Sandia LabNews

HR Focus: A brave new world


AROUND THE CLOCK — Since the beginning of the pandemic, many Sandians have been working from home. This presents new challenges, like caring for young children, so many employees have adopted nontraditional work schedules.

As states open and more Sandians return to on-site work, we brace ourselves for yet another transition: learning to work together in a hybrid work environment. Here are some practical tips on how to thrive in the brave new hybrid world.

Our approach to the hybrid workplace requires us to continually lean into Sandia’s Core Values, particularly the values of Respect Each Other and Team for Great Results. There are many lessons learned from the past year, and we expect to learn new lessons that help us navigate a successful path forward.

Sandians primarily work together during meetings and through email and instant messaging. These activities are necessary to collaborate and communicate, but they are even more essential in a hybrid workplace.

Tip: Customize your email signature

Many employees have added clever
disclaimers to their email signatures that communicate their nontraditional work hours and set expectations with the recipient that they may not respond immediately. For example:

I’m currently working from home and caring for a little one. There may be delayed responses and odd working hours. For immediate concerns, call or text my work cell at 505-555-5555.

Tip: Update your away message

Employees have also personalized their instant messaging away messages with similar statuses. This lets coworkers know when you are working from home or on-site.

Tip: Add call-in options to meetings

Meetings can pose additional challenges, but with the right planning and preparation, hybrid meetings can be successful. When working on a hybrid team, it is courteous to include a virtual option in meeting invites.

It is also important, for security reasons, to start the meeting by confirming who is on the call, especially when meeting participants join as guests or by phone. Participants should anticipate technical issues in a hybrid setting and practice patience with both physically present and virtual attendees.

Inclusivity is also critical, especially during hybrid meetings. This looks like checking in periodically to ensure all voices are heard and perspectives shared. Video calls allow us to see virtual participants, but not everyone is comfortable on camera. It’s important to know and respect others’ comfort levels. Using others’ names and preferred pronouns often creates a more personalized experience and improves human connection.

Tip: Fully ‘virtual’ meetings

You can equalize the playing field by asking on-site employees to join the meeting virtually from their desks.

With our busy schedules, someone may join a meeting late or need to leave early. In those cases, it is helpful to do a quick recap during or after the meeting to ensure the person feels included. Whether attending a meeting in person or online, raising your hand before speaking is a respectful way to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak and be heard.

Tip: Shorten meetings to accommodate on-site employees

When scheduling meetings, shave a little time off the end to allow those on-site to travel to and from meetings and give all attendees a chance to breathe and rest.

Remember time zones and core working hours when scheduling meetings. Meetings are more effective when an agenda or desired outcomes are established ahead of time. When possible, avoid acronyms that can be misinterpreted or take time to define them. This clarification can also save time and questions. While it may be challenging, avoiding scheduling back-to-back meetings so that all participants are refreshed and mentally present.

Tip: Frequent team check-ins

Leaders should periodically check in with team members to understand how things are going in the hybrid workplace. For example, asking employees to rate their hybrid work experience on a scale of 1 to 10 can help the leader gather quick, actionable feedback and allow them to make team or work adjustments as needed.

These practices are even more critical for newer team members and student interns, many of whom have onboarded completely virtually. Tenured Sandians can help these folks build their network and comfort level with virtual or in-person lunch or coffee breaks. The goal is to avoid missed opportunities for connection due to limited peer discussion and social networking. Regardless whether we chat in person or online, it’s a good idea to start conversations by checking on each other and seeing how others are doing before diving into work topics. Other best practices include virtual lunch hours or starting meetings with an ice breaker, especially for teams that are matrixed or do not frequently work together. These activities can get the energy flowing, allow for more personal connections across screens and lines, and ultimately, make for more productive conversations.

Tip: Expect an adjustment to on-site work

Employees working on-site may want to create new routines to incorporate changes they experienced over the last year. Figuring out a commute, deciding what to wear, planning meals and remembering where to store our devices will require some adjustment.

Employees returning on-site should expect to plan for these new routines, but it’s important to give ourselves grace as we adjust and navigate when things don’t go according to plan. Thinking ahead for the next day could save some stress,such as accounting for unexpected traffic or other obstacles.

Tip: The Device Macarena

To avoid accidentally taking your mobile device into secured space, consider doing the Device Macarena: create your own TikTok-inspired dance to check bags and pockets for sneaky devices that sometimes feel like an extension of ourselves.

While we still have masking and social distancing requirements in place, be sure to respect each other’s decisions about vaccinations.

By applying the lessons we’ve learned, we can blend the best of both worlds to create a great work environment that combines the flexibility and comfort everyone needs to do their best work. The last year has shown that Sandians are resilient. We pivot when needed, rise to the challenge and will continue to do so in this brave new hybrid world.