Few companies anticipated that many workers would never return to the office, at least not with the regularity and rhythm they once did, when they sent their employees home in March 2020.
Numerous organisations are integrating remote or hybrid work arrangements into their operating techniques, even as many start to welcome employees back to the workplace. For employees, this is wonderful news. A recent Gallup study found that 59% of workers favour hybrid work arrangements that strike a balance between the advantages of on-site work and remote work flexibility.
Companies frequently have no problem giving in since they understand that employee satisfaction and productivity are important indicators that are improved by hybrid work arrangements. Researchers discovered that the productivity of hybrid workers is increasing over time. The survey found that hybrid workers are 9% more productive when working from home, an increase of 4% since workers stopped going into offices more than two years ago.
Although current productivity indicators are favourable, there are serious worries about how hybrid work may affect corporate culture and employee collaboration in the long run. For instance, a survey conducted in February by the Pew Research Center revealed that 60% of workers now felt less a part of their team than they did before working off-site.
At the same time, many managers find it challenging to guide their staff in a hybrid environment, making it even more crucial to have the resources necessary to foster empathy and develop trust in a remote workplace.
1. Be Altered By What is Said
For hybrid teams, communication has become easier thanks to digital platforms like Slack, email, Zoom, and phone conversations.
From improvisational actor Keith Johnstone, who counselled players to "be affected by what is uttered," leaders can learn a valuable lesson. The following actions should be taken to change leaders:
What is being said. Identify the phrases, proposals, or suggestions that are different from your own perspective.
How something is said. Listen for the tone, inflection, and, if possible, the body language of people sharing their ideas.
Who is saying the words. What can you glean from the values, perspectives, and views of the person sharing their ideas.
The context in which the person is speaking. What is happening in the present moment, in the world, or in their organization or department that’s impacting the ideas and viewpoints they’re sharing.
As leaders, we frequently feel the need to state our positions because we consider them to be the most crucial aspect of a discussion. They are crucial, but they are not everything, and greater attentive listening can support the creation of collaborative settings characterised by empathy and trust, regardless of proximity or physical location.
2. Include fresh thoughts and take into account all points of view
Building trust requires approaching people with an attitude of openness and transparency. One might create a safe environment for people to expose themselves by being willing to share some of one's own uncertainty. However, it may be a potent catalyst for bringing in fresh perspectives and taking into account various points of view on your team. Leaders can decide what amount of vulnerability is suitable for their setting.
These concepts are the result of appropriate virtual listening techniques, which can lead to in-depth discussions that foster connections and provide the foundation for effective leadership. There are a number of methods that can support these efforts, such as:
Yes… AND… This technique helps build understanding by challenging the listener to accept and legitimize someone else’s ideas before adding an idea of their own.
Mirroring. Repeat the exact words that have been spoken back to the person who is speaking, letting people know they’ve been heard.
Paraphrasing. Rephrase the speaker’s words using your own to confirm that you’ve appropriately understood the speaker’s meaning.
Ask open-ended questions—probe for further information by asking a question that requires more than a one or two-word answer.
By expressing their own uncertainties and sharing their own thoughts with their teams, leaders may build partnerships that are strong, genuine, and collaborative. When leaders combine this with deliberate attempts to include fresh perspectives and take into account all points of view, these efforts are enhanced.
3. Act with Intention
To enable leaders and their teams to succeed, it may be necessary to update the skills and attitudes that made managers effective before hybrid work became the standard operational paradigm. The format of meetings, staff engagement strategies, and employee expectations all need to be reviewed by leaders.
Though difficult, change is not impossible. It needs leaders to act with intention, choosing the tactics and strategies that are best suited for the specific setting while understanding that the development of trust and empathy will not happen by chance.
Assume we spread engagement and communication techniques that result in the best results. In that situation, we must begin by focusing on ourselves, recognising and addressing our propensities to spread misinformation or cling to the existing quo. The ideas of leaders should be spread to others. However, leaders should also actively listen to the viewpoints of others, cultivating a "we, us, ours" culture that is based on and fosters trust.