Boost Hybrid Workplace Well-Being And Productivity In Three Science-Based Steps

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2 min read

May 23, 2023

Recently, many organizations have been forced to move to a hybrid-workplace model. This has created multiple challenges. But my work supporting our clients during this transition has left me feeling excited!

I now believe the new hybrid workplace provides the biggest opportunity in the 21st century to improve employee well-being, productivity and performance. However, I also think that many businesses may fail to capitalize on this opportunity. Let's talk about how you and your business can avoid failure.

What is the biggest challenge in the hybrid workplace? Communication and collaboration are more difficult. This makes successful teamwork and leadership more challenging and means businesses are more reliant on employees self-managing. If you are a business leader, these factors can make it much more difficult to run a successful, high-performing business in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—or VUCA—world.

However, these challenges are not insurmountable. In three simple steps, I can show you how to use insights from the new science of resilience and leadership to overcome them and begin creating a high-performance hybrid workplace culture. By doing so, not only can your employees become more productive, but they will also feel better. Truly, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Let's look at the neuroscience of teamwork.

Before we dive into how to help your employees thrive, let’s take a closer look at why communication and collaboration are more difficult in the hybrid workplace.

First, it’s important to understand that our ability to communicate and collaborate relies on our mirror neurons. They allow us to read each other’s emotions and pick up on non-verbal signals. They work optimally during face-to-face, in-person interactions.

Unfortunately, our mirror neurons’ ability to do their job is hindered when we are not physically in the same space as the person we are communicating with. This means that as soon as people switch to a hybrid workplace structure, teamwork and influencing other people’s behavior (i.e., leadership) become more challenging. Therefore, self-management becomes more important.

However, self-management is more difficult because the stresses of our VUCA world make it harder for people to do things that help their brains work well—things like sleeping, eating and exercising properly. Faced with these challenges, it’s no surprise that many people struggle to stay engaged, feel good, be productive and be their best.

1. Start with self-watching.

The first step in overcoming these challenges while simultaneously creating a hybrid workplace culture that supercharges employee performance and allows your business to beat the competition is to help your people build self-awareness (I call this "intelligent Self-Watching"). To do this, teach your people how their brains actually work, and how to analyze the bad habits that are stopping them from being their best.

Then, you could ask them to rate themselves daily on a scale of 1–10 (with 10 being perfect) on how well they did their best to be at their best and achieve their goals yesterday. They can rate themselves in a number of areas: how well they slept, how well they ate, how well they performed at work, how well they addressed a problem they’re struggling with and so on.

Once they’ve done this, ask them to write down one small improvement they can make to do even better tomorrow. Then, ask them to go a little further and write down why taking that action will help them improve. The next day, have them repeat the process, building on their insights from the day before. I call this process a Daily TEA (Tiny Empowering Action) Plan.

2. Develop habit mechanics.

By engaging in this exercise on a daily basis, people learn to step out of their “habit brain” and start using their “thinking brain”—their prefrontal cortex. That’s because they have to stop and think about the actions they are taking and the decisions they are making, in every aspect of their lives.

In doing so, people can consciously develop their ability to self-manage. This will empower them to begin building better self-care habits, performance habits, teamwork habits and leadership habits.

Keep in mind, however, that being your best in the hybrid workplace is a bit like learning to drive. It will take time, and your people will need expert instructors to give them the knowledge, skills and habit-building tools for success. I think of this process as training people to become Habit Mechanics, and training leaders to become Chief Habit Mechanics.

3. Be a cultural architect.

The final step in boosting well-being and productivity in the hybrid workplace is to use insights from behavioral and leadership science to design a culture that makes it easier for your people to build the habit of continuous improvement.

A good way to start this process is to decide which new daily habits you would like to see your people adopt (e.g., creating a Daily TEA Plan). Next, state why you would like your people to adopt these habits (e.g., it will make them more self-aware, they will be able to build more new helpful habits, they will be happier, they will be more productive, it will improve their work-life balance).

Once you’ve done that, consider the barriers that will stop them from developing these daily habits (e.g., mindset, motivation, knowledge and skills, role models, incentives, triggers, etc.). Finally, plan to remove the barriers you identify.

By taking the three steps I’ve outlined above, you can supercharge teamwork in the hybrid workplace. You can also empower every team member to proactively help the team thrive.

Ultimately, taking these steps can allow businesses to empower everyone to build small, new, helpful habits. By doing this, you can help your employees improve their health, happiness and performance, and you can give your leaders and managers the skills they need to analyze their leadership habits and build new, more effective ones.