As companies continue to realize the advantages of hybrid and remote work, it’s critical to not lose sight of the importance of prioritizing human connection and cultivating deep empathy for each employee’s unique circumstances.
In the fifth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Amy McGeachy, Founder of McGeachy Consulting, to discuss her clients’ solutions for overcoming the inevitable challenges of transitioning to remote and hybrid setups. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including why empathetic managers will lead us into the future.
Introducing Amy and Her HR Consulting Business
Amy is an HR consultant for mid-size businesses across various industries, primarily in Oregon and Washington. She also leads an eight-week virtual training series for companies across the country. For more than 13 years, she has helped brands build and evolve their HR strategy.
“Having employees in different states, or even globally, adds a lot of HR complexity, which I think that employees and most people don’t really think about,” Amy said. “There are a lot of employment laws in different states that are varying and competing, there are a lot of tax laws that are varying and competing. There’s a lot to think about before just hiring somebody in Colorado or California. It has to be a strategic decision.”
Establish Behavioral Norms for a Healthy Hybrid Culture
Amy shares that it can be challenging to balance the needs of in-person and remote workers, especially during team meetings.
“Probably one of the hardest situations is facilitating a meeting in person and having people calling in remotely and trying to keep that meeting on pace,” she said. “I tend to notice that one group tends to dominate the conversation more than the other.”
While workplace technologies can help keep meetings productive, reinforcing behavioral norms within your company is vital to overcoming this challenge.
“Policies might exist, but the actual behavioral norms of how we show up in a hybrid environment haven’t completely been established,” she said. “In a year to two years, that’s going to be much more well-defined of how you show up to a hybrid meeting or facilitate a hybrid meeting.”
For entirely remote companies, Amy advises that it’s essential to budget for in-person meetings at least once a year.
“The opportunity to bring people back together—at times—is a great one,” Amy said. “I have clients that will not be back together in the same way. And what that looks like for them is more emphasis on quarterly meetings [with] everyone coming together in a location. Or maybe it’s every six months. It’s really powerful to build some connective tissue and team build in person.”
Successful teams will continue to empower employees by providing tailored resources they need to be productive and efficient.
“We have pushed through and broken down barriers we never thought could happen. The most common thing I am experiencing with clients is the need to work through the accommodations process with disabilities,” she said. “Employees need to speak up about what their needs are. And managers are getting much better at having those dialogues with their team members—it’s called the interactive process—and working with HR leaders to support their employees.”
One of Amy’s clients led a book study group with its managers to help them refine their skills for the new realities of work. She recommends starting with Dare to Lead by Brené Brown if you want to do something similar.
“That book taps into the empathetic manager so much more than our very old picture of a manager,” Amy said. “Working with and understanding people for who they are and being empathetic to their situation and being willing to be vulnerable and unravel a situation—versus just pave over it and move on—those are the managers that are going to lead us into the future.”
For more of Amy’s insights into HR and culture considerations for hybrid work, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 5. Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.