Hybrid work can offer the best of both worlds including the convenience of working from home combined with the collaborative benefits of working in person. But hybrid work doesn’t come without its challenges such as fewer opportunities to build professional relationships due to limited face-to-face meetings, navigating technology to accommodate in-office and virtual meetings, and juggling schedules to ensure successful collaboration in the office. As the number of workers choosing to work remotely or a hybrid schedule continues to increase, it’s important for employees to bridge the remote versus in-person relationship gap.
Only 17% of employees report that hybrid work results in better team collaboration and improved relationships with coworkers. Instead of settling for suboptimal levels of connection, leaders can apply strategies to connect everyone quickly and efficiently. Try these three simple strategies to successfully build connection in a hybrid world and increase engagement.
Three ideas to beat the hybrid-work blues
1. Play the name game—or something similar
How many people can you name in your organization? “Evolutionary research suggests that most humans can maintain about 150 trusting relationships, but these days few of us interact with more than a small circle of familiar colleagues. The truth is, many people forget other peoples’ names especially when they do not work in person. Making the effort to learn names with a simple, and free, organizational initiative provides a practical solution to a very real problem.
Launch a friendly initiative to learn coworkers’ names. For example, announce that the name game challenge will start on a given Monday and go through Friday. Employees should be encouraged to learn as many names as possible. Leaders can make a point of starting every meeting by naming each person in the room or inviting a volunteer to give it a try. Since many remote platforms allow for a person’s name to be visible, invite participants to remove their names or leave only initials as a challenge to others.
The name game challenge gives people an excuse to seek out and ask about names in a way that will avoid the usual awkwardness that can result when you don’t know someone’s name. Use of name tags, ordinarily thought of as unnecessary or childish, can be used as a strategy for a short period. Celebrate the end of the challenge with a friendly contest by gathering employees together and asking volunteers to name as many colleagues as possible.
A supplemental strategy is to create a comprehensive intranet organizational flow chart that includes the title, role, headshot, and location for each employee. Share this with new employees with easy reference.
2. Create a video library
Using technology to bridge the remote versus in-person work divide is a valuable strategy but video is by far the most effective tool because 90% of information transmitted to the human brain is visual. The good news is that you don’t need a film crew to create high-quality videos quickly due to huge improvements in camera and sound technology in the average laptop or smartphone. These days anyone can record a video in a matter of minutes.
Ask for employee volunteers to respond to simple prompts such as:
- What do you liked to be called at work?
- Where do you work?
- Tell us something about yourself that others probably do not know.
These short videos can be shared in multiple ways including all-hands virtual meetings, via an SMS system that delivers information to employees throughout the organization, or embedded into a weekly email newsletter. Videos can be combined with the intranet organizational chart or other internal profile systems.
3. Implement a team-building day
It’s more comfortable to buy into the idea that building trust is something that organically grows over time, which can and did happen often before the pandemic. But given the toll on relationships that hybrid work continues to have, it’s good practice to target one day a week where the company and individuals put a little more effort into making connections. This weekly effort can be celebratory or strategic or both. For example, make Wednesdays WE-building® days: Host a one-day name game challenge, arrange for a food truck to visit the office or plan a scavenger hunt. Creating a “we” culture by closing the “us” versus “them” gaps is an effective strategy to increase collaboration, engagement, and connection—whether employees work from home, in the office, or both.