Leading in a Hybrid Workplace

Leading in a Hybrid Workplace

It’s here – The flexibility of the hybrid workplace that the workforce has longed for is becoming the norm for businesses of various sizes and industries. Employees are behaving like Goldilocks, seeking not too much work from home, not too much in the office, but just the right balance of both, and asking their leaders to keep up.

How do you lead a team or an entire organization through mastering the hybrid workplace? At humanworks, we’d say the answer is simple: The 8, the beliefs that we hold about every single person: Everyone’s Unique, Everyone Believes, Everyone Contributes, Everyone Connects, Everyone Learns, Everyone Rises, Everyone Thrives and Everyone Matters. Focus on these eight principles sets a strong foundation for your workplace no matter the location of the chair in which your employees sit.

Five Ways to Elevate Leadership and Teamwork in a Hybrid Workplace

What You’ll Read:

  • Get started by uncovering and trusting in the natural strengths of your people to get the right people in the right seat and foster a more effective team.
  • Then, get on the same page by establishing, communicating and aligning to a set of standard, or ground rules, that everyone follows.
  • Lead by being present, clearly communicating how your team impacts the company vision and engaging people as humans who desire connection and have unique needs and interests.
  • Continue that focus on individual well-being by taking stock of your big picture “wellness program” efforts – out with the old, in with the focus on caregivers, family and self-care.
  • Finally, fully embrace the new way of life your organization has chosen – Be hybrid, but be inclusive. Be the spark that ignites new, deeper connections across your employee base that champions all voices, and think inclusivity as you host all-hands meetings, establish new workplace or COVID-related policies and host engagement activities.

Introduce “Conation”

Working in a hybrid environment is the ultimate excuse (as if one was needed) to uncover and understand your own natural strengths and the natural strengths of others. The way you work when you’re free to do things your way helps you make better decisions, accomplish more work and feel like you’re “in the zone” while doing it. When you’re constantly approaching tasks in ways that don’t feel natural to you, you find yourself on the fast track to burnout.

Try taking the Kolbe A™ Index along with your team to understand what you need to be at your best and how the team can work together, leveraging and celebrating everyone’s natural talents to communicate more effectively and improve efficiency. This assessment is unlike affective personality tests –  Conative assessments show actions derived from instinct; purposeful modes of striving, volition, and conscious efforts to carry out self-determined acts. Understanding your Kolbe result helps you create a gameplan for achieving your best work. Start here to bring clarity, efficiency and energy to a hybrid environment, and remain focused on business progress and success.

Align on Ground Rules

You have an employee handbook, but do you have a playbook for interacting in person and virtually? Things have changed, so this is your chance to set – or reset – expectations. What are expected working hours? What’s appropriate attire? What else? “Cameras On” policy. Meetings starting and ending on time. Side chatter. Gratitude to start meetings and pull everyone together. Technology to accommodate hybrid.

Think of this playbook as your organization’s ground rules. What’s expected of everyone? Get aligned on no more than 12 major ground rules that leave minimal room for interpretation. Every employee should “show up” at work – wherever work is – knowing what behavior is expected of them.

Leadership by Walking Around

Over the last 16 months, when leaders struggled to lead, we blamed working from home. If a hybrid environment is the indefinite status of your workplace, that excuse won’t hold up. Figure out a new way – your way – to “walk around” and make it meaningful for your employees, whether they’re in-person or virtual and whether you’re in-person or virtual. It was never “leadership by walking around;” it was “leadership by being present.”

Two major considerations when it comes to being present: Vision and Engagement.


As a leader, it’s your responsibility to cascade major company goals and the overall vision to your team. Each person should be able to draw a line between each task or project they complete to a larger company milestone. They should never ask themselves “How does what I’m doing at work today impact the company’s vision of success?” and not be able to answer confidently. Your weekly check-ins with each direct report should help to maintain this alignment, identify issues that prevent goals from being reached and connect the dots with the rest of the team’s progress.


You’ve stayed well-connected with those close to you over the last 16 months – you might have even gotten closer. Apply that same intent and level of effort to your employee relationships. How are you keeping your team connected and what actions are you taking daily to strengthen your 1:1 relationships with employees? Take a moment to ask about weekend plans, choose a video call over a chat, mail a birthday card. Ask meaningful questions, like you would if you were interviewing or conducting an exit interview. What is your biggest challenge right now? What can I do as your leader to provide better support? What’s keeping you here?


Your on-site gym might not be as full as it used to be. Attendance at your virtual stretching sessions may dissipate, so how do you continue to support well-being?

Re-define “wellness.” The traditional approach to “corporate wellness” won’t cut it (has it ever?), so refresh your vision around well-being. Get a pulse of how your employees define it and experiment to find what they need and how you can support it. In order to meet employees where they are you need to understand how their priorities have shifted. They may still be feeling unsettled in a hybrid work environment as well. Use your leaders to model what they do for well-being and ask them to share by featuring them in a workshop or sharing a blog post they authored on the intranet.

Care for your caregivers. Evaluate your benefits with a holistic view of your employees. Does your Employee Assistance Program offer information or assistance with children, aging parents, special needs or end-of-life planning? Employees need financial, medical, mental health resources, flexibility in their schedules and access to experts. Speaking of families, involve employee families in contests, workshops, discounts offered. They’re more likely to engage when the people closest to them are included too.


Life’s not fair, and neither is the hybrid work environment. The grass may always be greener on the other side, and the research or op-eds will throw you this way and that. Lean into the ideas that “Everyone Connects” and “Everyone Contributes,” because when employees feel they aren’t alone and know their voice is heard, they’re better positioned to do their jobs well.

Introduce peer-to-peer “coffee chats” or establish mentor relationships, making them as formal or informal as your culture requires. Share some question prompts about the organization’s values or obstacles. Pair up individuals with others who are in a different work location. Or expand it and offer moderated discussion groups based on location. You’ll find the challenges between the different environments have some common threads that go deeper than the work location. Bring everyone together to share highlights or propose solutions in a weekly all-hands, where all employees should join – however and from wherever they can.

Consider how your COVID-related policies impact employees. Check out this podcast for perspective, as Priya Parker shares some valuable insight with Brene Brown on the human sensitivity of returning to the office.

People and the Hybrid Workplace

While finding your groove as a leader in a hybrid workplace can seem overwhelming, it comes down to how you think about and focus on your people. Your definition of flexibility might differ from that of your team’s, and it’s dangerous to assume your expectations are clear if they haven’t been communicated. (Remember, communication is more than the sending and receiving of thoughts and ideas; true communication also requires a confirmation from the recipient.) Employees will be increasingly particular about how they spend their time. The five strategies above can improve your confidence as a leader and create an effective, lively workplace culture – regardless of where exactly that workplace is.