Remote work is now proven to be efficient, effective, and realistic for many organizations. Before the world changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations expected most of their employees to work in a traditional office, with remote work being the exception. Now, hybrid workplaces are becoming commonplace. In fact, in Gallup’s September update of its monthly employee trends reported that 45% of full-time U.S. employees are continuing to work remotely at least part of the time.

This new hybrid workplace requires supervisors and employees to be more intentional, proactive, flexible, and inclusive. It also requires a shift in thinking – away from going back to how things used to be, and instead focusing on how we can create success in this new world.

Read on for five best practices to foster success in a hybrid workplace.

  • Encourage a hybrid mindset across all levels of your organization: Being part of a hybrid team requires not falling back into old patterns of thinking. It’s no longer enough to only consider employees’ in-office experiences. We must now think about, consider, and plan for those that are working remotely. Similarly, when working remotely, it is important to consider the experience of those in the office.
  • Establish inclusive business practices and expectations: Avoid creating an environment where one group, whether in the office or working remotely is “less than” the other making sure no one starts to feel left out. Establish inclusive practices to create strong teams and relationships leveraging the contributions of both in-person and remote participants effectively. Do not fall into the trap of “proximity rule”, in delegation of work, distribution of resources and communication. In meetings, those joining remotely may not have the benefit of side conversations, body language, or access to post-meeting conversations. Unless everyone can meet in person, encourage meetings to be held virtually for all participants. If virtual meetings are not possible, establish meeting ground rules and consider using a facilitator or moderator. To allow participants to contribute equally from all locations, utilize tools such as virtual whiteboards and online collaboration platforms.
  • Be proactive with team communications: Now more than ever it is important to make sure that teams are regularly communicating. Conducting team huddles, routine check-ins, group calls, regular email or text updates, short video calls, and regularly scheduled team meetings helps to keep all employees engaged and connected – regardless of their location.
  • Intentionally foster relationships no matter where the work is done: Relationships among co-workers are integral to creating a fulfilling workplace. In hybrid workplaces, communications can often become purely transactional. Each team member is responsible for fostering relationships with co-workers.  Encourage team members to block off time on their calendars for connecting with co-workers and building relationships.
  • Make time for informal conversations: Beyond regularly scheduled calls and meetings, it’s important for employees to connect for informal “off-the-cuff” moments with those both in and out of the office. Proactively create virtual opportunities for water-cooler moments, coffee chats, lunchtime laughs, and post-meeting inspirations.

We want to travel the road to greatness with you, as a guide for you and those you lead. To learn how CI International can help your organization move to the next level of effectiveness, fill out a brief contact form, or call 800-559-9785 to start a conversation today.

Creating a Workplace Focused on Productivity and Employee Satisfaction

The phrase “return-to-work” is woefully inaccurate. Whatever the workplace looks like in 2022 and beyond, employees are not “returning-to-work”. People have been working as much, if not more, than they were pre-pandemic. Whether public or private sector, employees have had to work harder and more creatively than ever before. The focus, instead, should be on how to work productively and collegially in ever-increasing hybrid workplaces with employees working both together in the office and remotely.

When the pandemic hit and many workers abruptly began to work from home, many employers were concerned that productivity and job satisfaction would plummet. Numerous studies from organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management and Bloomberg have shown little, if any, detrimental impact in either productivity or job satisfaction. The contrary is actually true – the new working arrangement showed how much flexibility one can have in how – and where – they work. As a result, the workplace will never be the same.

Work is defined by what we do, not where we do it. Deciding on a new workplace model and establishing policies that go with it is not a simple undertaking. Organizations need to accept that they may not get it right the first time and should treat this as a continuous experiment in which they regularly measure productivity, collaboration, innovation, and community.

Below are six key elements to consider as organizations shift to a hybrid workplace:

  • Reflect on your current state. Now is the time to reflect on your current work environment and learn from past successes and challenges to make your organization more efficient, effective, and one where your employees feel fulfilled and satisfied. Start by evaluating which roles transitioned smoothly to remote work, and which tended to struggle. This can help determine which are more naturally conducive to remote work and which are better suited for a traditional office environment. You can also use this time to consider a new approach to determining remote workers, one built on the premise of remote-first, unless there is a business reason against it.

