Communication Is Key

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to quickly transition to remote work. Now, as we enter 2023, organizations face difficult decisions around developing sustainable hybrid work policies. Patrick McKenna, CEO of DMi Partners, has valuable insights to share from navigating this challenge, as I learned after interviewing him. It’s an interview I’ll be sharing with my clients who I am helping figure out how to adapt to the future of work.

What Does It Mean to Be Remote Friendly?

DMi Partners, a digital marketing agency with around 100 employees, was in a better position than most. Even pre-pandemic, DMi had team members working remotely. This meant the infrastructure for communication and collaboration was already in place when COVID hit.

According to McKenna, “We built up a pretty consistent way that we did work in a remote world. And that enabled us to transition very seamlessly into a fully remote and hybrid world.”

For DMi, the pandemic mostly impacted team members previously required to work on-site. Allowing them flexibility didn’t require a huge shift in operations. As McKenna puts it, “the change for us happened when, basically for the folks who were in the Philadelphia area not having to be in the office every day.”

Meanwhile, other organizations are struggling to adapt. Tech giants like Google and Salesforce have mandated return to office policies, citing concerns around training and mentoring junior staff. But are these the real reasons?

As McKenna notes, sometimes return to office mandates are about cutting costs: “I’m never quite sure when a company makes a statement like that, whether they actually fully believe what they’re saying, or whether they’re just trying to reduce some of their workforce by forcing people to work in an environment different than what they’ve been working.”

Forcing people back without proper preparation is a recipe for failure. What does it take to get hybrid work right?

Consistency and Communication Are Key

When asked about his remote-friendly work culture, McKenna emphasized consistency and communication.

Regular team meetings provide needed structure across distributed teams. This includes daily standups, weekly one-on-ones, monthly strategy reviews, and quarterly planning.

As McKenna explains, “those checkpoints are really integral to us  continuing to understand how we’re working, seeing the challenges when they pop up addressing the challenges collaboratively with managers and teams.”

In a remote setting, communication requires more intention. A phone call feels weightier when people aren’t together every day. Leaders must be thoughtful about informal check-ins to avoid unintended barriers.

Authenticity also matters hugely for culture in a hybrid environment. As McKenna puts it, “It’s about not building a culture that’s kind of meant to look good on LinkedIn, or in an article, but really feel authentic to the people that are in the organization.”

Developing Great Remote Managers is Critical

At many companies, the biggest challenge is getting managers on board. People leaders used to overseeing in-office employees often struggle with remote management.

DMi avoids forcing staff into management roles just for career progression. Instead, they selectively identify and develop management skills.

McKenna explains, “If folks don’t want that for their career, or if their skills don’t necessarily line up or their skills are so valuable that we don’t want to detract from those, we create paths for growth that don’t aren’t management related.”

For managers, consistency is again key. Regular and structured communication allows managers to provide feedback, address challenges, and support employees.

DMi also prioritizes management training, both internally and through external experts. Developing strong remote leaders takes ongoing investment.

Hybrid Work is Here to Stay

The takeaway? Hybrid work is complex, but absolutely possible to do well. It requires intention, consistency, and empathy.

As McKenna concludes, “The world we’re living in today where people have the flexibility to work in a way that works the best for them. And it’s really wonderful.”

With the right culture and management, organizations can thrive in a flexible future of work. The companies willing to invest in hybrid success will win the war for talent.

What does your organization need to make hybrid work? Prioritize communication, empathy and adaptability. Structure will evolve as we learn. If leaders show care for employees, the rest will follow.

Key Take-Away

Effective communication is vital for a remote-friendly company to succeed in the hybrid work era, fostering adaptability and empathy…>Click to tweet

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on May 23, 2023