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Friday, December 1, 2023

What to Know Before You Take a Job in a Hybrid Workplace

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many people only fantasized about working when and where they pleased. In one of the most publicized studies on this subject, Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, which included over 30,000 people in 31 countries, concluded that 73 percent of respondents desire remote work options. A CNBC survey predicts that by the start of 2022 nearly 45 percent of organizations will have some form of a flexible work schedule, putting employees in the driver’s seat of this new hybrid model.

Like an all-you-can-eat-buffet (before the coronavirus,) there are many definitions of “hybrid,” but it generally means an employer requires a time and place for face-to-face interaction, no matter how little, throughout the year. Although it's easy to forget that remote employees have been around for decades, most businesses are still figuring out what this new normal means for staff.

"When interviewing, ask what a hybrid office looks like to [the company] and how current associates are effectively managing the transition between environments,” recommends Jason Delserro, chief talent acquisition officer at ADP, a leading global technology company providing human capital management solutions. Asking, Delserro says, opens a dialogue around the types of technology used, frequency of communications with leaders, and ways teammates collaborate.

Another tip is to review an organization’s external brand and internal culture, suggests Lindsey Pollak, workplace expert and author of Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work. For example, “are they a business that traditionally embraced a remote workforce or are they only beginning to dip their toe into a hybrid schedule?”

According to a recent Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, more than 30 percent of employers face challenges maintaining their corporate culture. Since the pandemic and the ensuing “Great Resignation,” there has never been a more critical time for words to match deeds. As a result, many executives are reexamining long-held sentiments about work culture as employees spread across coffee shops or dining room tables. Here are a few signs your potential employer is walking the talk.

Every leader works offsite part of the time.There are “level playing fields,” with specific days everyone zooms from a remote location or comes together physically.Compensation is based on expertise, regardless of whether you work onsite or off.

Clarifying what the onboarding plan is for hybrid employees, including training and meeting your new teammates, is also important when choosing your next employer, recommends Mirit Avny, a project manager at fintech company Bluestem Brands. Avny joined Bluestem in May 2021 and was delighted with the steps taken to ensure success for new staff. “My computer equipment arrived a few days before my start date, along with a list of people to connect with,” says Avny, “making Day One an easier transition than anticipated.”

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“First impressions matter,” shares Jill Hauwiller, owner and principal consultant at Leadership Refinery, a firm that provides coaching for high-potential and executive leadership. “Making an employee feel like they belong starts even before their first day,” she says. In addition to technology, many leaders send corporate swag to new employees. “These types of artifacts create a mutual benefit in helping you feel welcome while also promoting your company’s brand,” says Hauwiller.

After you’ve landed a hybrid position, here are eight ways to excel both in and out of the office.

Double the Tech

Life is complex enough managing kids, school, work, and personal time, especially when it all blurs together. Remembering your docking station, standalone camera, or other tools can tax even the most organized professional. “Mirror your workspace,” suggests Noah Glazov, vice president of enterprise sales at Amperity, a customer data platform organization. Having two of everything makes life easier, with a full office setup—including desk, drawers, and supplies—in both locations. Ideally, ask your manager or HR department to cover the costs if you need to buy anything for your home office or give you gear you can take home with you.

Understand Expectations

Hybrid work can be difficult for introverts since it requires initiative on the part of both employee and manager to stay in touch and connect with each other regularly. “Employees need to be comfortable reaching out, making connections, and asking for clarity,” says Debra Dinnocenzo, president of VirtualWorks and coauthor of Remote Leadership: Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams. So at the onset be sure you and your manager discuss specific goals and what you are accountable for, regardless of where you achieve them.

Buddy Up

At Radisson Hotels, where Avny worked as a project manager when the pandemic hit, she was part of a buddy program through which all new employees were assigned to someone outside of their core team to learn more about the organization.

“The social aspect is a challenge when starting a new job,” she says. If there isn’t an official way to get support, ask your manager to recommend a person for you to shadow. In fact, request two, suggests Hauwiller. Seek out someone who works in the office full-time (if people are still working that way) and another who is a hybrid worker, as you may learn key differences from both.

Learn the New Norms

Speaking of learning about the ins and outs of a new company, hybrid work can complicate this process. “There are new courtesies as a result of the pandemic,” says Pollak. For example, ask questions without judgment, such as: Would you prefer to connect by phone or video? Or Will you be working in the office or outside the office? These questions will become more normalized over time, just as Smoking or non-smoking? and Paper or plastic? are now part of our everyday lexicon, Pollak believes.

Other informal behaviors to note include working hours of colleagues, what time emails come out, and how information flows across the organization.

Create Moments

Shawn Stromath, a senior finance manager, joined window and door manufacturer Marvin last summer, and he couldn’t be happier with the work-life balance and supporting culture he found. Stromath shared one key difference from life before the pandemic. “Inspiration often came in those in-between moments in hallway conversations, where now you have to be purposeful in creating opportunities for serendipity,” he says. But working remotely doesn’t mean those moments can’t happen. One way Marvin encourages this kind of interaction is by dedicating days of the week to in-person innovation. Another is by building “loose agendas,” with icebreakers at the beginning of team meetings and time at the end to give employees the opportunity to hang out and chat with a colleague informally.

Phone a Friend

With Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom all vying for our attention and focus, we’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have an informal conversation with a colleague about something unrelated to work. Yet these are the very types of interactions that help you build close relationships with your peers.

When meeting with coworkers, especially when you’re new to the organization, ask them non-work questions, as well, says Glazov. What do they like to do in their free time? Do they have pets? Then give them a call and ask how they are and mention something you learned about them from your first conversation. If you aren’t comfortable phoning a stranger, text them instead.

Try to Stand Out (In a Good Way)

You may be worried that the time away from the office will hurt your chances of being promoted or having your work noticed. With some coworkers onsite more than others, those in the office may have easier access to managers and can raise their hand for the best assignments and get the most feedback because they’re “close to the action,” so to speak. If you’re remote during an in-person meeting, ensure someone is taking notes (or offer to do so yourself) so there’s a record of details and key takeaways. GitLab, for example, has a “remote-first” mentality, with upfront agendas required for any type of meeting. And reach out to management to offer your expertise when opportunities present themselves.

Flex and Adapt

As a change management consultant, I see one of the most common fears across all levels is that of the unknown. In the SHRM study mentioned earlier, more than 70 percent of employers struggle to understand the meaning of the phrase "remote." “Where there is a will, there is a way,” reminds Dinnocenzo. Those who swore their teams couldn’t be effective unless everyone was housed together quickly found new approaches to triumph over the coronavirus when it locked them out of their comfort zone.

Be patient, flexible, and adaptable. A company you join today will likely test various strategies to support the needs of its employees tomorrow while continuing to meet business objectives. And being intentional is vital to navigating, balancing, and succeeding in this new way of life.


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