With many IT, tech and services firms opening up and adopting the hybrid work model, employees have once again started coming in to work in the physical office.
In fact, organisations have taken the opportunity to conduct off-sites, which have always been known to be great as a team-building activity. It gives employees an opportunity to get to know each other better outside of the workplace and creates a sense of belonging.
The hybrid model allows employees the flexibility to choose the days in which they wish to come in to the office. Therefore, teams will have limited time to get together, and will not be able to do so as frequently as in the pre-pandemic times.
When employees were coming to office regularly, they were able to have casual conversations, beyond discussing just work-related issues.
“I don’t think there is any need to increase team building or collaboration activities in a hybrid work model. The days the employees come in to work are enough to be used for collaboration”
Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal
The hybrid model will witness a dwindling of such conversations because people will just come in to office with a purpose, finish the task at hand and head back home.
That may leave no time for team-building activities. And we all saw how working from home led to employees feeling disconnected. Is that something to be worried about? Return to office and adoption of a hybrid approach has raised many concerns.
Talking to HRKatha, Kamlesh Dangi, group HR head, Incred Financial Services, shares that very recently the Company opened its offices for the employees, and an offsite was also conducted after a very long gap.
Will more effort be required for collaboration?
Dangi agrees that a hybrid work model demands more team-building activities and collaborations as it limits human interaction to a certain extent. In fact, hybrid interaction is very different compared with pre-pandemic times when employees used to come to office every day. “While the hybrid work model does offer some touch points where people can collaborate, as an organisation, we will need to do more,” says Dangi.
Will it all be about collaboration alone?
With employees coming in to office only on certain days and for a limited time, will their time in office be all about collaboration and team building only? After all, digital tools allow them to work well from home as well and complete their official tasks remotely.
Vigil M Thomas, head – HR, Tone Tag, says that the hybrid work model does allow for breaking of communication barriers with occasional face-to-face, in-office interactions. However, the in-office time will not always be about collaboration and team building only. There will be work happening as well.
Will employees need coaxing?
As many employees are still not as eager to return to office, organisations will not only have to focus more on collaborative and team-building activities, but also share the details and images of such activities via the internal communication channels, to encourage and motivate other employees to come to office.
“While the hybrid work model does offer some touch points where people can collaborate, as an organisation, we will need to do more”
Kamlesh Dangi, group HR head, Incred Financial Services
On the other hand, Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal, believes that the hybrid model has created an excellent balance in the lives of employees. “I don’t think there is any need to increase team building or collaboration activities in a hybrid work model. The days the employees come in to work are enough to be used for collaboration,” says Raina. “I believe hybrid has given us a perfect balance in life,” adds Raina.
But Raina does agree that in the initial phase of re-opening of offices, companies would need to focus on team building and collaboration activities because there will be a set of employees who would be coming to the office after a long time. Such employees would require some time to get to know their colleagues, team members, managers and other company leaders. Thomas also agrees with the same.
Will digital platforms be effective for team building?
With the influx of digital tools at the workplace, many companies have been using digital platforms for such team-building and collaboration activities to keep the morale of their employees high. However, these tricks have not really worked as expected. “I believe virtual collaborations and engagement activities are not very effective,” says Thomas.
Should virtual means of collaboration be ruled out?
Dangi does not want to write off virtual collaborations altogether, given the volatile environment of today. “We can still not say that COVID-19 is gone. There can be a scenario any time, when the case load may increase and again people may be forced to work from home. Also, there can be situations when physical interactions may not be possible. Therefore, it may not really be a good idea to rule out virtual collaboration completely,” enunciates Dangi.
“In the initial phase of re-opening of offices, companies would need to focus on team building and collaboration activities because there will be a set of employees who would be coming to the office after a long time”
Vigil M Thomas, head – HR, Tone Tag
Clearly, there is a difference of opinion when it comes to the subject of increased focus on collaboration and team-building activities in a hybrid work model as compared to a complete work-from-office or 100 per cent remote work model.
Then there are companies that have declared a complete hybrid work model forever! Only time can tell whether there will be issues for the teams, such as lack of engagement or dearth of a sense of belongingness.