Now is the time to reflect on your current work environment and learn from past successes and challenges to make your organization more efficient, effective, and one where your employees feel fulfilled and satisfied.

  • Involve employees in planning for the future. Ask about their current challenges, their concerns about returning to the office, and their concerns about staying remote. This information will be incredibly useful in building your plan for the future and will go a long way towards making your employees feel heard and considered.
  • Create a transition team to develop policies for the new workplace. Ideally, this team is comprised of organization leaders, influential employees, and staff across various areas of your business. Bringing together individuals with differing opinions, viewpoints, and experiences will help in creating well-rounded policies and expectations that meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
  • Consider technology upgrades or improvements. When companies around the world were thrown into remote work, many made do with their existing technology platforms. In building for the future of hybrid work, you now have an opportunity to evaluate current systems, address challenges and pain points, and implement new hardware, software, or platforms to best support the future of hybrid work environments.
  • Clearly develop and publish new policies and expectations for all employees. In our new work environments, communication and organizational alignment is incredibly important. After all, remote work and hybrid work environments should not operate like the wild wild west! After developing your organization’s policies and procedures, share those broadly with all employees, contractors, and new hires. And make them easily accessible to all levels of your organization to help promote an environment of shared understanding and expectations.
  • Train and provide learning opportunities for your employees. Your employees and leaders are undergoing massive changes to the way they work, lead, and operate. It’s important to support them by providing tools and training in the areas of workplace safety, change management, working in a hybrid environment, and more. At CI International, we offer the following trainings that are directly applicable to this time:
    • Leading in a Hybrid Environment
    • Working in a Hybrid Environment
    • Leading Change
    • Adapting to Change
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Motivation and Engagement
    • Interpersonal Communications
    • Mindfulness and Resilience
    • Coaching Skills for Leaders

The hybrid workplace is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how work gets done. It acknowledges that the “one size fits all” traditional pre-COVID workplace, or for that matter the “one size fits all” remote workplace, leaves some employees out. We need a workplace culture that enables everyone to give at their best. That requires adaptability, flexibility, and embracing the hybrid workplace as the new standard.

We want to travel the road to greatness with you, as a guide for you and those you lead. Learn more about our Post-COVID Workplace Leadership Workshops. Looking for more? To learn how CI International can help your organization move to the next level of effectiveness, fill out a brief contact form, or call 800-559-9785 to start a conversation today.

 

“I can’t speak highly enough of this contractor. CI International has done a terrific job in providing high- quality training and development.

Not only do they provide relevant, timely, and insightful content, but they also show a true caring and concern for our staff. In the many aspects of how they work with the organization and with the participants, as well as their focus on providing exceptional customer service, they feel like a part of my team.”

-HHS Executive

Have you found yourself wondering lately:

  • Can I effectively lead my team when we’re exclusively teleworking?
  • Can I be fully productive in a telework environment?
  • How do I stay connected to remote colleagues and work collaboratively?
  • How do I run an effective on-line meeting?

COVID-19 is having a significant impact on our personal and professional lives. There is a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds, and with that uncertainty comes angst and worry.

A good way to deal with uncertainty is to focus on what we’re able to control. One of the things within our control is how we manage our workplace, both as leaders and employees. The decision to shift to full telework may be beyond our control, but the manner in which we react to it is within our control.

Telework has already proven itself to be a viable alternative to conventional work. Over the years CI International has been delivering telework training, we’ve found four fundamental principles that enable telework teams to be effective:

A focus on results, and not on activities
Clear identification of communications protocols and expectations
Intentionality about being visible
Enhanced Responsiveness

Here’s the thing about these four elements: we should be doing this in all work environments. Everyone wants to know what results are expected and appreciate not being micro-managed; all offices should have clearly established communications protocols and expectations; the accomplishment of employees should be open and visible; and employees should hold themselves to a level of responsiveness that meets the needs of the team.

Telework isn’t something to be endured, but something which can enhance the organization’s ability to be successful. However, building a successful telework environment doesn’t happen by accident. An intentionality is required, particularly in giving employees the tools to be successful in a new and changing environment.

