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Considerations for successful hybrid-work models

Nov 14, 2023 08:32AM ● By Anne McClintic

Once in a generation (if that), we have the opportunity to reimagine how we work. The emergence of remote work has done just that.

When we think of remote work, chances are we’re taken back to March 2020, when the workforce all around the world suddenly seemed to shift overnight.

In reflecting on the journey of the organization I’m honored to serve, MAHEC, I’m in awe of the adaptability each of our employees displayed as they cared incredibly for our patients, learners, community, and each other while adjusting to this new reality.

Fast-forward nearly three years and we’ve all been asking: What’s the future of remote work? What kind of work environment do we want to create to ensure success for organizations and their employees?

Research has shown us that hybrid models, or a mix of in-person and remote work, are effective and here to stay.

We know the benefits of both – time to work remotely affords the ability to focus and balance life, and time to work in-person offers opportunities to connect with each other. Most of us find that traditional models of work often require a great deal of sacrifice whether that sacrifice is time with our families, our chosen community, or the time needed to care for ourselves. However, hybrid working has unlocked new ways of integrating life and work. 

As a single working mom of two school-aged children during the pandemic, I am not sure how I would have survived without the ability to be present with their needs and also create flexibility for where and when I accomplished my work.

As we embrace this new world, three key tips for organizations or businesses to consider include:

  1. Mix it up, clearly. Step back and identify the right mix of hybrid work, by both team and role, to ensure team members are set up to work most effectively and efficiently. That may take the form of scheduled at-work and virtual days, a percentage of work spent in a hybrid format, or flexibility that fluctuates based on the work itself. What’s most important is to be clear about expectations for your hybrid workers up front. As Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors and thought leaders guides us, “Clear is kind.” 

  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. At the heart of effective teams is healthy communication. In a traditional work environment, communication takes all sorts of forms including people walking down the hall to have a quick chat about an issue, popping their head into someone’s office to provide an update, or enjoying lunch together to build relationships. Remote work removes these opportunities to connect. Trust and togetherness remain vital ingredients! Implement dedicated one-on-ones, team meetings, and defined in-person social time to maintain the benefits of high-touch connection.

  3. Increase feedback loops. The physical distance inherent in remote work can lead to a sense of detachment that can hinder productivity and creativity. Hybrid teams require deliberate and well-structured feedback loops to stay synchronized and focused on shared goals. Feedback loops give us an immediate, transparent line of sight into the overall health and happiness of our team, and typical verbal and non-verbal cues that colleagues use to signal intentions and opinions can be easily overlooked in a virtual environment. Consider instituting formal or informal check-ins, engagement pulse checks, virtual open office hours, or listening sessions. Most importantly, act and follow-up on the feedback. Acting means applying the feedback to your work, making changes, adjustments, or improvements as needed, thereby demonstrating that you have learned from the feedback.

How we work has fundamentally changed, and it has opened up a wealth of new opportunities for how we engage our professional and personal lives. Organizations have an increasing responsibility to look out for the whole employee — their professional and personal wellbeing — and focus on human-centric work.

Anne McClintic, MS, is the Chief Talent Officer at MAHEC, founded nearly 50 years ago with a mission to recruit, train, and retain the workforce needed to create a healthy community.