How to Strengthen Weak Ties in a Hybrid Work Environment

One thing is for sure, we’ve had to deal with a lot of change over the last two years because of the pandemic. Many businesses went from normal operations to remote working overnight. They then spent over a year trying to perfect those processes, keep the business operational, and ensure that employees are safe, continually productive, and happy. 

Now, we’re all working out how to go back into the office, if we should go back full time, and what the next version of “new normal” looks like.

Many businesses are now looking towards a hybrid way of working—some staff working remotely and others in the office, or a combination of working from home and from the office for everyone. 

How this setup looks will depend on the business and the employees. However, there are major concerns that need to be addressed when setting up a hybrid work environment—mainly cohesion in your workforce.

When you are operating with a team that isn’t always in the same space, it can be difficult to build that team feeling. You could easily find yourself in a situation where certain team members never see each other face to face. This can lead to issues or concerns about inclusion and exclusion, inequalities, team performance, and fairness in the treatment of individual team members.

How do you change this?

Let’s look at a few ways you can tighten team ties for the better.

4 Tips For Combatting These Concerns

  1. Opening The Virtual Office Door

Communication is the only way to strengthen weak ties and ensure that all employees feel heard in any office setup. The problem with a hybrid setup is that you can’t rely on informal communication happening naturally. You also can’t simply see if someone is having a bad day or if they’re struggling with work at a given moment.

As a manager or boss, you need to have a policy in place that allows people to come to you with any queries or concerns. 

The classic open-door policy can be interpreted into a virtual setting too. Have certain times a day where you set your chat status to open and include the message that you are available to chat. 

It’s important to make sure that you initiate conversations with employees regularly. Let them know you care about their well being and not just the work they produce. You can help them keep a positive mindset if you make them feel appreciated and heard. 

You should also encourage similar communications and interactions between employees.

  1. Follow The Flow Of Information

The flow of information in a business is critical for work to get done. It’s also an important part of how employees interact, as well as how they get assigned key jobs or even land promotions. When working with a hybrid situation, it’s important to ensure that those who are working from home don’t miss out on information about projects, clients, suppliers, and other employees.

The key is to identify where the weak ties are and where the sub-groups are forming within your organization. This is a natural phenomenon when people work together, so sub-groups in themselves shouldn’t be a concern. It’s when those sub-groups prevent information from flowing to all members of your staff that it can become a problem.

Take time to nurture the weak ties between the sub-groups to ensure that information flows from one to the other and vice versa. You should also ensure that your business has procedures in place to keep that information flowing.

  1. Keep An Eye On Your Business Reward Mechanisms

Employee rewards—from public acknowledgement to position promotions—are a vital part of any organization because they keep employees motivated. 

An easy thing to let happen in a hybrid situation is to not change your process for acknowledging employees. This leads to the people in the office seeing rewards more often than those who are working remotely.

There can be big differences in the way people work depending on whether they’re remote or in the office. A person’s home situation can be highly distracting or they can have fewer technical resources than those in the office. 

Take time to look at each person’s situation and judge them on an individual basis to ensure true fairness in your rewards system for your business.

  1. Build A Solid On-Boarding Process

A major point that’s cropped up in the world of remote working is the fact that some people go through the entire hiring and onboarding process and never meet any other employees. In a virtual environment, you can hire people from all over the world, and these employees may never interact with those working in your office.

Take some time to review your existing onboarding process and see how you can ensure that everyone gets the same treatment when they join your company. Short videos on how your different teams operate and how the systems or templates you use work are hugely helpful. 

Hold small get-to-know-you online chats so that each new member of your team can meet other employees. It’s all about introducing new remote people to the company the same way they would be introduced if they actually came into the office.

Remember, the learning curve of a new remote employee is usually a lot steeper than one who works in the office. 

You need to send instructions on how to get set up rather than having an in-house technician take care of the process. If the employee is not technically minded, this is a potentially daunting task. Think about how you could mimic that in-person help through screen sharing and video conferencing instead of sending a long instruction manual.

A buddy system to help people get to know how the company operates and who the main stakeholders are is another great option. It helps link employees in the office to those who are working remotely. This could also improve informal communication links between the two halves of your hybrid business and strengthen your weak ties.

The hybrid workplace is a strange new world. It is unchartered territory, and it requires teams to work together in different ways. These tips can help bring cohesiveness to a workplace environment that combines virtual and face-to-face interaction.

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