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How to be a better leader in a hybrid workplace

Key skills leaders need to manage hybrid teams
Hybrid workplaces have become popular during and after the pandemic, and now leaders need a diverse skill set to effectively manage and lead virtual teams.

The unprecedented global pandemic has redefined the traditional 9-to-5 office setting. Businesses now require hybrid leaders with the necessary skills and traits to facilitate the shift towards a hybrid working environment. With this new hybrid workplace, strong leadership skills are essential to overcome the challenges of our ever-changing times.

According to an online survey by Microsoft in Saudi Arabia, more than nine out of ten business leaders in Saudi Arabia (92%) expect a more hybrid way of working in the longer-term and a clear majority of companies (79%) now have a flexible work policy, as this hybrid model provides more flexibility and balance for employees. 

Seven steps to be an effective hybrid workplace leader

Here are seven key elements that hybrid or virtual leaders need to be aware of in order to be effective: 

1- Giving employees clear guidance and direction is imperative for any organization. This involves ensuring that their capabilities are being used to their fullest potential and offering them help in achieving their goals. Mentorship is an integral part of this process. As a mentor, you should take the time to invest in each team member equally. Offer constructive criticism when necessary and celebrate success with positive feedback. This will benefit the team and their individual achievements.

2- Creating a sense of trust and belonging among your team is critical to success.
This can be done through adopting a collaborative and coaching leadership style, leading with empathy and trust to make your team members feel appreciated. Fostering an upbeat morale, a sense of purpose, and a sense of community among the staff is essential to cultivate a positive environment and create space for productive thinking and brainstorming. Such an atmosphere also encourages innovation throughout the organization.

3- Establish and nurture relationships
through giving opportunities to engage in virtual team-building activities, permitting time for people to create connections with each other socially as well as professionally and providing a chance to get to know every employee separately, not overlooking their professional or personal needs. When having virtual meetings, it's essential to activate the camera so your team can maintain a feeling of connectedness. Also, creating virtual break-rooms where team members can have informal conversations with one another is also highly encouraged.

4- For successful management, it's crucial to be transparent with employees.
This means breaking tasks down into simpler steps, setting measurable objectives and expectations, designating roles and responsibilities and monitoring progress. Allow your team the freedom to work independently and feel trusted. Constantly supervising their work could create a negative atmosphere and discourage them from performing to the best of their abilities. Analyze your procedures carefully and make adjustments accordingly.

5- It's important to leverage technology for improved productivity and efficiency in a hybrid workplace.
Start by selecting the best solution to fit your team's needs, ensuring that everyone is using the same tools, and providing any necessary training they may require. At the end of the day, your team's productivity is going to improve whether you're on a traditional office floor or spanning across multiple locations.

6- As a leader in a hybrid working environment, it's important to set up a routine with your team.
That could include scheduling regular team meetings and 1:1s with direct reports to ensure effective communication. The best leaders are clear, direct and consistent in their communication with their team. When this clarity is present, employees have a sense of trust and loyalty to the leader that allows them to perform at their peak.

7- For successful communication, it is essential to come up with a collective goal
and establish guiding principles which would govern how the group functions in a virtual setup. This will help ensure efficient communication among members. Establishing clear communication guidelines, this includes specifying how and when to communicate as well as laying out certain rules for virtual meetings (such as muting when not speaking, attentive listening, having cameras on).

Challenges of hybrid work leadership

Hybrid work leadership has become the norm in the modern digital world and it is highly effective. However, hybrid leaders can face a few challenges along their journey. Here are some to look out for: 

1- Virtual team building: Although hybrid working has its advantages, it can lead to a reduction in the ability of employees to form strong connections and build trust. In addition, it can sometimes result in feelings of isolation and loneliness. To help combat this, employers need to promote regular digital and physical interactions for their workforce in order to cultivate a stronger sense of community.

2- Lack of effectiveness and collaboration:
Despite the hybrid work model being accessible and beneficial, some experts are still skeptical about its effectiveness. This is primarily due to their lack of understanding of the advantages it provides and their misbelief that it results in isolation and lack of teamwork. Rigid mindsets can be a major obstacle when it comes to fostering an efficient hybrid work environment. To tackle this issue, hybrid leaders need to foster a collaborative spirit and find ways for employees to work together.

3- Balancing tasks and distributing resources:
Virtual workers can in some cases feel disadvantaged due to their remote location. To ensure a fair and equitable work environment, hybrid companies should distribute resources, projects and tasks with impartiality.

A successful hybrid workplace relies on strong leadership that knows how to get the best out of employees. While many staff prefer the flexibility of working from home, they can struggle with feeling unmotivated due to missing out on face-to-face interactions. Leaders need to take the initiative for finding innovative solutions that will keep hybrid teams feeling connected, encouraged, and productive. 


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