Fast Forward to the Future of Work: Leadership in the New Normal - Part 2
When 60% of remote workers feel less connected to their teams, and leaders can’t wander around a virtual office to connect them, it’s imperative to focus on ties that bind. That's where the first post in this series ended. Here’s how to do it.
5 tips to help leaders build an inclusive and productive work environment – online and onsite – for all employees to thrive:
1. Build social cohesion and trust. Leaders who were managing effectively in an office environment may find it difficult to manage in a hybrid work environment. It will be important to define and learn new behaviors that are noticeable for all employees working face-to-face and virtually. If you make time in the office to share a coffee or lunch with team members, then you need to engage in informal online interactions with remote colleagues as well.
To build social cohesion and trust, try a digital ten-minute coffee break to talk about non-work topics. Or, use the first five minutes of an online team meeting to check on everyone to make sure they are well. When collaborating with team members virtually and in person, make sure that all team members can share their view and are heard. Not just the colleagues in the room, but also those online. Invite online colleagues to speak up, and switch on cameras to notice the all-important visual clues such as facial expressions and tone of voice. The goal is for employees, those working remotely and in-person, to feel like they have equal access to their leader and that their work is equally valued.
2. Lead by example. It might seem obvious, but leaders often fail to recognize how their actions affect and will be interpreted by others. To create a successful hybrid working environment, it is important that you give the right example. If you want to signal that remote working is very much part of the new way of work, but you come into the office every day, it will result in the belief that working in the office is preferred. If you also attend meetings in-person with those who happen to be in the office, remote workers will soon feel isolated and may feel that their contributions are secondary. It may even limit their career opportunities. By working from home a couple days a week, a leader can signal that people don’t need to be in the office to be productive or to get ahead.
3. Stay calm and carry on with positivity. In times of crisis and uncertainty, leaders need to sustain a level of calm and a positive attitude. Humans are hardwired to unconsciously pick up on the emotions of others in less than a second. As a leader, managing your own stress and feelings is very important as you can inflict positive or negative feelings on colleagues or subordinates. While inducing some stress can sometimes be beneficial to insert new energy or momentum, it’s usually better to
Managing your own stress and feelings is very important as you can inflict positive or negative feelings on colleagues or subordinates.
engage people in positive pursuits to retain higher levels of creativity, productivity and engagement. Studies have shown that we can’t be positively infectious with others unless we’re feeling inspired ourselves first. Therefore, it is important for leaders to take care of themselves before being able to take care of others.
4. Define a shared sense of purpose. A shared sense of purpose is the strongest predictor of organizational leadership effectiveness and engagement. Studies have shown that people are more open to ideas and feel more connected when they have a clear sense of purpose, and when people care about each other. In times of uncertainty and change it is important for leaders and their teams to spend time to talk about a shared sense of purpose and core values while checking in on the health and wellbeing of the team members. It will help to look beyond the current situation and its challenges to envision and create a new future together.
5. Manage and guide on output. Few companies will be as bold as Netflix, whose leaders don’t limit paid time off or specify how much time to spend in the office as long as their staff deliver high-quality work. Their success shows that an outcome-based management approach works. It is important to give teams clear objectives and the accountability and autonomy to deliver them. As a leader you should guide, enable and inspire your team members, and provide them with the right tools and training to progress quickly, while only monitoring outcomes and outputs. And remember that a leader is not supposed to do all the jobs. It is key to value and recognize talent, and to give people the opportunity and trust to take on new tasks and projects.
The new normal post COVID-19 relies on leaders to take action and set the tone. From demonstrating new management behaviors for a hybrid online and in-person work environment, to leading by example and staying calm and positive in times of high stress, uncertainty and change. Leadership in a time of flux may be challenging, but it also provides opportunities for new ways of working that are more inclusive and sustainable for the future.