CI International has four telework webinars available that address the key elements noted above. These 2-hour sessions build the necessary level of competence and expertise for employee to thrive in a remote environment and ensure the organization continues to successfully achieve both short-term goals and the long-term mission. These instructor-led sessions are delivered in an engaging, interactive format that allows for discussion, questions, and activities. Those workshops are described below.

Leading in a Telework Environment
Many front-line leaders are anxious and uncertain about telework programs, fearing loss of control over employees’ daily work and lacking trust in their subordinates’ ability to work without direct supervision. This workshop will focus on building the leadership skills, trust and confidence to manage a successful telework program.

Objectives:

  • Gain tools to more effectively lead in a telework environment
  • Raise “hot button” concerns managers have regarding telework and identify strategies to resolve telework problems
  • Learn the four best practices of successful telework and how to apply them as a manager
  • Establish effective communication protocols and strategies

Making Telework Work
This online workshop gives both managers and employees the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to make your telework program a success. The workshop is particularly effective for intact teams so they can build a common understanding and mutual support for the shift to telework. Participants will leave with action plans under each objective and with practical tools they can put to use immediately after the workshop.

Objectives:

  • Identify the benefits and challenges of telework
  • Understand the importance of performance management in making telework successful
  • Learn to stay visible, responsive and connected in a telework environment
  • Establish effective communication strategies for telework

Conducting Effective Virtual Meetings
This workshop provides practical tools and skills for planning, leading, and participating
in a virtual meeting. Workshop participants will gain insight into how to maximize meeting platform software and tap the collective wisdom of the group to gather data, make decisions, and develop effective action plans to make the decisions reached in the meeting a reality.
Objectives:

  • Collect ideas for successfully planning a virtual meeting
  • Learn how to run an effective meeting using meeting technology
  • Develop techniques to increase group participation

Staying Connected in a Telework Environment
This workshop focuses primarily on the use and function of applications to enable team members to collaborate most effectively. The class will focus on three primary areas of technology tools; 1) document and data collaboration 2) communication collaboration and 3) meeting collaboration. Users will be provided options in how and when to utilize these tools.

Objectives:

  • Learn to effectively use collaboration tools to stay connected
  • Understand the different collaboration tools that are available and their appropriate uses for team members
  • Understand how to improve document and data collaboration
  • Discuss appropriate use and protocol for utilizing communication tools such as email, phone, text, IM, hangouts, discussion forums and social media

Resilience:
1. the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
2. the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

It’s a typical work day. You begin working on email at 8:00. Suddenly it’s 9:30 and you’re rushing to get to that 10:00 meeting. Because the client is late and there is too much to discuss, you don’t get out of the meeting until noon. You grab a sandwich and get back to the office, check email and voice mail, return phone calls. The time is now 2:00. Your colleague, Sally, comes in to report a disaster with a client. You leave everything behind for an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis. At 3:00 you finally settle in to begin work on your to-do list, but your colleague John comes by—he is so funny, and has a great story to share with you about his weekend. You glance at your watch and now it’s 3:30; you’d better check email again. At 4:00 you look at your list and the papers on your desk and begin doing those small tasks that can be done quickly. At 5:30 you race out of the office to pick up your kids. At 9:00 pm you check email again to see if anything urgent has happened. At 11:00 you lie in bed, feeling exhausted and a bit unsure of what you accomplished that day–but you sure were busy!

Each of us has a different idea of what makes for a perfect day, but for most of us it includes being able to accomplish our top priorities, and having both the time to build relationships with colleagues and clients and the time to deal with unexpected urgencies. Most of us want to go home at a reasonable hour, leaving all work behind and feeling satisfied, organized and motivated for the next day. The key is to strike the right balance between planning your day, and quickly adapting to the external influences that threaten our plan. That’s resilience—the ability to have your day stretched out of the shape you originally planned for it, and yet be able to bounce back and still accomplish your goals.

