The Hybrid Work Model: What Business Leaders Need to Know
As the hybrid work model continues to take shape, business leaders across industries have adapted to an evolving strategy to build a collaborative workplace that promotes a safe space for employees to advocate for themselves. Still, leaders may be wondering what additional steps they need to consider to cultivate an environment that keeps employees feeling their best.
With this in mind, we connected with Sophie Bonneau, a member of the Inkblot network of lifestyle coaches. Bonneau owns and operates Queen Bee Coaching and specializes in advising leaders on how to operate effectively while helping to build structures that provide a happy and healthy working environment. In this article, she shares advice on empowering employees and creating a culture that promotes balance and open communication.
How leaders are adapting to the hybrid work model
Although the hybrid work model began out of necessity during the pandemic, business leaders quickly began to evaluate the possibility of permanently moving into a fully remote model or a hybrid form. How the hybrid models operate can vary by organization, but flexibility is the key to its success. In a 2021 report conducted by the KPMG, 43 per cent of Canadian CEOs say they expect to have most employees working remotely at least two days per week. In that same report, 48 per cent of Canadian CEOs said they would focus on a culture and policies that foster a better work-life balance for their employees. Putting those words into action is the next step in this evolving model.
Empowering employees to advocate for themselves in the workplace
Placing a focus on how we communicate in the hybrid work model is crucial. Employees must advocate for themselves but require the right tools and support. Organizations and leaders must build a company culture where acceptance, trust, and compassion exist. Building a safe space for people to speak openly about their needs is a great place to start.
Bonneau expands on this by saying, “Leaders in organizations have great intentions. They want to provide work-life balance, to make mental health a priority and for employees to thrive — but there’s a discrepancy between that talk and the actual day-to-day reality of what employees are expected to deliver and at what cost. It negates all of those great intentions, which is at stake here.”
Learn more: What employees need to know about the hybrid work model
Shared accountability and responsibility in the workplace matters
It's common to receive email responses after work hours or to wake up to a Slack message sent late the previous night — but this behaviour isn't always received well by those who feel the pressure to measure up to their peers or leaders.
“Employees look to their leaders for guidance on how to act or show up, and they believe what they see — not what they hear. When leaders manage emails and other communications before or after regular work hours or on weekends, it begins to feel like an unspoken expectation that all employees should be doing the same. Leaders, especially in the current work climate, need to be especially conscious of what they are modelling and what permissions they are giving themselves or not because it creates an expectation for their teams,” Bonneau says.
It comes down to how we work together; Bonneau explains further by stating, “There is shared accountability and responsibility in the workplace. So as much as employees need to advocate for themselves and set boundaries, leaders should be doing the same. Part of being a leader is setting the example and being conscientious about whether what you do matches what you say.”
Bonneau also suggests how leaders can take charge in workplace conversations to help us collectively understand essential boundaries. “It is easy to have conversations about the work that needs to get done — where we need to build some skill is in having conversations about how we work together.”
It’s about creating an environment that answers questions like:
- Do we have a shared understanding that is not unspoken?
- Have we discussed how we want to work together?
- What do we need from each other?
- What’s important to each person in being successful or recognized?
“These questions help create more productive and positive workplace team dynamics, leadership and culture. Leaders across organizations need to be comfortable to have conversations at this level and truly listen to what is shared,” she says.
How does culture operate in the hybrid work environment?
Workplace culture was always something we experienced in person. So what happens when social activities become virtual, and culture begins to fade into the background of our computer screens? “We’ve had to redefine our understanding of workplace culture. It’s always been a face-to-face activity in a shared space. The biggest change is learning what it means to be connected when we are behind a screen, and this moves beyond coworkers as it also impacts how we engage with clients and customers. Everyone has to go above and beyond to reach out and stay connected,” Bonneau explains.
Culture fatigue is another thing to consider, but there are ways to revitalize culture in this new way of working. Bonneau suggests, “Virtual team lunches and team building can only go so far. Celebrating successes and recognizing milestones are important pieces. Keeping people out of the burnout and negative stress vortex is helping them feel energized about their work and what they are accomplishing together — that’s part of keeping the joy and culture alive in the hybrid work environment. It’s about finding a sense of belonging, and it means more than simply pointing to the corporate values. More than ever, people want to feel like they are part of something.”
Finding flow and flexibility in an ever-changing workforce
Part of building the hybrid work environment is expecting the unknowns and meeting them with ease and flexibility. “It’s important to acknowledge that the workplace has changed and continues to evolve. Each organization is going to approach the hybrid work model differently, but we should be doing the work of defining and creating it together, in unity, as a company.”
Being a leader in an organization comes with its own complexities and additional challenges and stressors. If you’re a leader seeking support or guidance, book an appointment with an Inkblot practitioner to help you build a path towards improving your mental health at work and beyond.
Disclaimer: This article contains guidelines or advice not intended to self-diagnose or treat. No content should be used as a substitute for direct advice from a qualified professional such as your doctor or mental health professional. Please reach out for support from a certified professional related to the symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you are in crisis and require immediate support, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Alternately, please contact the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). For residents of Québec, call 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553).