How to build a more effective hybrid workplace
5 min. read
The hybrid workplace, as a concept, envisions a situation that meets the needs of multiple groups. Those who thrive on the energy of person-to-person interaction in a highly social and collaborative environment get to socialize to their heart’s content in the office. Meanwhile, those who need quiet, solitude and flexibility to get their job done work remotely.
But in reality, both the driving forces behind hybrid work and the day-to-day experience may be quite different from what I just described.
Those working from home may not always be doing so well fulfilling their needs for quiet or solitude. Some may need to work from home due to family issues (like having school-aged children who are learning remotely). And many who are working at the office may be doing so not because they want a higher degree of personal interaction but because they’ve found it’s impractical to do their job remotely.
These are only two examples, but the point is this: Workplace dynamics in a hybrid environment are complicated, and helping everyone get what they need to be effective takes a bit of insight and attention. As you move forward with planning your hybrid work structure, keep two things in mind:
- Trust is paramount to success.
- Don’t assume anything.
Assumptions = pitfalls
External behaviors offer clues into what a coworker wants and needs from their work experience. But consider how easily behavioral cues can be misinterpreted. For example, you might have a teammate who consistently leaves their camera off during video calls. You assume that this person wants less interaction, but do you really know that? Are there other factors that might be motivating this behavior?
Alternately, someone who always turns their camera on may not necessarily be signaling they desire a high degree of interaction. They may simply be doing what they think is expected. Or they’re concerned that someone might interpret cameras off as a lack of presence. Or they just want to make sure you know they’re not sleeping.
How do you accurately interpret behavioral cues to determine what your team members really need from their hybrid work experience?
The truth is, it’s tough to do without some structure and help. While there are leaders with an uncanny knack for sizing people up—otherwise known as a high level of emotional intelligence—most people’s observations aren’t quite as astute.
Additionally, with the hybrid workplace being a model that’s been around for several years, many leaders find themselves working with people who they’ve spent minimal time with. In some cases, they haven’t even met them in person. And it’s tough to size up someone you haven’t met in person.
This is where psychological models and assessments come into play. The FIRO Business® (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation™) model, which describes an individual’s interpersonal needs for Involvement, Influence, and Connection, was developed for Navy warship teams and is used by top corporations and universities.
Using this model helps leaders determine and understand their own and their team members’ needs for Involvement, Influence, and Connection.
Of particular interest for organizations with hybrid workplaces is the need for Involvement.
As the name suggests, this describes someone’s "Wanted" and "Expressed" need to be included in activities, conversations, decisions, and so forth. Wanted needs describe the degree to which someone wants to be included by others, while Expressed needs describe the degree to which someone tends to include others.
Interestingly, a person with high Expressed needs for Involvement may not have high Wanted needs for Involvement. Going back to the idea that you can’t assume anything, imagine that you had an employee who was always careful to invite other people to meetings, decisions, etc.
While it might be tempting to assume that this individual also wants to be included in everything, this may not be the case. They may, for example, simply have been raised to be very inclusive. But they could be just as stressed out by constantly being invited to everything as someone who didn’t display that behavior.
For most of us, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that people have the same Wanted needs that we do. For instance, a leader with high needs for Involvement may assume that everyone wants to be invited to everything, just as the leader does.
However, this assumption can lead to behavior that causes stress for their team. If the team is time-poor and struggling to get work done, being constantly consulted for their opinion or called into impromptu discussions might be overwhelming—even if the leader has the best of intentions.
Build trust in hybrid teams through understanding
Better understanding and responding to your team's interpersonal needs can go a long way toward building trust within your organization. If they feel like they’re understood, and that an earnest effort is being made to ensure that their needs are met in a way that gives them the best chances for success, you’ll make huge strides toward developing a workplace culture of trust.
There are two primary ways you can discover the interpersonal needs and build trust in your team:
- Get to know them better.
- Use personality assessments.
As you proceed, there are some key learnings you’ll want to find out. They include the amount that individual team members:
- Want to be included or be part of a group (Involvement).
- Want to influence control over their situation, lead or take on responsibility (Influence).
- Want to be close with individuals they work with and develop a rapport (Connection).
An observant and interested leader will, of course, take the needed time to talk to their employees. They’ll find out what employees’ concerns and obstacles are and what kind of things will contribute most to their ability to do effective (and enjoyable) work.
This kind of approach, combined with insight from psychometrically validated assessments, can provide much-needed insight as you enter the new frontier known as the hybrid workplace.
Want to learn more about hybrid working?
- Listen to Sherrie Haynie’s Psychology of Change podcast
- Download Psychology of Change in the Hybrid Workplace
- Get more resources from our hybrid working page
This article was written by Sherrie Haynie, Sr. Director of US Professional Services at The Myers-Briggs Company, and first published by Forbes Coaches Council, April 2022