As companies continue to establish protocols that will help oversee the implementation of hybrid work models, much of the discussions have been about the mechanics of supporting these workplace arrangements
For example, some big brands have been focusing on new office designs that will eventually replace conventional office cubicles. We are seeing the redesign of breakout rooms and snack bars to reduce employee interactions, the phasing out of conference rooms, and the adoption of collaboration tools.
For most companies, the objective is to build systems that can schedule office time, preserve office space, and streamline payroll processes.
However, not much attention is going toward nurturing coworker relationships. For instance, how will coworkers relate in the post-pandemic workplace?
How can they build work relationships that create value?
In this guide, we want to help HR professionals and facility managers develop hybrid work relationships to augment team success.
We explore two fundamental concerns:
Most HR professionals will agree that the combination of remote and in-office work will eventually become a permanent fixture in modern workplaces.
After all, hybrid workplace arrangements can improve employee work-life balance, mitigate burnout, enhance productivity, and minimize time and resource wastage.
Nevertheless, despite the flexibility that comes with hybrid arrangements, how can HR managers nurture coworker relationships?
How can businesses develop workplace collaborativeness that enables personal accountability, emotional commitment, and business alignment within organizational workforces?
In an interview with CNBC Make It, Laysha Ward, Target’s executive vice president and chief external engagement officer, notes that
We need human relationships now more than ever coming out of the pandemic and in the midst of racial reckonings and the uncertainty that’s happening around the world.
Although the future of work will be hybrid, we cannot ignore the need for human interactions and what this means for the future of the workforce.
Read on to discover five proven tips that foster work relationships and create valuable bonds between workers.
The first step is to make communication intentional. In the office, casual greetings and sharing lunch in the break room can forge relationships effortlessly.
Your team members get to know each other by sharing space, seeing each other work, and casually connecting over the shared lifestyle that a shared workspace and schedule create. However, for remote and rotating team members, communication must happen intentionally.
For more interesting information about communication and hybrid work, check out our recent article on the latest hybrid work statistics.
Build your relationship baselines with clear and frequent communication. Make sure that your teams know that they are welcome to reach out and that casual chatting between remote and in-office employees is encouraged.
Hold regular meetings, chats, and events that bring people together, and create email loops that provide clarity for every shared goal. Leadership should set an example for clarity and constant connection between both on-site and remote members.
All that would make your workplace more intelligent.
Your communication channels matter. The best way to foster connection within a hybrid team is to give both on-site and remote employees shared places to communicate.
Because every person and team has a different style, providing a variety of communication channels is key. Some teams will prefer to schedule video meetings with each other to share the nuance of expression and the speed of live conversation.
Others will more happily connect through a group chat channel or even through the comments feature of collaboration tools.
With a hybrid team, listening and understanding are more important than ever. Help your team to build a culture of clarifying and confirming with one another to make sure everyone is on the same page.
If there are communication issues, do not hesitate to find ways around them and provide solutions to overcome them.
Work together to make sure every person, goal, and project is fully understood as you move forward as a team.
Hybrid teams need a hybrid sense of community. One thing that was discovered early in the remote work migration is the tendency for an “us” and “them” culture to develop between those in-office and those working remotely – even if those team members rotate.
This is due to a separation in communication. When planning how to build work relationships more effectively across that line, foster a sense of community by creating opportunities to connect and preventing exclusive communication channels.
First and foremost, encourage your employees to socialize. Make it clear that it’s OK to speak about off-work topics, to crack jokes, and to more casually hang out across the digital divide.
If someone in-office and a remote team member are both working late, why not open a meeting and keep each other company just as two in-office coworkers might do?
If there is a birthday, celebrate together no matter where the celebrant might be. Social interactions are the glue that can hold your team together.
Create a casual space where your hybrid team members can gather now that sharing lunch in the break room is not universal.
Replace the proverbial water cooler with something like an always-open chat channel where anyone can spend time trading off-work commentary and forming friendships.
Many workplaces use something like Slack or Discord to achieve this goal, where your team members can gather to socialize casually without formal barriers.
