As a manager, leading a reshuffled hybrid team after layoffs can be a challenging task. The team dynamic has changed, and employees may be feeling uncertain, anxious or even resentful about the changes. This can affect their motivation and productivity, which can lead to decreased morale, lower job satisfaction and eventually, high turnover. It can be even more difficult when the layoffs happened in a less-than-empathetic manner, such as many prominent tech companies – Google, Twitter, Amazon, Meta, and others – recently laying off their employees by email.
But with the right approach, managers can navigate this difficult situation and keep their teams motivated and productive. As an expert in hybrid workforce strategy, I helped team managers navigate through this stressful period, so as to minimize the natural decline of productivity, morale, and engagement that accompanies any layoff and team reshuffling.
Offer Empathy and Emotional Support
When a team experiences layoffs, it can lead to feelings of fear, uncertainty, and stress. That’s especially the case for hybrid teams, who have less ways to reassure themselves through in-person presence. Employees who have been with the company for a long time may feel particularly vulnerable, as they may have invested a significant portion of their careers into the company.
For employees who have been let go, the loss of their job can be a devastating blow, and they may be struggling with feelings of grief, anger, and frustration. Remember these employees may still be in communication with your team members, and assume at least some of your team members are impacted by them, which might be harming morale – especially if the employees were laid off by a cold, impersonal email.
In these difficult times, it is crucial that managers offer empathy and emotional support to their teams. One of the most important things that you can do as a manager is to simply listen and understand what your employees are going through. This can involve checking in with each team member to see how they are coping and addressing any concerns that they may have.
Make sure that your employees have access to the resources that they need to support their mental and emotional wellbeing. This can include offering more flexible work arrangements, providing access to mental health support, and offering time off to help employees process their feelings.
As a manager, it is important to lead by example and demonstrate empathy and emotional support in your own behavior. This can involve acknowledging the difficult situation that your team is facing, and taking steps to help them manage their emotions and wellbeing.
Understand Your Team’s Needs
While addressing the team’s emotional needs represents step one, you then need to understand the unique needs and preferences of each team member in your reshuffled team. Take the time to speak with each new team member individually to understand their needs, and how you can support them. This could be as simple as a weekly check-in call, or providing additional training or resources. By understanding your team’s needs, you can create a supportive environment that will help them feel valued and motivated to collaborate effectively.
For instance, some team members may be more comfortable working mostly or even fully from home, while others may prefer to spend more time in the office environment. Flexibility is key to successfully managing a hybrid team. Encourage your team members to embrace flexible working arrangements, whether it’s working from home, flexible hours, or a combination of both. By embracing flexibility, you can create a work environment that accommodates the unique needs and preferences of each team member.
A Gallup survey found that a mere 13% of employees reported that their teams made the decisions together on having the opportunity to determine their own hybrid work policies, but 46% of respondents reported high engagement in this type of environment. On the other hand, 41% of employees reported feeling content with individual decision making, and only 35% felt engaged when the approach to hybrid work was determined by leadership. The worst was when their direct supervisor made the decision without the input of team members, at 32%.
It’s understandable why this could be the case. Teams are best equipped to assess their own needs for collaboration, socialization, and mentoring in the office. After all, the purpose of having an office is primarily to foster these aspects, while employees are way more productive with individual tasks at home. Yet, the survey highlights a missed opportunity to boost engagement among hybrid workers.
By giving teams the power to determine their own approach to hybrid work, companies can harness the collective knowledge and experience of their employees to create work policies that truly work for them. Fortunately, this is an easy fix that can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction and productivity.
I’ve seen it be a great way to create bonds in a hybrid team right away: if a manager starts by having the reshuffled team determine their own schedule, that creates buy-in and engagement on an otherwise potentially controversial issue. Team members learn about each other and start to figure out how to work together. It provides a very healthy start to the team’s work together.
