Building a Vibrant Hybrid Workplace

By Maia Alexander, Vice President of Talent and Culture

I joined Hatcher in early May 2021 as Vice President of Talent and Culture, almost one year after the world went virtual. Having experienced over a year of remote collaboration and, now, virtual onboarding as a new employee, I’ve gained a unique perspective about what makes a thriving and fulfilling work environment that I’m excited to apply as I develop a hybrid work plan for the firm.

The transition to another work style comes with habits from the remote workplace and updating our culture along the way. As we navigate a hybrid workplace, it is time to refresh our norms and examine ways to enhance the employee experience. Are there ways to build a hybrid environment where the spirit of collaboration and autonomous time management can co-exist? My answer to that is “yes,” and here are a few tips on how.

Set boundaries for wellness. When working remotely, the start and end of the workday can easily blend into your normal routine, and the extended workday can diminish your time to take care of personal needs. In place of a commute on the days you are home, consider scheduling time to exercise, taking time to read a book, or listening to a podcast as you may have while riding the train or commuting in your car. When you are in the office, make a habit of having lunch away from your desk or outside the office. Establishing a firm schedule increases your ability to be productive during the day and sign off at night, regardless of where you work. Personal time management is essential for well-being and mental health; boundaries are tools for setting yourself up for balanced success.

Collaborate with compassion. Creating a collaborative environment that gives room for your needs generates a space where teamwork and focus time is fully utilized. An example of this can be seen in meeting schedules. Whether your team uses core hours (set times when everyone must be onsite in the office) or recurring meetings, establishing guidelines for the frequency, length, and time of meetings can be helpful. Scheduling meetings with extensive follow-up at the end of the workday or meetings first thing in the morning can hinder personal productivity. Also, schedule meetings for 45 minutes instead of one hour; this allows for time between meetings to check emails and plan for additional tasks. When in the office, spontaneous collaboration often happens between meetings and can be facilitated through thoughtful scheduling. To further encourage this, team members can coordinate days in the office together. Even if you are not scheduled to meet, you will have organic opportunities to connect in-person throughout the day.

Build a vibrant community. Find ways to interact with your team members, direct reports, or colleagues by engaging in small but meaningful ways. There are simple but effective ways to intentionally make moments that aid in team building and bonding without taking up too much time. These moments can be utilized to encourage in-person bonding during office time and the inclusion of remote team members.

  • Celebrate each other’s wins by sharing them at the beginning of a meeting. Start meetings with a quick round-robin icebreaker such as “what’s your favorite place to visit?” to find common ground between team members.
  • Rotate the responsibility for meeting facilitation between team members to share the workload and hear different perspectives on standing agenda items.
  • Schedule quick check-ins that are not related to work. This could include personal check-ins or career development coaching.
  • Ask a peer to cross-train you in a professional skill they have, and return the favor.

None of these are exclusive to being a manager; developing relationships with colleagues increases morale and gives space to building a community where everyone is celebrated, heard, and seen. It is these small moments of human interaction that breathe energy into the workplace while producing solid bonds.

Incorporating these practices into the fully remote workspace and refreshing your time management to include new habits will help us ease back into the office. While the world seemed to have changed overnight, it took time to adjust to new norms. We should anticipate the same will happen in reverse order. The workplace will continue to evolve, which is a good thing. In a hybrid model, we should be mindful of our personal time, purposeful in the use of other’s time, and inclusive, regardless of physical location.