The Hybrid Highway: A Quick Entry + No Exit
Work has changed radically over the last three years. The pandemic, uncertain economic forecasts, and shifts in employee expectations have required organizations to adapt and quickly.
One core change is the hybrid working model. While most companies were forced to shift to a hybrid or fully remote work environment at the pandemic’s start, many companies have kept it going. One recent survey found that 78% of respondents’ companies have fully embraced the hybrid model.
For Most, Hybrid is a Good Thing
Hybrid work has been a huge boon to many employees, especially individual contributors.
When asked what they liked about hybrid work, employees shared benefits ranging from a better ability to balance their job and personal life, feeling more productive with an increased ability to focus, and positive impacts on their mental health.
Employees enjoy hybrid work so much that 64% said they would consider quitting if asked to return to the office full-time.
But, this transition to hybrid has proved challenging for some people in key roles, mainly managers.
Managers Are Struggling in Hybrid
An October 2022 survey by the US think-tank Future Forum found that executives reported 40% more work-related stress, a 20% dip in their work-life balance, and 15% less job satisfaction in the past year. Middle managers showed a double whammy: the lowest scores for work-life balance and the highest stress and anxiety levels. These scores make sense.
While leading a team is always challenging—managing expectations up, down, and across the organization—the shift to hybrid sped up and intensified the challenges. Managers had to adapt their leadership and communication styles overnight, many times without additional support:
- Systems and tools they had relied on for decades no longer applied or had to be dramatically shifted
- Approaches to recruiting changed, with the possibility that you may never meet this employee in person
- Building a successful team culture became more ambiguous with teams connecting more and more through screens
All this “newness” happened on top of managers’ normal workloads.
The long-term cost of this management pressure has yet to be seen, but there are predictable outcomes if left unaddressed.
Managers who feel chronically overwhelmed and under-supported will look elsewhere for work. Employees who feel unsupported by their managers will disengage and not perform at their full potential. Over time, an organization without engaged leaders and employees will have a harder time reaching its business objectives.
A New Model for Manager Support
Given this here-to-stay hybrid workplace and the new challenges managers will continue to face, there is an opportunity to support, coach, develop, and empower your managers to succeed.
Below, we outline several different strategies you and your organization can implement to help your managers thrive:
Get In Touch
Reach out to your managers and ask how they’re doing and what kind of support would be most helpful. Direct feedback is vital to better understand how to structure your support approach and ensure that every action is intentional.
While this may prove to be an uncomfortable process—you may hear things that reveal weak points in your organization–this is a trust-building exercise. The more your managers feel heard, the more engaged and productive they will be.
Connecting once to check in and gather feedback is only the beginning. Having your managers truly thrive will require an ongoing conversation where both sides can follow up on what’s working, what’s not, and discuss what needs to happen next.
You may consider scheduling regular conversations between you and your managers in the form of 1:1 conversations or group events, like a regular “Town Hall.”
Formalize Peer Support
While you work to improve manager support from the communication and resource perspective, peer groups can also be incredibly powerful.
In peer groups, managers meet regularly to connect and gain support from other managers. In this way, they can learn from each other, brainstorm new ideas and strategies for best managing their teams (and leveling up), and ultimately feel like they are not alone.
Educate and Coach
One of the most powerful strategies for supporting managers is to leverage intentional, holistic training and development.
Many of the hybrid challenges managers face (and will continue to face) come down to soft skills: how to inspire, model trust and accountability, and teach/mentor their teams.
Investing in ad-hoc and ongoing expert education can be an incredible way to support managers in developing the skills they need to perform and lead effectively. You’ll find that your investment might catalyze the entire culture of your organization.
Not sure what kind of education and skills-building might be the best investment? Reach out to us. Every client engagement starts with a discovery process to understand your business. The Creative Executive will design a customized program that helps you best support your managers now and in the future, whether it’s cohort coaching, 360 executive assessments, team-building events, or a long-term engagement encompassing multiple frameworks. Learn more about our offerings.
Like the changes we’ve seen over the last few years, the future is ambiguous. No approach will be perfect or the right solution every time. We believe the most important part of helping your managers thrive in this new hybrid environment is simply to start. Your managers are the hub of your business–connecting your executives and your individual contributors—an investment in them is an investment in the health and wellness of your entire organization.
Three clients gave us the challenge of helping them design events to bring their leaders together, reestablish and strengthen bonds, and renegotiate agreements around workplace culture post-pandemic. Read our latest case study.