The COVID-19 crisis has forced companies to be more agile. Following months of remote working, many business leaders have seen how effectively their teams can operate from home. However, with employees also missing certain aspects of office life, a hybrid of these ways of working may be the answer.

In a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, “44% of employers said that they are putting in place additional measures or spend to support home working,” 46% of those respondents are planning “more line management training in managing and supporting home workers.”

As many companies transition to a more flexible business model, there will be a renewed focus on employee engagement and well-being. Training professionals will need to adapt their techniques to help employees develop the skills and mentality they need in order to navigate a new workplace environment.

Building a Culture of Flexibility and Trust

Employees have had to merge their working and living spaces in order to be productive at home. Although this scenario has raised plenty of challenges, it has resulted in a new level of trust and flexibility, and workers are expecting more control over their work setting and schedule moving forward.

Business leaders will need guidance to effectively merge new fluid working styles with the office environment. And, having just adapted to managing their teams virtually, managers now need to consider their strategy when employees are split between the office and working remotely. Training will be crucial to develop the additional soft skills needed to maintain trust among distributed teams.

Consistent communication has been critical during the lockdown period. Now that some employees are returning to the office, business leaders need to ensure that the enhanced methods of communication developed during lockdown are integrated into everyday practice. The technology that they have adopted to power the remote workforce will be even more valuable in a hybrid workplace, allowing remote workers to retain a sense of community and augmenting client interactions while in-person visits are kept to minimum. Leaders and employees alike must continue to develop their ability to communicate and collaborate effectively without physical cues.

Whether meetings are held in person or online, or even both, managers will need to be able to adjust their approach in order to facilitate meaningful dialogue and ensure their team members are heard. As companies determine their vision for the future of the workplace, they should share their thoughts with their people and make them feel involved.

Engaging the Disparate Workforce

The pandemic has been challenging to all businesses and employees on many levels. Many employees will have gained a renewed perspective on what they want from work. With a return to the office, organizations must review their company culture and reestablish their core values — perhaps with the inclusion of new ones. In order to keep this culture alive among the hybrid workforce, it will be important for workers to feel connected.

A recent survey by Okta and YouGov found that 57% of home-based U.K. employees have missed “having face-to-face conversations with their co-workers,” and 49% have missed “the relationships they have forged with those in the office.” Therefore, it is important that managers and human resources (HR) professionals know how to keep their workforce feeling and functioning like a team even when they are not in the same space. Despite workers’ hectic schedules, it is essential to factor in time for socializing, whether through socially distanced drinks or virtual coffee catch-ups.

With all the disruptions companies are facing, it would be easy to put training on the backburner. However, reskilling and upskilling workers will be crucial in helping organizations adapt to the new workplace. Training professionals will need to adapt their techniques, depending on whether they are carrying out programs virtually or in person, and it may be necessary to offer one-on-one support to remote or hybrid employees to make sure everyone is equipped with up-to-date information.

Renewed Focus on Well-being

Employee well-being has taken on a new significance in light of COVID-19. Without being able to monitor their team members in person, managers schedule more frequent check-ins and make themselves available for employees to come to them with any concerns. Though many workers will be looking forward to returning to the office, it will be a different experience that will raise new challenges. Managers will need to be equipped to deliver more support.

Wellness training can help business leaders deliver holistic support based on individual drivers, fears and requirements. They need insight into how to encourage positive practices, recognize signs of poor mental health and offer guidance. Company-wide mental health training is also critical in helping to eliminate the stigma surrounding this topic. At a time when work routines are in flux, businesses may consider assigning mentors to give employees an additional point of contact if they are struggling.

Many companies have introduced new self-care practices during lockdown, such as mindfulness training and regular yoga sessions. They should continue these initiatives where possible, perhaps carrying them out in person and streaming them for remote employees. Incorporating these exercises into everyday practice can help companies maintain a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

The Future Is Hybrid

As offices reopen, companies will face new challenges, and business leaders will need to assess their vision for the future. They will need to consider how they can combine the positive aspects of remote working with the collaborative nature of the office, keeping their people engaged, empowered and motivated while sustaining high productivity levels. Training will be pivotal during this transition and beyond as we move into a hybrid working world.