You can also build better work relationships by bringing your team together. Plan in-person team events and invite (but don’t require) every remote team member to join.
In-person events can be conferences, co-working spaces, or company celebrations, and can be easily scheduled using hybrid collaborative scheduling software (more on that later).
When hybrid teams meet altogether, you can forge that essential human connection creating friendships and building a strong rapport that will carry over to your team dynamic when your workforce is split between in-office and individual remote team members again.
Isolation is one of the biggest risks when operating a hybrid team. Not only should you encourage collaboration, but you should also provide a virtual workplace where cloud-based collaboration is the easiest solution for both in-office and remote workers to complete projects together.
Provide your team with a toolkit of collaboration software and resources.
Cloud platforms and collaboration tools make it possible to work together simultaneously on the same projects, to share information, and to build work relationships between teams through the natural camaraderie of shared work.
When both teams find your collaboration tools more useful than their solo workflows, hybrid teamwork will occur naturally.
One of the great things about collaboration software is the ease of cross-team interactivity. No team works in isolation, and it is very likely that your teams will be able to help each other.
Whether your teams are blended or split between in-office and remote, encouraging cross-team collaboration will build overall stronger work relationships and create connections that will provide better long-term results among your teams.
Make an effort to create teamwork opportunities. Instead of assigning each person their separate tasks, create projects that are best performed through collaboration.
For some teams, you may want to book the best hybrid meeting conference room to connect everyone on the team and create live collaboration events.
For others, the best solution will be to sometimes bring everyone together in the office. You can do this by coordinating office time with the right collaboration scheduling software.
One such tool is OfficeRnD Hybrid and its powerful set of collaboration-boosting features. The software allows team members to:
Here’s a video that shows the platform in action:
Investing in such a platform can give you an edge over the competition and set up your organization for long-term success. Collaboration is proven to help businesses grow.
When building work relationships, trust plays a major role in whether team members feel confident reaching out and relying on one another.
This is especially true with hybrid teams who often feel disconnected. Remote workers tend to feel that they can only truly rely on themselves, while those in the office may feel distant from remote team members who they rarely see in person.
As a related resource, check out our article on the best workplace occupancy tools.
Make sure your remote team members know that they can count on the leadership and everyone on their team. Take the lead in showing them that they can ask for help and establish a foundation of teamwork.
Encourage remote team members to send emails or drop a line in the shared chat when they feel stuck, when they need answers or resources from someone, or even if they need an on-site team member to pick something up off the company printer. This kind of teamwork builds trust and creates stronger teams.
Hybrid work can create walls and damage visibility in the workflow. Therefore, intentional transparency is needed to rebuild that shared trust.
Make sure that your operations are transparent and that your team’s performance is so reliable that everyone feels comfortable relying on each other.
Announce what you are doing, openly assign tasks, and encourage team members to check in on each other. Reward those who check off tasks on the public task board as they go, and encourage your team to leave notes and chat with each other to build transparency into your workflow.
Team-building activities can also be essential in building trust in a hybrid setting. Look into virtual events like escape room puzzles and Friday night casual video calls that can bring everyone together no matter where their primary office is located.
These activities give your team members a chance to get to know each other outside of the work context and build that human connection that will, in turn, build work relationships into a strong hybrid team foundation.
Lastly, make transparency a priority. Build transparency and communication into every layer of your management style.
This is the final step to breaking down the barriers between hybrid team members and creating a culture of friendly collaboration.
Take the lead in sharing information. Prevent data enclaves and create a team operational style in which everyone discusses their tasks, challenges, and progress openly. Use team dashboards and task lists.
Discuss progress in project-specific chat channels and make announcements in a way that reaches everyone on the team at the same time. Avoid both around-the-desk live exclusionary conversations and virtual channels that exclude on-site team members so that everyone feels that information is shared evenly and openly.
As the leader, it is also your role to guide transparent decision-making. Encourage your team to use collaboration comments so that everyone can see thought processes, suggestions, and agreed solutions.
