For many businesses getting employees to come back into the office has proved a challenge. “Like pushing a bolder up a hill” is how one client described it to us. For leaders, there is concern that pushing too hard will lead to resignations and quiet quitting. For employees, there is a feeling of uncertainty about what is expected of them. The narrative that the office is good for learning by listening and the lament of the lost water-cooler moments, is often contrasted with a feeling that “people don’t do very much when they are in”. In this article, we explore how we can make hybrid work for your firm and your team.
Understand team preferences
We are all individuals. This is true when we all come into the office, it was true over the pandemic when we all worked from home and it remains true in a hybrid environment. It is perhaps even more important to remember in a hybrid environment. Why? Individual preferences will have an impact on the environments we favour and what we need those environments to do for us. There are many ways which these preferences can be brought to the surface. A conversation around these differences can help everyone with working out how to make it work.
Communication is key to the success of any relationship. When it comes to hybrid there will be a range of expectations, drivers and beliefs bubbling away under the surface. Many firms will have had discussions when deciding what path to take with hybrid working. Few will have re-contracted with their teams as time has moved on. Setting clear expectations is an important component to make hybrid working work. This should be about expectations at a firm level, but crucially at a team and individual level too. Opportunities to think about what is working and what isn’t should be numerous.
Balance client need with employee need
One important stakeholder has been absent from the conversation so far: the client. We are not just talking about whether or not we need to make time to see clients face-to-face, although that is part of it. We need to go further than this and when thinking about what is right for the firm and our teams, we should also consider what clients want and need to get from us as their advisors. What advantages will they see from teams who connect in the office, or from remote teams? What works best for clients and how can that be included when contracting for the team?
Team culture will have a big part to play in making all of the foregoing work. Indicators of a coaching culture are typically that there is a high degree of psychological safety, leaders practice active listening, and difference is embraced. Team culture is "how we do things around here". Hybrid working might have changed how things are done, but it might be that expectations haven't. It is likely that if it isn’t working in an optimal way for your firm, that there are cultural challenges that need to be addressed.
Make the time count and find a reason to be together
There are lots of reasons why it is good to be together. That could be in person or in a virtual space. Sharing experiences can help us connect as a unit and can foster collaboration going forward. Make the moments that you are together count.
Team coaches often speak about finding solutions together that could not be devised alone. Hold on to that philosophy with your team. What could you spend the time together doing? Lunch & Learns are an age-old way of getting people together. There is a reason they have stood the test of time, they work. A good lunch and learn session should combine an element of fun with learning. Interaction is a must. Much like the old saying that “a family that eats together stays together”, these sessions can foster collaboration and learning in teams.
A slight word of caution though, all of what we have said before applies equally to lunch & learn sessions. For some lunch might be an opportunity to walk the dog or get a breath of fresh air. Make sure that the session doesn’t become something that detracts from the day and set the boundaries of what attending means for the team.