More and more organizations are moving to a hybrid work model. Giving employees more flexbility to choose how they work best boosts productivity and employee retention. Of course, there are bound to be some bumps in the road.
As some employees return to the office and others continue working offsite, it can be more difficult for remote and hybrid employees to ensure that their contributions are visible across the organization. In our latest look at how Covid-19 has reshaped the workplace, we’re exploring visibility in the hybrid workplace. (If you missed the first article in the series, find out more about the 5 models one expert has identified for the post-pandemic workplace.)
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, two workplace experts offer a roadmap for desiging a fair hybrid workplace. Mark Mortensen, an associate professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD, and Martine Haas, the Lauder Chair Professor of Management at the Wharton School, offer actionable strategies for ensuring equal visibility for your entire team, regardless of where they choose to work.It’s important to acknowledge the issues that newly hybrid organizations face. “To lead effectively in a hybrid environment, managers must recognize and actively manage the two distinct sources of power that can impede — or facilitate — hybrid work: hybridity positioning and hybridity competence,” according to Haas and Mortensen.
In other words, your hybrid and remote employees need to be visible to in-office leaders, and they need to show that they’re effectively managing their workloads and contributing to organizational goals.
Although remote work has been shown, time and time again, to boost productivity for many workers, it’s hard to move past cultural norms. The outdated idea of an employee with their “nose to the grindstone” has been replaced by a different sort of visibility. Presenteeism can take many forms, whether it’s the “first in, last out” employee or the apple-polisher who makes a point of speaking to C-level execs about casual matters.
“Working in the same space as the boss increases the likelihood that employees’ efforts and actions will be recognized and top of mind. Employees who are seen in the hallways are likely to come to mind when it’s time to staff an important new project, and their actions on that project are likely to be recognized, resulting in credit for a job well done.”
For many executives, it’s impossible to keep hundreds of employees distributed across teams and verticals straight. It’s easy to default to the faces they recognize from the hallways when it’s crunch time.
“Even if the boss is working remotely, when an employee is based in the office, it increases the likelihood that their actions will be seen by others and reported to the boss indirectly. When working remotely, no one sees the late nights or early mornings or how hard employees are working to deliver on their obligations. Credit for a collective output is likely to be unevenly attributed most to those who are there in the office and more visible.”
In other words, if I can see you I assume you were part of the team effort that led to our success. Of course, blame can also be portioned out this way. Overcoming this hybrid bias requires some effort on the part of managers and executives. Rather than thinking about the last few employees you saw, add in a quick browse through email or channels like Basecamp or Slack to see who your hybrid superstars are.
In a similar vein, hybrid and remote employees can leverage digital tools to stay visible at their organizations. “Hybrid environments reward employees who think and act adaptably and flexibly, who are able to organize and coordinate across a complex and dynamic environment, and who are able to establish and provide evidence of their own trustworthiness when working in a context of low visibility.”
Haas and Mortensen lay out a four-step plan for any manager who’s looking to improve equity across a hybrid team.
The first step is creating a map of your team’s configuration. Be clear about who works from which office and how often each employee is generally onsite as opposed to working remotely. Once you have a rubric in place, have individual meetings with employees to get a sense of challenges and opportunities:
“You need to have a conversation with them to surface the challenges they and you face and discuss what you can do to overcome them. Always bear in mind that your employees’ resource access depends on their location, and their visibility depends on their location relative to you.”
After you’ve met with each employee individually, revisit your team configuration chart. Are there ways you can redistribute responsibilities so that offsite team members have more visibility?
“While some level of power imbalance is structurally inevitable in a hybrid team or work group, when necessary and possible, managers should intervene to redistribute power through shifting access to resources and/or visibility levels.”
It’s important that everyone at your organization is on the same page about how hybrid working models affect employees visibility. It’s especially critical to educate managers and executives about how to avoid bias.
The final step is to establish regular check-in occasions that help you fine-tune your strategy. Managers should use in-person meetings as opportunities to not only connect, but to offer praise or have a tough private conversation.
The authors further outline several key opportunities to address the potential challenges of hybridity for power dynamics within their teams, including onboarding, performance reviews, and team launches.
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