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With increased vaccination rates globally, companies have begun encouraging employees to return to in-person work. However, with the pandemic emphasizing the viability and efficiency of remote work alongside being in the office, many companies like Mitel have continued to support hybrid and remote options for now and the future. To share ideas for navigating through change, remote leadership skills and more, Mitel CHRO, Billie Hartless (@hartlessbillie), CX expert Stephanie Thum (@stephaniethum), and VP of Global Field Marketing Andy Grant (@channelman) led a Twitter chat (#MitelChats) on July 22nd. Let’s take a look at some of the questions they covered:

Q: Change is everywhere. All the time. What are the biggest challenges business teams have encountered over the past year? What is ahead for the next 12-24 months?

There has certainly been an astronomical amount of change that has occurred over the last year and a half, and it has affected the dynamic and processes of business teams everywhere. Many people expressed how they and their peers had to adapt to new ways of working, become more proficient in online collaboration, and find ways to manage their and their employees’ stress. Both Billie and @OnecomUK talked about the importance of team and individual check-ins, and how despite not seeing each other in person, leaders need to work to create that sense of togetherness that would be easy to achieve in an in-person setting.

With business teams working remotely, these check-ins are essential to providing employees a chance to feel engaged in high-stress times. Human connection within the workplace is something many may be missing with remote working situations, and it’s up to the leadership teams to continue to keep up with their coworkers and manage employees in a way that emphasizes that feeling of togetherness. Both team and individual check-ins are important in adapting to the agile but sometimes isolated method of remote work.

Q: How can leaders help their team members feel accepted and included in a virtual or hybrid working world? How should employees adjust their communication style?

As stated in the answers to the previous question, being communicative as leaders was highlighted as an important part of encouraging employees to feel a sense of togetherness with their team. However, in this question, many respondents on Twitter pivoted to talk about empowering employees to lead their own meetings, host their own activities, and to take the emphasis off of productivity and work for every meeting or check-in. Have a meeting talking about summer plans, a special day coming up, or just a “let’s catch up” time. As Andy says below, finding the balance between productive, work-focused meetings and these social get togethers is extremely vital to creating a successful hybrid and remote work environment.

Not only should leaders make sure this balance between team bonding and work productivity exists, but also that the team members feel responsible for and an important part of the team. There’s no reason for a manager to prepare a “fun” presentation on their own and quiz their team. It’s much more impactful when it’s either natural, comfortable conversation or a fun game/quiz that the team members have put together themselves are excited to implement and participate in.

Michelle Batt added a great tidbit on “calling people out” not needing to be nerve-wracking or uncomfortable. Employees should be comfortable taking on leadership roles, speaking their minds, and contributing to their teams. Michelle’s point about making employees feel good about projecting their voices leads us into another question asked in the #MitelChats, involving psychological safety.

Q: Psychological safety is a new buzz word for virtual and hybrid teams. What is it? How can leaders build it into their leadership style?

This is a relatively new buzzword in the workplace, and a good definition of it would be where an employee feels confident to present or challenge ideas or to own mistakes without feeling judged, punished, or like they will receive any kind of negative consequence. In the virtual world, it may feel tougher to voice an opinion or speak up, as calls tend to be with many people, and there is more attention on individuals when they speak. That’s why it is especially important for leaders to encourage and support feedback and ideas from employees, and to thank them for their willingness to contribute their opinions. Employees need to be able to trust that their leaders will respond positively to feedback rather than feeling worried about the consequences of using their voice.

Not only will this encourage a team to feel closer-knit, but it will also give rise to potential great ideas and critiques. If employees within hybrid teams are too nervous to come forward because of a feared negative reaction, how will companies and their products and processes ever change for the better? It’s always a good thing to have more discourse and thoughtfulness when it comes to evolving and encouraging team members to feed that discourse is a skill that team leaders must learn if hybrid and remote teams are to be successful.

Looking Back

While there have been many changes to the work environment over the past year and a half that will affect workspaces in the future, teams don’t necessarily need to be impacted. We all miss human connection, working beside our peers, going to lunch, and chatting on breaks, but there are ways for leaders and employees alike to adapt to the remote environment and continue to promote that feeling of togetherness. The efficiency and effectiveness of hybrid and remote teams, as well as the fact that many employees prefer not being in the office every day, means that we must ask our leaders to continue to evolve their skills for leading those teams. 

In this Twitter Chat, we highlighted how leaders can adapt to change, communicate clearly, encourage team togetherness, facilitate employee leadership opportunities and ideation, and more. If you’d like to read the whole discussion, you can find it under the hashtag #MitelChats.

Avery Huffman

Avery Huffman

Social Media and Content Specialist

Avery Huffman is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. She enjoys writing and telling meaningful stories and creating interesting internal and external content.

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