7 hybrid work hurdles and the tips to beat them

As the Great Resignation continues, managers attempting to hold on to top talent are confronting more and more difficulties. In a survey of 200 managers, almost half called “retention and hiring” their No. 1 priority.

But ensuring that employees are motivated, engaged, and excited about internal growth opportunities has also become harder. Less in-person time makes it more difficult for managers to understand how team members are feeling and what specific support they need. In fact, I’ve had many managers tell me that they feel as if they’re leading without one of their senses.

But as the research shows, there are intentional steps managers can take to have a big impact on morale and retention. And they don’t require time-consuming, cumbersome top-down policy changes. Here are seven common hybrid hurdles, and tactical tips for how to overcome them.

Expecting to nail it from the start

As a manager, you might feel pressure to have all the answers, all the time. But for most teams, hybrid is a new way of working, which means it will take a while for everyone to get the hang of things. And that’s okay.

Instead of positioning new team norms or processes as set in stone, frame hybrid work as an experiment. Then set aside 15 minutes in a team meeting once a month to ask your reports, “What’s working well? What could we improve?” By seizing opportunities to learn and improve as a team, you’ll build a culture of trust and belonging. You’ll also boost employee engagement: People who believe their organization takes action on feedback are 1.9 times more likely to be engaged.


When you can’t see your people working at their desks, it might be tempting to keep checking in on them. But micromanaging tanks motivation and can be disruptive when someone is trying to focus.

To strike the right balance between offering too much and too little direction, clearly outline the milestones you’d like your employees to hit and let them figure out how to get there. Make yourself available—in one-on-ones, team meetings, or during office hours—to answer questions, but then step back. If you give your people freedom, you’ll boost performance and morale—and you might be surprised by the innovative approaches they come up with.

Letting the team lose sight of the bigger picture

It’s easy to focus solely on execution (think to-do lists and next steps) when you’re hopping from one video call to the next. But as my research for Humu shows, employees who don’t think their work contributes to their company’s mission are six times more likely to leave.

Make it a point to connect tasks and projects to the bigger picture. You can also create an inspiring mini-mission for your team. Pick a goal that’s ambitious but achievable (such as “build a new product feature within three months” or “increase web traffic by 40% over the next quarter”), share it with your team, and then make it clear how each person’s work will help the group get there.

Holding an “out of sight, out of mind” bias

We tend to gravitate toward the people we see most often. If you’re going into the office, this can lead you to measure and reward access rather than performance. Pre-pandemic research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that remote workers tend to get lower performance evaluations and fewer promotions than their colleagues who are in the office.

To combat this bias, don’t just go with the first person who pops into your mind. When evaluating who you should delegate to, write down every single person on your team. Carefully review the list, and then make a more informed, intentional decision.

Assuming top performers are completely fine

According to research by company, Humu, 70% of managers consider knowing when team members need more support or intervention a very or extremely important part of their role. You might think that newer hires or people who are visibly struggling are the only employees who require your attention, but your top performers might need additional support, too.

Offer top talent chances to develop their abilities, take on new projects, and work cross-functionally. And look for opportunities for them to showcase their achievements internally, whether at all-hands or leadership team meetings. Employees who don’t feel valued are seven times more likely to start looking for a new job.

Overlooking key learning opportunities

We often learn by observing others. That’s obviously much harder to do if you’re sitting alone in your living room. Ensuring that your people have enough growth opportunities to keep them motivated and excited about their work takes more intention in a hybrid environment.

Ask reports what they’d like to learn over the next few months, then create those opportunities. Or schedule a “skills swap”—30-minute meetings in which team members teach other something new.

Confusing asynchronous with all-hours messaging

A big perk of hybrid work is more flexibility. But sending your team a slew of emails late at night or over the weekend can make them think they need to be online and responsive 24/7.

To help your team combat burnout, be mindful of when you reach out to your reports (schedule send is your friend) and aim to explicitly set the expectation that well-being matters. After she had children, TV writer and producer Shonda Rhimes changed her work email signature to begin with, “Please Note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends.” And she ended it, in all caps: “IF I AM YOUR BOSS, MAY I SUGGEST: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.”

By taking steps to overcome these seven hurdles, managers can keep their hybrid teams connected, motivated, and engaged—and hold on to their top performers.

Liz Fosslien is the head of content at Humu, a human resources company, and the coauthor and illustrator of the Wall Street Journal best-seller No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. As an expert on how to make work better, Fosslien has spoken about how employees can better invest in their well-being at organizations such as Adidas, JP Morgan, and Google.