How to Jumpstart Engagement and Productivity in Hybrid Teams

As businesses emerge from the recent pandemic, it’s more important than ever that teams be productive, efficient, and engaged. This is especially true as companies make challenging decisions about the future while grappling with the repercussions of the past year. 

For instance, a Gartner survey of company executives across multiple industries found that 82 percent plan to offer flexible work arrangements moving forward, including remote and hybrid work opportunities. The benefits are evident. Most prominently, allow businesses to cater to shifting employee desires at a time when people are weighing their options and, more often than usual, quitting their jobs. 

Long-term flexible work arrangements also present challenges for business leaders. As businesses try to bounce back from a pandemic year, they are counting on their employees to facilitate that resurgence, making engagement and productivity a top priority. With so much on the line, here are three ways to effectively manage and optimize productivity in hybrid teams and focus on team engagement. 

#1 Measure What Matters 

In a competitive workplace environment, management teams are tasked with improving employee productivity at every level. In a digital-first workplace, this requires a data-driven approach to understanding productivity, including how employees spend their time, what workplace bottlenecks are diminishing outcomes, and do employees fully understand expectations. 

Employee monitoring software allows leaders to measure just about everything, and many managers are using that feature to its fullest, capturing everything from mouse movements to message frequency to assess productivity. Critically, we should remember that what gets measured gets done, so we must be very intentional about what we measure. If you want employees to be busy, activity monitoring will tell you everything you need to know. 

However, most leaders are more concerned with revenue-driving outcomes, not generalized activity. Therefore, it’s critical to establish clear expectations for employee outcomes. Turn to appropriate data sets to measure and assess those outcomes regularly. 

#2 Remember the Human Element

Hybrid employees undoubtedly enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with a flexible work arrangement. Even so, these workers experience unique challenges that leaders cannot afford to ignore. Unfortunately, too many leaders fail to accurately assess their team’s well-being. According to one workplace survey, the majority of employee respondents indicated that they were frustrated with their job, while most management-level respondents reported that their employees were “thriving.”

Engaging employees and measuring productivity in hybrid teams requires leaders to remember the human element by understanding challenges, engaging in collaborative discussions, and working toward a common goal. The fact that 60 percent of hybrid workers feel disconnected from their on-site counterparts only underscores the critical nature of this priority. 

#3 Build Sustainable Processes 

To be sure, optimizing employee productivity and engagement for a post-pandemic landscape doesn’t mean that people weren’t working hard throughout the past year. For example, it’s estimated that remote workers added three hours to their workdays as ad hoc remote work arrangements eroded any remaining semblance of work-life balance. 

What’s more, a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research identified a significant uptick in the number of meetings, emails, and calendar events issued during the pandemic. As Jeffrey Polzer, a Harvard Business School professor and the report’s author, concludes, “People will start burning out if we don’t rethink how they’re spending their time.”

Incredibly, it’s estimated that 50 percent of meetings could be eliminated “if people have the courage.” Of course, leaders can increase employee engagement and productivity without canceling a single meeting by optimizing workers’ time. 

Employee surveys find that nearly half of employees identify extended, interrupted time as the essential factor in their productivity. That’s why Microsoft analyzed data from its employee monitoring efforts to determine people’s most productive windows. The company requested that managers avoid scheduling meetings during a three-hour time slot when productivity peaked.  Leaders don’t have to follow Microsoft’s model to improve productivity, but every company needs to build sustainable processes for engaging hybrid teams, ensuring that workers can pursue precise objectives with excellence. 

A Closing Thought

The recent pandemic reoriented our relationship with work, requiring companies to rethink how they engage and inspire their teams. As the economy rebounds and business activity increases, companies will rely on hybrid teams to help them thrive in the new normal. This won’t happen by accident.

Surveys show that leaders often doubt their capacity to nurture hybrid teams. Take time now to evaluate your existing efforts, and make plans to develop new and better patterns moving forward to jumpstart engagement and productivity in hybrid teams.

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Isaac Kohen