Leading in a hybrid work environment

Nov 17, 2021

When the pandemic first hit, many leaders were unprepared to manage their teams virtually. With no guidelines or instructions to follow, there’s been a lot of trial and error over the past year and a half, but many have now found their flow. With a return to office on the horizon, some of the issues that leaders face may not be as prevalent; however, with more organizations adopting hybrid work, leaders may find themselves leading virtual teams permanently. Establishing best practices will be crucial to ensure success. 
A common question asked by leaders is ‘How will I know that my employees are actually working?’  This is a legitimate concern, but it indicates an antiquated measure of employee performance that dates back to the industrial revolution. Up until the pandemic first hit, employee performance was largely dictated by the time spent in the office. Those who came in early and stayed late were recognized as ambitious and dedicated to their job; on the other hand, those who couldn’t work the same long hours due to childcare or other needs, might be seen as less hardworking. 
As we step into a new world of work, leaders need to collectively challenge the status quo and come to an agreement that measuring performance isn’t about time spent in the office. For example, just because you can physically see employees at their desks, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re productive. No one ever gave a performance review and said, ‘Well, that was terrible, but at least that employee is always here at 9 a.m. sharp!’ 
The truth is, problematic employees have been avoiding work at their brick and mortar offices for a long time – and yes, in a hybrid environment it’s easier for those employees to pretend they’re working. Anyone can clock in on time and then sit in front of a computer while surfing Facebook, playing video games, watching Netflix, and pushing a mouse around. By answering an instant message or email quickly, it’s not hard to ‘look busy’ and keep your status light green without doing any actual work. 
In the new world of work, it's ineffective to track an employee's activity status as a measure of performance. Instead, performance measurement is about setting clear deliverables and enabling employees to get their work done on time and at a high caliber. At TELUS, as part of our long-standing Work Styles program, we enable team members to work wherever, and whenever, they’re most productive. Our Work Styles program has helped foster a high-performing culture that is built upon trust and resilience, which empowers our team members to take control over their schedule.
By developing a culture of performance-based management, we know that our team members are happier and more productive when they are empowered to make their own decisions on where, and when, to work. The success of our program at TELUS started with alignment and sponsorship from our executive leadership team, as a change like this must take effect from the top to ensure an effective rollout across the organization. 
Here are a few tips we’ve found worked for us:
  • Set your employees up with clear guidelines and expectations about their accessibility during business hours
  • Communicate to employees how they can expect to be measured on performance, set clear deliverables and ensure that they’re aware that you, as a leader, support and trust them to manage their own time
  • Be a champion of the program and illustrate the behaviour you're looking for your employees to emulate
When you do it right, hybrid work can not only provide an organization with flexibility, portfolio savings, and access to a larger talent pool, but can also improve quality of life for employees and drive higher engagement.  
 For more information on how TELUS can support your hybrid work journey, reach out to
[email protected]

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