Socialization between Team Members: What Will Make the Difference between Success and Failure When Adopting the Hybrid Work Model?
One of my favourite episodes of Friends is the one in which Rachel starts smoking when she discovers that her new boss and her co-worker were making decisions without her during their cigarette break. In order to be part of the conversation, she takes up smoking.
After many years in the corporate world as a non-smoker, I knew that bonds were often formed during cigarette and coffee breaks and that there was a certain complicity, closeness and trust between those who spent time together.
The same role was played by spontaneous conversations in the kitchen where you could build relationships and learn about the challenges of colleagues in other departments. Sometimes it helped me empathise more and judge less, other times what was being discussed were rumours, gossip and speculation.
These small but important moments in the office are less common today for many of us.
Having social interactions in a hybrid work model is a huge challenge for many organizations since employees need to be able to successfully navigate both worlds and, truth be told, few are socially equipped to do so with ease.
Creating an environment where people feel connected is a long-term solution that doesn’t happen automatically just because we have the technology and equipment to virtually stay in touch.
Even when we used to share the same space, companies had to put in the effort to build such a culture. Moreover, it doesn’t make sense to pretend that life in the office was always easy and that relationships were real and authentic. Plenty of organizations were struggling with inefficient group dynamics even prior to this crisis.
Some employees find a good side to the new hybrid work model and for good reasons. Here are just a few of the things that many people won’t regret:
- the bullying that was taking place;
- the noisy teams that used to tease them when they tried to explain they needed silence;
- the sometimes intrusive questions of their peers;
- the curious eyes of some of their colleagues who needed to know every little thing that was going on in the open space.
What are the elements that will make the difference between success and failure in this new hybrid work model?
Let’s find out:
- The DNA of the company
Every company has its own DNA and the effectiveness of the strategies designed to generate team interaction will highly depend on its quality.
A healthy work culture, with employees who feel that they belong and know that they have a voice or feel encouraged to take part in the conversation provide a solid foundation on which relationships in the new model can be built.
Environments with hostile competition and a lot of bureaucracy, where leaders play for favorites and where new employees have a hard time being accepted by senior ones will deal with a greater deal of challenges.
Based on the assumption that you cannot do it alone and that any relationship is a dance between two partners, creating a successful model cannot be achieved without a joint effort.
Moreover, personal responsibility is no longer just an abstract concept. Working from home and being part of a virtual team puts personal responsibility to the core and makes it a mandatory requirement of the hybrid work model.
Success will certainly not favour those who leave all responsibility to the employees or to their managers. They need to be able to meet halfway.
- The role of leaders and internal communication department
The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of leadership and of the internal communication department. Both have had the difficult task of getting information flowing smoothly at all levels of the organisation in a manner that is easily accessible to all and well thought out in terms of timing and context.
Communication processes have been put to the test during this period and many companies were taught valuable lessons in this regard. Why is that? Because employees who are not based in the same location have less chances for spontaneous conversations.
Those who can’t take part in the small social moments that take place in the hallways or in the cafeteria need to feel that they won’t be left out by their leaders. That’s why interaction with all team members should be intentionally encouraged and put on the priority list.
The new context calls for a new kind of communication: a more conscious, less superficial style, with meetings that are not just about celebrating numbers and results but which are focused on the social and human aspect of teams. This should be done without adding more pressure or feeling urged to make up for the lost time, and without overloading employees’ agendas.
Let’s not forget that relationships are built gradually over time, with effort and willingness on both sides. Maybe it’s finally time to forget about our titles and to take the time to see and get to know the persons behind them.