Before the pandemic, a hybrid office model was mostly an anomaly seemingly used by companies attempting to innovate. It was featured in online articles and other content, but most people didn’t know anyone working in that capacity. However, this model has now become the standard for many people as life has yet to return to “normal”. It may look a little different for everyone, as companies have different needs, but it is safe to assume some days will be spent working from home and others in the office. Essentially, hybrid working is here to stay well beyond the duration of the pandemic. This development makes it apparent that understanding how to best manage a hybrid team is necessary. Many in business have realized the importance of having trusting relationships with this work model. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett, spoke to this, “Trust is like the air we breathe – when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.”
It is obvious that trust is incredibly important, but there may be a lack of clarity as to why and how it is so. Therefore, we connected with a few business experts to gain their insight on building trust.
Rio Wolff is the Chief Operations Officer of Big Heart Toys, a brand offering innovative toys, books, and games to help unlock the power of learning through play. She believes when a trusting environment is present, employees are more likely to stay with a company.
“The current generations of capable employees have continued to demonstrate far more personal agency and awareness than those that came before them. While humans maintaining personal values that differ in the workplace is nothing new, leaving positions in droves because of said disagreements is a reality for many companies now. I think part of this is due to those employees not trusting their bosses or the company itself. If an employee is feeling like his or her coworkers don’t have their back, they’re going to be quick to find a place of work that offers that. Nobody wants to constantly be on edge due to their working environment.”
CureSkin specializes in an AI-enabled beauty and personal care app. Their CEO, Guna Kakulapati, suggests employees who spend time alone are sure to suffer one way or another.
“The hybrid model is interesting when you look at the social dynamics of it. Anyone who has been part of a hybrid-style meeting knows just how awkward or difficult it can be to always maintain clear communication. Technology issues can sometimes be the source of this, but people contribute as well. From not knowing when to speak to established relationships, there are many things people do naturally which can clash. For example, a remote employee may be made to feel isolated because those in the office seem to be enjoying the company of each other even though they’re working.”
Why: Improved communication
With employees working in vastly different physical capacities, communication must crystal clear. iProcess is a business providing global biospecimens and research. Their Director, Asker A Ahmed, considers this approach wise.
“Do you remember the first time you spoke up in a meeting you weren’t leading? For many, it’s unsettling to discuss anything of importance in front of a group of peers or superiors. This feeling is magnified when a hybrid office is in place. If a single employee is sitting on a video chat and being looked at by a room full of employees, it adds to the uneasiness that comes with speaking publicly. However, if there’s a trusting relationship in place, remote employees will not be met with these same feelings.”
Dan Gray is the General Manager of Kotn Supply, a brand offering ethical merch for teams and communities. He advises building trust to foster a safe environment.
“One of the largest symptoms of a relationship built on trust is the feeling of safety that comes with it. When trust is present, both parties feel as if they can be themselves without fear of repercussion. This is exactly the type of workplace a leader should attempt to nurture. When people don’t have to spend time analyzing how they should behave, they’re going to be more engaged across the board. Basically, there shouldn’t be any anxiety experienced by your employees because of a lack of mental, emotional, or physical safety.”
How: Make it fair
Box Genie specializes in customized boxes and packaging. Their GM, Sean Doherty, believes implementing practices to create a neutral playing field for employees is advisable.
“Like with anything, there are pros and cons to working in the office or working from home. We don’t need to get into specifics, but it is important to acknowledge the existence of these things. Why? Well, your employees will feel their presence the longer they stay in a hybrid role if some of these cons are not addressed. Take accessibility for instance. In the office, employees can usually see if the boss is available and pop their head in if they have a question. It’s not that simple if someone is working from home. Obviously, there’s only so much you can do but if you can make certain things a little fairer for everyone it can go a long way.”
How: Construction, not destruction
“The nature of electronic communication does not lend itself to being the most beneficial to personal relationships. This should be considered when mulling over how to best connect with team members. One of the biggest things you need to remember is the tone you set is the one that sticks with employees after a call has ended. Here’s what I mean: If you were to give negative feedback alone and then the employee is left to sit alone in their home, it’s going to be a while before they move on from that. Be constructive in your feedback, not destructive.”
How: Utilize Opportunities
Staci Brinkman is the Founder and CEO of Sips by, a brand offering tea subscription boxes with personalized tea and gifts. She cautions others to make the most of any possible positive situations when they present themselves.
“When everyone is working in an office together, there are an endless number of opportunities to interact with coworkers or members of a team. A hybrid style of working changes this reality entirely. Now, the only opportunities people must interact with others are when meetings are scheduled via video. With business being the reason for these meetings, any personal interactions are not usually anything more than a passing pleasantry. After understanding all this, it is easy to see why hybrid managers and leaders should utilize their opportunities as best as they can so they can build trust. Because if they don’t, meetings will turn stale, and employees will head for the greener pastures.”
How: Be Honest
Yotta specializes in easy and fun ways to save, spend and manage your money. Their Head of Growth, Trevor Ford, considers truthful communication to be of the utmost importance.
“Each person has that little indicator inside their brain that goes off when they feel someone may be lying to them. Sure, some people can’t detect this as well as others, but my point here is that lies generally don’t go unnoticed or undiscovered. If trust is built on honesty, then it seems reasonable to be honest from the get-go so trust can begin to be established. There is a line for how much sharing is too much and it is very industry-specific. But, if employees spend their working hours in the proverbial dark, they’re not going to trust you in the slightest.”
Without trust in a workplace, many things can begin to fall apart but the most impactful thing is probably the ability to grow as a company. Without trust, a company is choosing to operate at a deficit to itself. John Pepper, the former chairman of The Walt Disney Company, summed up the power of trust, “Trust is the antidote that overcomes fear – and fear is the greatest inhibitor of all to a relationship that welcomes and nurtures new ideas.”
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