Make sure that changes occur where everyone affected by them can be a part of the discussion, asking questions and providing their own expert contribution to make each decision stronger and more inclusive.
Encourage everyone to communicate in the open. Take your operations out of the realm of CC’d emails and into more public collaboration platforms and chat channels so that each team decision can involve everyone.
This is a great way to recreate the in-office discussion culture that likely bonded your team before the hybrid split.
In a traditional office setting, employees have many opportunities to connect with their colleagues. But in today’s world of remote work, those opportunities are few and far between.
That’s where virtual relationships come in.
Employees who feel connected to their colleagues are more likely to be motivated and productive and to find belonging and purpose in their work.
And when employees are engaged and fulfilled in their work, they’re more likely to stick around for the long haul, which is good news for both them and their employers.
OfficeRnD Hybrid’s Workplace Experience Software is a powerful hybrid work platform that can help in building virtual relationships with your remote team. With just a few clicks, you can send announcements, update office policies, and communicate upcoming events.
Additionally, its streamlined facility request and ticket management system makes it easy for your employees to report issues and track their resolution, boosting their trust in your ability to manage workplace operations effectively.
Let’s look at some creative ways to build those important virtual work relationships in collaboration with OfficeRnD’s solutions.
Creating fun Slack channels focused on shared interests or hobbies can help build camaraderie among colleagues. Examples might include channels for sharing cute animal photos, memes, or funny gifs, or discussing TV shows and movies.
Just like booking a meeting space in the office, you can schedule virtual coffee breaks or informal hangouts where team members can chat about non-work-related topics. You could even send out care packages to everyone on the team with their favorite coffee or tea to enjoy.
Set up a weekly or monthly “show and tell” session where team members can share personal interests, hobbies, or recent accomplishments. This is a great way for everyone to get to know each other better and find common ground outside of work.
Organize virtual trivia games or quizzes, and divide your employees into teams for some healthy competition.
This is a fun and engaging activity for everyone that not only boosts camaraderie but helps teams learn how to communicate even better.
Foster self-awareness and acknowledge each other’s differences by encouraging your team members to take a personality test, such as the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram. You could even host a virtual session where everyone shares their results and discusses what they learned about themselves.
Seasonal parties are a great way to celebrate with colleagues who aren’t in the office. Plan a holiday-themed virtual game, encourage everyone to dress up, or even send out virtual holiday cards to everyone on the team.
This is a great way to boost team morale and show appreciation for everyone’s hard work throughout the year.
So how do you build camaraderie and mutual support from afar? Here are some best practices for building healthy, strong relationships with your colleagues in a virtual environment.
Reach out to your colleagues instead of always waiting for them to initiate communication. Use digital platforms like instant messaging or email to connect with your team members regularly.
Different people prefer different modes of communication. Some prefer email, while others prefer instant messaging or video calls. Pay attention to your colleagues’ communication preferences, and adjust your communication style accordingly.
Video conferencing can be a powerful tool for building virtual relationships. Use your camera during meetings and try to maintain eye contact with your colleagues. Be aware of virtual etiquette, such as muting and unmuting yourself at the right times and watching for non-verbal cues.
Whether your team communicates with Microsoft TeamsMeet or Google Workspace, OfficeRnD is fully integrated with all your favorite communication platforms, making it that much easier to build meaningful virtual relationships.
If you are working with colleagues in different time zones, be mindful of their work schedules. Don’t expect immediate responses to your messages or emails.
Acknowledge your colleagues’ achievements and contributions. Express gratitude and recognition regularly to help build a positive work culture.
Be mindful of your colleagues’ boundaries and personal time. Avoid scheduling meetings outside of regular work hours.
Managing a hybrid team requires managers to take on new terrain when it comes to building valuable work relationships.
Fortunately, technology and your team’s desire to work together are all in your favor. At OfficeRnD, we’ve developed collaborative hybrid scheduling features that can help you optimize in-person time for special gatherings or rotating team attendance for any model of hybrid team.
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