically connecting in many different ways and in both online and in-person forms. We are human beings, not human doings. Just getting the job done is not enough. It’s easy to become isolated in the hybrid space. Being in a hybrid setup can help you remember every day that seeing people as cogs or sheep is not okay. Yes, it may be easier to fall into that mindset when you can’t even remember if the person is supposed to be in office with you or not that day.

5. Build communities not just workflows in the hybrid workplace.

One of the complaints about remote work has been Zoom fatigue. And for good reason. Because the answer isn’t holding more meetings. Instead, be agile. Have meetings that matter. You don’t need to meet about every single step in every project. A meeting that helps build community among and even across teams might be far more important. Make meetings something people look forward to and wish there were more of.

Building community, according to the HBR, leads to more than double the energy levels, 76% more engagement, 74% less stress, 13% fewer days off for illness, and 29% more satisfaction with life in general. As in, not just at work. So don’t just get the job done in the hybrid workplace. Create a community that is engaged and enjoys being together in the new virtual space.

6. Your colleagues are also your customers. 

Find every way possible to acknowledge your peers, reports, and anyone you can, really. Be generous. Don’t be stingy. Imagine that everyone in the company is a client you have to keep happy. Expect this treatment for you, too, for everyone around you. Acknowledge, praise, listen, and most of all hear. Ask how you can help. How you can bring value. The number of people you serve every day is a vastly underattended metric. Of course you have to get the job done. But when you see your colleagues as customers, it’s obvious that a big part of the job is the way you behave toward one another. 

7. Everyone loves a challenge.

As more than one of our podcast guests has pointed out, no one goes to work to fail or feel worthless. Yet it surprises some people to discover that the paycheck is not the prime motivator for the majority of workers. What matters most to people is feeling fulfilled. Permission to innovate even in small ways inevitably inspires engagement. That’s a core premise of Innovation Minds in both our software and our consulting. So encourage everyone to go beyond their comfort zone. Most of all encourage this in yourself. This shift becomes even more important in the hybrid workplace, because you have to innovate your actual ways of working every day.

Michael Lee, SVP, Strategy and Marketing, Innovation Minds