Making Hybrid Work Happen

Three managers share how they lead hybrid teams while maintaining culture and connection.

Written by Cathleen Draper
Published on Jul. 18, 2022
Making Hybrid Work Happen
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In 2020, many tech workers emptied their office drawers of branded pens and forgotten snacks, wondering what the future would bring. Would they ever return to the office? Would they work from the hastily-purchased desks suddenly crammed into their homes forever? Or would they split their time between the two?

Since then, the answer has become clearer. Today, 74 percent of companies have already implemented or are planning to implement a hybrid work model, according to career site Zippia. And that’s good news for the 83 percent of employees who, when surveyed, said they prefer to work in such a setup. 

For managers, the shift has created both opportunities and challenges. In a hybrid world, managers have a chance to cultivate a workplace that’s flexible and accommodating. But engaging employees, forming relationships among team members and building a solid company culture can be more challenging when teams are split.

Creating new rituals can help managers navigate those challenges. Eléonore Jaillot, director of analytics at Petal, sets up team syncs and retros, which help her increase stability and a sense of belonging on her team. She also hosts daily Zoom office hours for team members to drop by and chat about anything on their minds.

“It is important to be intentional about creating these informal collaboration opportunities as they create a very cohesive team culture despite being in a hybrid environment,” Jaillot said.

Jaillot and managers at Orchard and Share Local Media are also setting clear rules of engagement and facilitating meetings so all team members can effectively share ideas and collaborate, whether they’re in the conference room or calling in from the couch. They shared how they’re building successful hybrid models with Built In NYC.

 

A man, two women and a dog sit around a table at the Orchard office.
Orchard

 

Renee L’Heureux
Assistant Controller • Orchard

 

Orchard helps people buy and sell homes through a fair and true-to-market process.

 

What does Orchard’s hybrid model look like?

Orchard employees located near our NYC headquarters are asked to come in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and have the option to work in the office or remote the rest of the week. 

On the days that our team is in the office, we make a deliberate effort to provide meaningful cultural activities. During AAPI Heritage Month, we invited local AAPI-owned restaurants to cater lunch. During Black History Month, we will enjoy catering from Black-owned businesses in our neighborhood. 

Our people team creates moments of surprise and delight, like donuts and crossword puzzles in the kitchen, an Easter egg hunt, and a Pride-themed bracelet making station.

Outside of social and cultural activities, our office is designed to give employees plenty of ways to spread out. Our Library Room is a quiet space for those who want a distraction-free zone. For those who prefer something more social, we have mini living rooms with couches interspersed between desks. The office also has a bookable wellness room, new mother’s room, two kitchens and plenty of coffee machines.

Orchard encourages team members to work from where they feel most comfortable, as long as they get their work done.’’

 

As a manager, what do you most enjoy about Orchard’s hybrid work model? 

Orchard’s hybrid work model allows our team to reap the benefits of both in-person and remote work in a balanced way. While in the office, our team has the opportunity to collaborate and problem solve much faster than we would over Zoom. Tuesday has become our de facto celebration day for personal achievements like birthdays and engagements, with cake or treats on hand. I really enjoy spending these moments with colleagues in person.

It is worth noting that while our headquarters is in NYC, we have employees throughout the country. Orchard has been extremely mindful of adding high-quality microphones and cameras in each office conference room so that our remote colleagues can easily join and contribute to conversations. We are also careful to design any panels, town hall meetings and events, like our recent hackathon, so that employees can join from anywhere.

When not in office, Orchard encourages team members to work from where they feel most comfortable, as long as they get their work done. We also allow employees to work remotely a few weeks a year in case they prefer to plan a longer trip out of state.

 

What are the biggest challenges associated with management in a hybrid workplace, and what are some strategies you use to overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered in a hybrid workplace is providing coaching and career development in an organic way. At first, I found myself trying to pack all team meetings into two in-office days. It was exhausting, and it didn’t lend itself to effective management or talent development. I now allow my team to schedule one-on-ones on the days that work best for them, even if those are remote days. This new structure ensures that employees can book meetings on days when they will have the most to discuss and when they need the most input. I’ve realized that some team members prefer remote meetings when discussing tough issues so that they can more easily type and take notes.

 

 

Eléonore Jaillot
Director of Analytics • Petal

 

Petal analyzes banking history and transforms it into a Cash Score — an alternative measure of creditworthiness — to help people be approved with better rates.

