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The summer of 2022 has already brought about some drastic changes in the workplace: inflation has sky-rocketed, leading to workers in many industries demanding better wages. The vast number of job vacancies has made finding a job or internship that much more promising, especially for young workers and new graduates. And although many employers prefer an entirely in-office team, this seventh (7th!) wave of COVID Ontario has been seeing recently has shown the importance of maintaining hybrid work models.

Sure, neither 100% work from home (WFH) or 100% in-office nor hybrid are perfect. But hybrid models have proven to be best for both the candidates and employers alike. Nevertheless, hybrid models can sometimes be the toughest to maintain as an employer; they demand strong employee connections for retention and unique tech practices to ensure maximum efficiency (and happiness).

This week, LinkedIn News showcased a very poignant podcast episode from Hello Monday with Jessi Hempel about navigating this new office work model. And to no one’s surprise here at Workwolf, the conclusions drawn to by both the hosts and the expert were unanimous: hybrid models demand a higher attention to and work towards strong employee connections. Of course, for all of us who value interpersonal relationships and worker-employer-workplace compatibility, this episode made a lot of sense. But let’s dissect the topic a bit further.

The Future of Hiring and Hybridity

Much to all HR professionals’ chagrin, no one truly knows exactly what the future of work holds. But the most commonly held belief in the future of work is the need for hybrid work models. After all, as co-host of the Hello Monday podcast Sarah Storm suggests, “Candidates who are nowhere near us geographically who might be the best fit... now, nothing is impossible, but we do have to be really conscious of how we bring it together”. These may be unprecedented times, but it seems to be for the better. Now, we can hire the best candidates no matter where they are located. And sure, it is great to hire local, but an unbeatable team is bound to have some talent remote, even temporarily.

Soft skill assessments like Packfinder, for example, make finding the perfect candidate even easier, too. Say you’re looking for a very niche position that is challenging to hire for. Using Packfinder to sort through candidates regardless of location can ensure you’re finding only candidates who have great potential for success with you. This means no more settling for less, and no more having to lose money on hiring and rehiring until you find the right employee.

Nevertheless, hybrid work models certainly do come with a cost: uncertainty, and maybe the need for trial and error. There is no magic answer to resolving all of the individual and unique concerns an employee will have. But as the Hello Monday podcast suggests, it all starts with building strong connections with your employees.

Building Strong Employee Connections

Just as we’ve mentioned in previous articles about work-life balance, hybrid work models rely on clear communication and transparency from both employers and employees. But as business leader and expert lecturer Carole Robin suggests, this communication should be tailored. For one, your communication needs to be selective. For another, it should be direct and honest. And lastly, it should be unique for each worker and shift with major work and life changes.

“Since every one of us is always a work in progress, our relationship is always a work in progress.” – Carole Robin

Tip #1: Be selective with self-disclosure

You don’t need to share everything about your personal life, and you shouldn’t expect the same of your workers, either. Robin notes that in order to let others be vulnerable to you, you have to be vulnerable first. But how much information is too much? Start by drawing healthy boundaries between yourself and your workplace. What do you need to share to serve your connections best?

Robin also notes that this can take the shape of asking employees to disclose their emotions each day. What are they currently experiencing? From this, you can find how to better support them. This will make your connection with them deeper and let you in on how they function and what they need to thrive.

Tip #2: Be honest but direct with feedback

The above goes equally for others as it does for you. If, for example, an employee’s work does not meet your expectations, share your feelings in the moment. And yes, Robin confirms, you can be honest without being brutal. At the same time, indirect feedback is not productive, either, so be specific about behavior or patterns that aren’t working.

For example, “I feel disappointed in this work because I’ve given an extension on your deadline and it still doesn’t meet my expectations because of x.

The more regularly this is practiced, the more comfortable this will become. And the more comfortable employees are with critical feedback, the more open they will be to making changes.

Tip #3: Make adjustments with growth

Especially since no single worker is the same, neither should their solutions. Similarly, since workers change over time, their solutions should not be set in stone, either. So, if an employee who used to come into the office is now experiencing difficulties working away from home, offering them a hybrid or WFH model can be an effective solution. Check in with your workers often and maintain transparency with them in your concerns, as well.

And even if you think you’ve cracked the code for modelling the perfect workplace, try something new. Don’t let the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” folks hold you back. You never know what you have to gain!


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