A decade ago, work from home was a very rare thing. As of 2020, it has become the norm, and with the global situation getting to some kind of (new) normal, most organizations are moving towards a hybrid model of work. This comes with several advantages, both for the company and its employees, but it also brings some new challenges — one of these having to do with coaching.
It is arguably harder to coach a hybrid team than it is a completely remote one because there are so many variables, and the question of equity is constantly relevant. Here are a few useful tips for effectively coaching hybrid workforces.
1. Do your research before the coaching sessions
In a traditional office environment, it’s rather easy to observe how people work and what challenges they face. Job shadowing is a great way to see how employees work, excel at, and challenges they face.
In a hybrid environment, shadowing is not always an option, and when it is, it tells only a partial story as you can’t really go into people’s homes to see how they deal with their projects when working remotely.
So, you must ask questions, send out surveys, or even have face-to-face or remote sessions before the actual coaching to gather relevant information.
Read more: Things to know about employee surveys
2. Bring caring back into the workplace
For a long time, caring for employees has mostly been the HR’s domain, as they were in charge of well-being programs and various incentives to make employees feel good. The recent health crisis has made caring for employees more important than ever because the stress and the hurdles they have had to face have been greater than ever before.
What would have seemed unprofessional a few years ago (like having a toddler shout something cutely embarrassing in a serious conference call) is normal today. And while it’s funny to whoever is witnessing it, it’s not easy on the parent. There’s a whole lot more that needs to be considered than the purely professional aspects.
3. Make it meaningful
People don’t have a lot of time to spare. In the traditional workspace, a coaching session going on for half an hour in a well-lit, nicely ventilated meeting room also accounted for a welcome break from the usual routine. The hybrid workforce is more in control of their work time, and they tend to value efficiency.
Coaching should be highly effective as well, so when you are conducting such a session, do your best to offer something of value to the coachee. Empathy and a good knowledge of the particular situation will ensure that any time directed towards the coaching intervention is well spent, and there are relevant takeaways.
4. Be honest
You’ve surely seen those funny memes on social media that “translate” polite corporate slang into the real (and often passive-aggressive and hilarious) meaning behind the words. It’s funny because it’s true. The business language is often very artificial and deceiving, and it has no place in coaching.
As I’ve said before, people don’t have that much time to read between the lines. It also takes longer to get to the point when things are not straightforward, so make sure that your coaching sessions are open and candid. There is no need for an intricate dance around the subject.
Needless to say, this does not mean you can dish out negative feedback without warning. Caring, as stated before, is an important element of coaching.
Coaching needs to be constructive
Of course, this is true of coaching, no matter if we’re talking about a hybrid workforce or not. However, it’s even more important when you need to maximize efficiency and mitigate issues like Zoom fatigue.
At an organizational level, this means keeping an eye out for possible improvements that may help employee productivity. Ensuring they have the right tools and support is the first step.
On a micro level, each part of a coaching intervention should have a positive answer to one of these two questions:
- Is this helpful?
- Is this constructive?
This approach is as effective as it is simplistic. Keeping things relevant and to the point won’t waste time and energy.
With all that’s going on in the world (business and otherwise), coaching is one of the most powerful tools leaders have to make sure their organizations thrive and their teams have an easier time of being resilient through a difficult period. When it comes to hybrid teams, it’s important to have the information, show care, be honest, and deliver meaningful and constructive coaching.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.