The first step in creating a perfect day is having a clear vision of what you want it to look like. You can’t take control of your daily work life unless you know exactly how you want to change it. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help create that vision:

1. What would you accomplish in a ‘perfect’ day?

2. How many hours would you work daily?

3. What individuals (both internally and externally) would you further develop business       relationships with?

4. How much uninterrupted time would you have during the day?

5. How much time would you spend corresponding by email and phone?

6. What other aspects would make it a ‘perfect’ day?

7. How would you feel at the end of day?

Now use your calendar as your guide. Block time out for email and phone, relationship building and uninterrupted task time. With each and every request for your work time commitments, there should be clear negotiation on the appropriateness of the task and time it will take place. Thus you are not really saying no; you are merely negotiating how you say yes. Perhaps the two-hour meeting someone has sent you an invite for should really only require your presence for an hour; perhaps the committee you’ve been asked to chair would more appropriately be led by someone else and merely advised by you. Be assertive in your negotiations and more proactive and intentional in planning your day, and you will build resilience to better manage the inevitable time management challenges that come your way.

“But that’s ridiculous!” Ralph sputtered, interrupting Mariah in mid-sentence. “I’ve been following the same reporting procedure for ten years! How can it suddenly be wrong?”

“It’s not so much that it’s ‘wrong,’” Mariah explained patiently. “It’s just that we need to be more thorough. Our public has changed over the past decade and they demand more information, faster, and with a wider scope. Most of what goes into your reports could be found on the internet.”

“You seem to have a bias against me,” Ralph responded, barely controlling his anger. “I’ve noticed it since the day I was moved into your branch. You treat me differently than the other public information specialists and I’m not the only one who has noticed it.”

As managers and supervisors, we’ve all been there before. An employee has been performing below standard on a particular task for as long as anyone in the agency can remember. Rather than seeking to improve the performance, previous supervisors have passed the employee along to other work units, sometimes even giving glowing references. What do you do when you need to give constructive feedback to someone who has been led to believe she is performing at or above standard?

Mariah knew she needed to start the process by giving objective, behavior-based observations to Ralph, and she used the six steps for giving effective feedback, but the employee blew up and challenged her. Given that Ralph had never received any feedback before, perhaps Mariah should have anticipated such a reaction.

Here are some steps to handle a tense situation in which your feedback is not accepted:

1. First, consider options for an appropriate time and place to meet with the employee. For example, if your office is visible to the rest of the team, forcing someone to make a public march to the “principal’s office” may start you off on the wrong foot. Perhaps meeting in a coffee shop would be better.

2. Then acknowledge the reality of the situation at the very beginning of the conversation, before the employee has a chance to become emotional. “I’d like to give you some feedback on your current reporting procedure. It may be the first time you’ve been given this feedback, so I understand it might be surprising or frustrating for you to hear.”

3. Observe the employee’s non-verbal signals carefully and watch for signs of an emotional response, so you may be better prepared.

4. Once the employee expresses anger, denial or defensiveness, shift from making observations to asking questions. “I see you don’t agree with my observation. Can you tell me more about how you see it?” “Can you walk me through your perspective?” “Can you tell me how you view this differently?”

5. Manage your stories. You may have been telling yourself that the employee was aware of the issue and deliberately chose to skate along at sub-par performance levels, but now is the time to question your assumptions. If the employee has never received feedback before, it’s very possible she has no idea she’s considered underperforming. Give her the benefit of the doubt, and listen actively as she begins to describe how she sees it.

6. Remember to remain respectful. Once a person perceives a lack of respect on your part, it will be difficult if not impossible to ask him to pay attention to your message.

7. Seek common ground to build on, and let the employee retain a feeling of control. Each of you may assess the employee’s behavior differently, but there are likely to be points of agreement, especially when it comes to the goals of the position. Use that to steer the employee toward a commitment. “It sounds as if we both agree that the public’s needs have changed. How do you think can we better address those needs?”

8. Make sure to explicitly link plans for improvement with clear objectives, and discuss any relevant metrics that might be used to measure success. “Let’s revisit our customer survey results at the end of this year to see if we’ve moved the needle on meeting our objectives in public education.”

9. End the conversation on a positive note. “It sounds like we have a plan. I appreciate your willingness to consider my feedback, and I know you want the best for our team. Let me know what else I can do to support you in making the changes we’ve agreed on.”