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5 considerations for shaping culture, collaboration in hybrid work


Through COVID-19, 9-to-5 jobs have taken on a new meaning with people having access to their work 24/7. (olezzo/Adobe Stock)

We’ve all witnessed the working environment change in the last year, and it continues to morph.

The traditional workplace we know, is just that, no longer traditional. And the 9-to-5 jobs have taken on a new meaning with people having access to their work 24/7, thanks to technology.

Add to this the cultural movements and social equality risings we are facing and that businesses are experiencing.

So much has changed and in such little time, and companies play an extremely important role in ensuring the success of everyone in this new work setting. Especially the CEO and other company leaders.

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Company leaders are 100 per cent accountable for the performance of the business and because the work environment has a deep impact on effectiveness, these two are strongly connected. The CEO or business leader needs to consider the business goals at hand and determine what kind of culture is best suited to the organization.

As the person in charge of providing direction, the CEO moves the masses, and carries significant weight in what the workforce thinks, says, and does.

Human resources play a huge role here as well, they need to ensure things are laid out in a transparent manner and that all employees have what they need to excel in their roles and are treated with fairness.

All that said, what we are seeing today is no trend, they are changes for the better across the workforce and everyone’s personal life.

Other considerations for workforce success:

Working effectively together and collaborating with a flexible model

From a big picture perspective, companies that can collaborate in a more effective manner from whichever the location will be more successful with innovation and overall growth.

Whether working from home or in the office, if your team has the right tools and technologies, this can be accomplished easily and allows them to effectively bounce ideas and brainstorm strategies to tackle problems or formulate goals.

That said, working 100 percent remotely, is not always ideal. Some things need to be tackled together in person as a group or committee to solve business problems or develop strategies. When everyone is remote, only one person can speak at a time, ideas aren’t freely thrown out there as personalities and attention spans take greater precedence when virtual. New employees will also have a challenging time with the hybrid environment.

It’s difficult to learn when fully remote as asking simple questions becomes more of a task. Also, establishing strong friendships and cross department relationships in this setting is not easy. The onboarding of new employees virtually leaves something more to be desired.

When offices start to open up a little more, we’ll still see opportunities to work from home on occasion along with having an office presence for certain things. And, then there are some roles who simply cannot work from home as they are required to run the operations side of things.

Fostering team success in a hybrid work setting

This entails a few things, such as the right tools to get the job done, like laptops, software for file sharing and communications.

There are guidelines on work from home etiquette — video conferencing backgrounds, length of meetings and training on how to communicate virtually. Providing regular check-ins, whether that’s one on ones or coffee breaks as a group and other fun activities, keep the team motivated.

It can’t be all about work, otherwise companies need to deal with employee burn out. It’s important to enforce taking breaks outside of the work environment. Lastly, there’s goals-oriented duties — instead of managing a 9-to-5 p.m. mentality, switch to a goal and key performance indicator (KPI) management style.

Enforcing a good work/life balance

The lines do get blurred when working from home as there is little separation between your workspace and personal life, and in some peoples’ cases no distance at all as employees work from the kitchen table or bedroom.

Reflection is an important part of everyone’s job – are you doing activities that are contributing to the company’s goals? Are there more effective ways to handle this duty? I should have been more assertive during this meeting… these are all thoughts that many of us have during the commute home or as your talking a 15-minute coffee break at the office.  Without this “think time” we start to feel burnout.

Employees also start to feel unsure of themselves and question if what they are doing has any purpose or is making a difference for the company. Because there is no travel time, people end up working more hours which could eventually lead to a burnout.

Leaders need to promote taking breaks, they are extremely important for the sanity of staff, but also for the quality of work they put out.

Managing the burnout and seeing the signs

This is an extremely challenging task, and I think many if not all leaders are still trying to figure this one out.

Training for management on being able to identify the signs of burnout and mental health issues in one way to go about this problem. Those regular check-ins with staff and offering help while pressing them to ask for it when needed is key.

Making sure they all know it’s alright to say “no” to unreasonable timelines and even some work if its not aligned with or has an impact on the bottom line or company goals.

Something else to consider promoting with the team is community service hours. Make them get involved. This provides employees with a break from the home office to do something nice that helps others, while getting paid for it. It gets the team away from their place of work and provides a necessary uplift of happiness and pride for everyone.

We have our own goals around this for Axis, to have all staff use eight hours each for this kind of goodwill. If leaders do see the signs of burnout, act quickly to assist that employee. Offer help and ideas to alleviate the workload. Push them to utilize personal time off (PTO), provide praise on their accomplishments, get them out of their house for your next one on one.

Building unity and understanding among colleagues

Being empathetic is not only required from a management perspective, but from a colleague-to-colleague approach. Everyone has a different situation and a different comfort level.

Try to understand and place yourself in their shoes. Accepting each other as they are, is part of building unity. Leaders need to realize this to keep their organizational culture going. An organization’s culture is what bonds employees together and builds strong teams.

Do things together! My fondest memories at Axis always included my entire team having some sort of fun together.

For a hybrid work setting to function in a way that best serves employees and the company, consider providing educational sessions on identifying mental health issues in others as well as yourself to help everyone. Offering third party help to the team if they need someone to talk to like a therapist or mentor, and pushing employees to take a break, use their community service (CSR) hours, and PTO will make wellness a top priority.

I think of Axis for example, we made the Great Places to Work list for 2021. We’re also recognized in their 2017 and 2019 list. Encouraging a great company culture that feels more like a family than a job is likely what leads to our recognition.

Our organization is flat, and humility is an essential part of all our staff members. We try to hire leaders that are understanding and that truly care for the team they are managing. These are the elements that lead to winning.

Being a thoughtful, communicative, and flexible organization is key to mastering the hybrid world.

A successful company comes from a happy and productive workforce, who come from happy and productive leaders.

Keith D’Sa is the country manager for Axis Communications in Canada.

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