Communication is Key
A communication plan is a crucial tool for ensuring effective communication in a reshuffled hybrid team. A well-thought-out communication plan should outline the methods and frequencies of communication, who is responsible for communicating with different stakeholders, and what information needs to be communicated. This plan should be flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of the team, but also provide structure and guidance for the team to rely on.
Make sure to get the input of different team members on their communication preferences. Pay particular attention to how they prefer to communicate when at home versus when they’re in the office.
The hybrid model presents both opportunities and challenges for communication. On the one hand, the time spent working remotely allows for increased flexibility, but on the other hand, it can lead to feelings of isolation and lack of connection with the team, especially as the team is reforming after layoffs. To make the most of this model, it is important to use technology to facilitate regular check-ins, video conferencing, and virtual team building activities. This can help to keep your team connected, engaged and motivated, even during the period when they work from home.
Encouraging open dialogue between team members is another key aspect of effective communication in a reshuffled hybrid team. This can be done through regular team meetings, feedback sessions, and by fostering a culture of open communication. Encouraging open dialogue can help to identify and resolve any potential issues early on, which might be harder to do in a hybrid team due to communications happening much more out of sight of the manager.
Trust is an essential component of any successful team. When trust is present, employees are more engaged, more productive, and more likely to remain with the company long-term. Trust also fosters a positive work environment and helps employees to feel valued and supported. Without trust, employees are more likely to experience burnout, disengagement, and turnover.
Layoffs can have a devastating impact on trust in the workplace. The sudden loss of coworkers can create feelings of insecurity, anger, and fear among employees. Additionally, layoffs can create feelings of distrust towards management, as employees may feel that they were not given adequate information or support during the process. It can be especially difficult for hybrid teams, who don’t see each other as often; in-person interaction is key to building trust.
For reshuffled teams, trust is especially challenging to cultivate. Encourage team members to build strong working relationships by setting aside time for team-building activities, when they’re working in the office as well as when they’re working remotely. This could be as simple as an in-person lunch break, or a virtual game night, or something more out of the box such as a virtual or in-person corporate escape room experience. By fostering trust and building strong relationships, your team will be more likely to work effectively together, even in a hybrid work environment.
An additional element of trust is psychological safety: the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Encourage employees to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of retaliation if they make a mistake. Create a safe and supportive work environment where employees feel valued and heard.
One of the most significant benefits of celebrating success in a reshuffled team is that it helps to build a positive work culture. When employees feel recognized and valued for their hard work, they are more likely to remain engaged and motivated. This, in turn, leads to higher productivity and a more positive work environment. Additionally, celebrating success sends a clear message to employees that their contributions are appreciated and valued, which can go a long way in boosting morale and retaining top talent. By celebrating success, you can foster a sense of unity and help employees feel more connected to each other and to the company.
To celebrate success, one of the most effective steps involves recognizing individual contributions. This can be as simple as taking the time to acknowledge a job well done or offering a small token of appreciation, such as a gift card or a certificate. Likewise, when the team succeeds together, make sure to host a particularly notable and fun social event. Also, try to get official recognition from the higher-ups for your team’s efforts. Finally, provide rewards in the form of opportunities for professional development tied to the nature of the success, whether individual or for the whole team. This could include anything from offering training and workshops to providing access to industry conferences and events.
It’s not easy to manage a reshuffled team after layoffs, especially in a hybrid setting. In my experience, managers need to offer empathy and emotional support to employees, understand the unique needs and preferences of each team member, have a communication plan, cultivate trust and psychological safety, and celebrate success. By implementing these strategies, managers can help employees navigate through the difficult situation and foster a supportive work environment that boosts productivity, retention, and engagement.
Key Take-AwayTo successfully lead a reshuffled hybrid team after layoffs, managers need to offer empathy, understand team member needs, have a communication plan, cultivate trust, and celebrate success Click To Tweet
Image credit: Mikael Blomkvist
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the best-selling author of 7 books, including the global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships. His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.