I’m in another meeting and, per usual, it’s hybrid. Three people are in the room with me and two are meeting remotely. We’re all signed into Microsoft Teams and participating in the same exact meeting. However, I feel awkward. Where do I look? Do I look at the person in the room who is speaking, or do I look at my computer screen? I don’t want the remote people to feel left out, but it doesn’t make sense to look at the computer when they are in the room with me! After looking at these virtual calls for a few years now, I’m questioning how you even conduct an in-person meeting.
Is this a common feeling these days? A hybrid work model is presenting some new challenges to employees, yet there are some clear advantages.
If you think it’s a challenge for you, just imagine how those who must define their company’s own hybrid workplace feel.
We went from the norm of working in the office 40 hours a week to working at home in sweatpants and slippers 40 hours a week, and now everyone is just confused. Can I wear my sweatpants to the office?
Companies everywhere are in a state of transition as they navigate through the new territory of a hybrid work environment. Many leaders are ironing out best practices for employees but also for their company. In many cases, this is structured as a hybrid model. Many employees thrive in a work-from-home environment, which can lead to increased productivity and fewer workplace distractions. Yet, when team members can converse about tasks while sitting next to each other or eating tacos together, this can cause higher levels of productivity and collaboration. These are only some of the reasons companies are instating policies where employees work both at home and in the office, essentially getting the best of both worlds. There are advantages to working in the office, yet there are also advantages to a work-from-home setting — a hybrid model offers a compromise that, if done properly, is a win for employees and a win for their leaders.
The Psychology Behind Motivation
Way back in 1985, when videoconferencing was something only the Jetsons did, Richard Ryan and Edward Deci developed their Self-Determination Theory. Their theory states that all people are motivated to grow and change by three psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy is a sense of voice and choice in decisions and important aspects of day-to-day life. Relatedness denotes a sense of belonging or being connected, and competence is a sense of being able to do something successfully. People like to feel in control of their lives, and when all three of these needs are met, they not only feel in control, but they become more intrinsically motivated as well.
A hybrid work environment successfully satisfies two of the three needs — autonomy and relatedness. The opportunity to exercise choice (autonomy) about completing work at home or in the office can have a substantial impact on motivation. For example, maybe your team chooses the days or hours that are worked in the office. As a leader, the knowledge of your team and how they work best plays an important role in decision-making. Having choices satisfies the psychological need for autonomy.
The second need, relatedness, can be satisfied if the time spent in the office is intentional and has a purpose — as in, you aren’t just coming in to check a box and say you were in for your required amount of time. While collaboration is possible in a work-from-home setting, there is no question that interacting within the office setting promotes a greater sense of belonging, collaboration, and connectedness. Team meetings, Taco Tuesdays (or in our office, it’s Taco Wednesdays), one-on-ones, and get-togethers contribute to the overall culture and morale. A sense of belonging and feeling like you are a part of the team is greater when you experience emotions and connect in person. That’s why we go to movie theaters and attend concerts, because we, as humans, want to experience things together to achieve a sense of belonging and being part of a team.
Let’s talk about the third need, competence. Many employees would argue that they have been and are fully competent in working from home. This may be true, but it’s also worth arguing that over the last few years, workers have mastered new skills because of a work-from-home environment: organization, clear communication, and the ability to quickly develop relationships and connections with people you have only seen on a computer screen. How will these soft skills impact employees’ competence when combined with the needs of autonomy and relatedness being satisfied?
How does a Leader Get the Most Out of Their Team?
Insert training and an opportunity for growth across the board. A constantly changing world requires an organizational focus on learning and development (L&D). There must be continuous training and growth opportunities to keep up with the shifting needs of customers and employees. In the L&D world, the quest for knowledge and growth is the norm. Outside, that is not always the case. Organizations need to rapidly identify and acquire new skills in response to changing business needs; training should make that goal obtainable. Learners have changed, attention spans have shortened, employees are dispersed and technology is advancing at breakneck speeds. Leaders must now find training opportunities that meet business needs and match their hybrid environment.
Those 5-year-old facilitator-led trainings are no longer going to be sufficient. There should be a focus on short microlearning that captures attention and gets right to the point. Videos and gamification can entertain while providing information and can be accessed on the go to keep learners engaged. Technology is creating virtual reality and the metaverse is not going away; training needs to follow this same path – otherwise, it will be viewed as a boring and outdated waste of time. Time, the thing most of us don’t seem to have much of anymore. Organizations need to be aware of what they are requiring of their team, and make sure that it is a good use of time and that team members see the relevance.
There are clear advantages to a hybrid environment, yet it does present some challenges — utilizing the advantages and adapting to the challenges will be key. Perhaps today’s norm is that there is no norm. The companies that are going to thrive are the companies that embrace flexibility and pivot regularly to keep up with the ever-changing needs of their employees and the world at large. By providing training opportunities that continue to meet the psychological needs of team members, allowing choice, providing opportunities for collaboration and giving opportunities to take new knowledge and put it into practice, a leader can satisfy the training needs of their organization while meeting the psychological needs of their team. The hybrid environment has made it clear that as learners change, business training needs change as well.