4 ways to address your employees’ top concerns in a hybrid/remote work environment

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the new challenges of managing a remote or a hybrid team? You’re not alone.

The last two years have forced people managers to suddenly adopt a new management style and learn how to navigate as they go. Even the most skilled and tenured people managers have been tested to their limits.

In fact, a 2021 survey conducted by Ten Spot – Employee Management in the Era of Hybrid & Remote Work – found that “78% of managers feel they need training on how to be better managers, particularly in hybrid and remote work environments”. 

For many managers, this new way of working is here to stay. A report released from Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work highlighted 86 percent of employees either want fully remote or remote-first work environments going forward. A 2021 study conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Australian College of Applied Professions (ACAP) uncovered “Gen Z (74%), millennial (70%), and Gen X (65%) workers say their manager or boss struggles with soft skills”.

It’s no surprise that employees’ top two concerns are not being able to unplug from work and struggling with feelings of loneliness.

Managers (and their companies!) need to role model healthy behaviors and prioritize soft skill development to foster connection, culture, and ultimately high performance in this new environment.

4 ways to help employees unplug and create better connection in a hybrid and remote environment:

1) Arrange “Walk & Talk” meetings

Zoom fatigue is real. Replace the “Let’s go for a coffee” informal meeting with “Let’s walk & talk”. Be intentional with the calendar invite; expressly state that the meeting will be via phone call and leave your home (if weather permits), take headphones to make it easier and go for a walk around the block. This will alleviate the pressure of being fixed to a chair, break the zoom cycle and put the focus on the conversation. 

2) Communicate by example and set clear boundaries 

Managers set the tone for expected behavior. Schedule emails or Slack reminders to be sent the following morning or strictly during business hours. Indicate in the message or on the subject line that the response is required when they start to work the next day. Don’t be the reason an employee is unable to unplug from work. 

3) Encourage and create connection 

Whether you use Slack, Teams or a similar communication tool, create a channel with the sole purpose of connecting on a personal level (family, life events, pets etc.). Start a post thread with an open question “Hey Team, tell me something interesting about your weekend? Photos and GIFs encouraged). Ensure to always start with yourself. This will lighten the mood, start the day with wholesome conversations and deepen the working relationship to build a stronger rapport. 

4) Check energy levels

By taking a regular pulse check with your team, you can look out for changes in energy and remind your team to unplug when they need it. Ask the question at the start of each 1:1: “On a scale of 1-10, what’s your battery level this week?”. It’s a simple question that packs a lot of punch. It helps your team members think more objectively about their own well-being. Understanding the “why” behind their answer is powerful too. You can uncover things that are harder to perceive in a remote environment and learn what drains and what energizes each team member. 

For more training and support for people managers, check out The Mintable’s community-based learning and growth platform designed for managers, by managers.