 

What does Petal’s hybrid model look like? 

Like a lot of us have since the start of the pandemic, I interviewed and joined a new company without meeting anyone in real life. It was clear to me from the beginning that Petal had fully embraced this new hybrid model. Interviews were flowing from one “online interview room” to the next, onboarding was fully remote, and the team adopted tools and processes to collaborate effectively. 

Everyone at Petal belongs to one of three office locations: New York, Richmond, VA., or the virtual office. All locations work toward the same company mission and align with the same values, and team members are equally eligible for career development opportunities. In New York and Richmond, teams have their own norms for how many days per week team members come into the office. Across teams, we aim for remote-first meeting guidelines. Everyone joins a meeting from their computer, even if they are in the same meeting room, and the rules to participate are the same for all — raise a hand or use the chat.

 

Spending time with team members outside of regular meetings helps build strong connections.”

 

As a manager, what do you most enjoy about Petal’s hybrid work model? 

There are 10 of us on the analytics team, and we are probably a good representation of a hybrid model. Five of us are based out of the New York location, and five of us are remote. Everyone currently on the analytics team joined in the past two years, and we all met in person for the first time just last month for our company’s annual homecoming event, a two-day in-person strategy and team-building event. As managers, we know that spending time with team members outside of regular meetings helps build strong connections. We are encouraged to take additional time during the week to focus on internal team-building activities, such as lunch and learns, hackathons or remote after-work games and happy hours.

 

What are the biggest challenges associated with management in a hybrid workplace, and what are some strategies you use to overcome them?

To me, it is the loss of the informal “tap on the shoulder” to discuss topics. Before moving into a hybrid world, team members were usually located next to each other in an office. This proximity enabled quick, informal interactions or ad-hoc whiteboarding sessions. In the virtual world, we use Slack for this purpose, but it is obviously more challenging.

We clarify our availability to chat with other team members using a private team Slack channel, synchronized Slack statuses to show when we’re available, a shared team calendar with everyone’s time away from the computer and daily stand-ups.

We also find opportunities to collaborate on projects, including quarterly hackathons with working session Zoom rooms or working groups on technical projects that require brainstorming and whiteboarding sessions. 

 


 

Gahwui Kim
Director • Share Local Media

 

Share Local Media is a full-service ad agency, program operator and SaaS platform that helps tech and e-commerce companies leverage direct mail campaigns.

 

What does Share Local Media’s hybrid model look like? 

We launched our hybrid model in April, and we come into the office three days a week on days of our choice. Team members were given ample time and notice to make any adjustments needed before we went hybrid. Advanced notice was really important given the length and severity of the pandemic, which impacted our day-to-day lives. Proof of vaccination was required for team members to return to the office to keep everyone safe.

 

As a manager, what do you most enjoy about Share Local Media’s hybrid work model? 

SLM’s hybrid work model represents flexibility. Team members can self-assess and decide whether to be in the office or not on any given day. There are clear benefits to being in the office versus being remote, and many of us have had the opportunity to learn that over the last few years. The hybrid work model empowers employees to make their own decisions about their needs, productivity and schedule instead of a model that’s dictated to them. It’s really the best of both worlds.

I recently moved, and the hybrid schedule allowed me to stay home when I needed to receive furniture deliveries, and I could be more flexible with contractor appointments because I didn’t have to commute. It was a huge help and made everything go smoothly. 

Meetings that require a lot of discussion and interaction can be difficult to have virtually. When there are important meetings that would be valuable to take place in person, the hybrid model provides that flexibility and benefit where we can have a much more engaging conversation in the office together.

 

The hybrid work model empowers employees to make their own decisions about their needs, productivity and schedule.”

 

What are the biggest challenges associated with management in a hybrid workplace, and what are some strategies you use to overcome them?

I value in-person interactions with team members because they help cultivate relationships, and a remote environment can’t always effectively do that. Communication can oftentimes become a challenge when managing a team in a hybrid workplace. There may be some team members in the conference room and some who are virtual. It can be challenging to have an interactive conversation without losing the engagement of virtual team members when it’s hard for them to chime into an in-person conversation. We can’t forget about the tech challenges that can happen with virtual meetings, too.  

To allow all team members the opportunity to provide input, I always do my best to direct the meeting’s attention to virtual team members and create a moment for them to share their thoughts. I find it helpful to either verbally recap the discussion before moving on to another topic or circulate a summary in writing so everyone can remain on the same page.

 

 

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