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How to create a sense of belonging in a hybrid work model?

by Kartikay Kashyap

?A hybrid work model can jeopardize the sense of belonging and collaboration.

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In the wake of a pandemic, companies realised that not only was everyone reaping the benefits of working from home, but employees were also losing a sense of belonging. Some business leaders raised concerns about the impact that remote working was having on the culture of their companies, as well as the negative impact it has on employees’ sense of connection to the organisation and their colleagues. Does all this impact the Ďsense of belonging among employees?

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?The hybrid work modelís impact on the sense of belonging varies from organisation to organisation depending upon factors such as culture, communication, and team dynamics. Some studies have questioned the hybrid work modelís impact, especially in the case of newly hired employees in the company.

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What is a hybrid work model?

The hybrid work model is a combination of remote and on-site arrangements in an organsiation. It is a great way to experience the best of both worlds. Some companies who are following a hybrid work model also have some employees who are permanently working from home depending on their role and function. This model gives a perfect work-life balance to employees while maintaining productivity.   

?The advancement in technology and accelerated digitalisation process in companies have encouraged many companies to adopt a hybrid work model. As per studies and surveys, many companies are embracing a flexible work model. As per a survey conducted by Colliers India, a real estate firm, currently, about 63% of companies are following a flexible work model. The most popular arrangement is three days a week

How can we foster a culture of belonging in a hybrid work model?

?In a hybrid work model team members do not see each other every day in the office. As some work remotely on a permanent basis, there is less interaction between employees. But thanks to technology, things have become easier. Video conferencing tools and interactive virtual platforms enable collaboration and engagement. The virtual world has made it possible for people to stay connected and involved.

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Implement technology that fosters collaboration – Apart from bringing multiple challenges, the pandemic also made companies to steadfast in their digitalisation journey and think creatively to solve many people-related problems. One such challenge was fostering collaboration amongst team members and assimilating new recruits as part of the culture. In a hybrid setup, it would not be possible for all employees to e present at the office simultaneously. All HR initiatives must go virtual, from recognising people to driving learning and development. For example, companies should think about implementing a virtual Funzone. The zone can have a bunch of online games that promote teamwork and collaboration. It also adds a bit of a fun element to this kind of engagement. Other than that, we can also encourage non-work collaborations and chats. The team members can meet online and have a casual dialogue.

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Donít forget to recognise good work – New-age virtual engagement platforms can be very helpful in a hybrid work setup. What more one would really want if we still had the option of virtually appreciating our subordinates and colleagues virtually? For non-monetary appreciation, employees can make use of digital badges and show appreciation to one another. Such platforms also come with peer-to-peer appreciation. In addition, vouchers can be used to recognise good work by employees virtually. Even if employees are not physically present with each other, recognising employees can foster the feeling of being appreciated, valued, and included.

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Virtual communities also foster a sense of belongingness – Any kind of collaboration, whether related to work, social cause, or simply sharing a common passion, creates belongingness in the workplace. For example, companies can look to create different types of communities. They can have a photography club, a book club, a music club, or other hobby clubs. These communities can also act as employee resource groups. They can drive a specific social cause or agenda, such as diversity and inclusion. Such communities or employee groups bring together like-minded employees and drive belongingness and collaboration. Virtual engagement platforms come equipped with features that can enable building communities in a virtual world.

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Make all activities hybrid – The sense of belonging comes with inclusion. If we truly want to leverage the hybrid world, we need to ensure that everyone feels included. As we all know, in a hybrid model there would be some who would be visiting the office a few days a week while some would be required to work from the office every day. And there would be others who are totally remote. All forms of HR initiatives, internal events, and other activities should be designed in a way that all employees are enabled to participate. No matter whether they are working in the office or remotely. Make use of collaboration tools and technology to achieve this.

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Embrace virtual onboarding – Driving collaboration and belongingness amongst seasoned employees is comparatively easier than new recruits. Embracing virtual onboarding techniques and platforms becomes essential for employers in a hybrid environment. Building a strong connection with employees from the very beginning is critical. Strengthening the onboarding process and making it hybrid-friendly will be a significant step.

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The hybrid work model has gained immense popularity. A NASSCOM study revealed about 80% of IT firms and Global Capability Centres (GCCs) will be following the hybrid work model by 2024. So it becomes essential for companies to look out for creative and effective ways to keep employees engaged.