How to build a supportive hybrid work environment

Employee Working From Office
Louise Fernand
Publish Date:
25 Apr 2024
Reading Time:
5 mins

A supportive working environment prioritises and supports employee wellbeing and promotes positive mental health behaviours. With regular face-to-face interactions, it can be easier to implement these practices in a share working space. But with 83 per cent of UK organisations facilitating hybrid working – whether formally or informally – how can managers build and maintain this supportive environment without that in-person contact?

This blog provides top tips for managers on how to build and maintain a supportive hybrid work environment.


What are the challenges of managing a hybrid team?

Managing a remote or hybrid team requires different skills and techniques than managing face to face. Research from the CIPD found that 41 per cent of people professionals said supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing has become more difficult because of hybrid working.

With face-to-face contact often limited, managers with hybrid-working teams need to consider new factors when taking a proactive and preventative approach to employee wellbeing. For example, how regularly to check in on employees; how to tell if a team member is struggling with stress; and how to make sure your team is communicating effectively.

Here’s six measures for managers to put in place to best support their employees’ wellbeing and promote positive mental health behaviours within the team.

Put boundaries in place

Working remotely means the lines between work and life sometimes become blurred. Setting boundaries for your team members is important to ensure this is minimised and their work/life balance is sustainable and healthy.

Start by setting boundaries for yourself as a manager; leading by example models the work/life balance you want to see from your team members. Show them it’s healthy to switch off during annual leave or raise concerns if a heavy workload means you’re working out of hours.

Decide what is best done in the office face to face and what is best done at home. This will differ from team to team – perhaps meetings and brainstorming sessions are easier and more productive in a face-to-face environment, and business-as-usual tasks can be performed efficiently from home. Consider the best ways of working for the individuals in your team and how your team operates and set expectations for how much you require your team to work from the office.

At the heart of this, it’s important to prioritise mental health. If possible, work in ways which support your team to communicate effectively and work efficiently but be sure to take individual wellbeing into consideration.

Encouraging open communication

Creating an environment of open communication is vital to your team’s wellbeing. Communication is key to ensuring a resilient team and should work both ways:

  1. Team members should feel confident to put forward their point of view in the knowledge that it will be considered.
  2. Team leaders should be able to put forward their perspective incorporating their own views and that of their team.

But how does this change when we don’t always work face to face? Here’s some key tips for managers to make sure they are encouraging open communication in a hybrid work setup:

  • Make yourself available – prioritise your team members where possible and always make time in your diary if someone needs to talk.
  • Set your expectations – any communication between team members and yourself should remain respectful.
  • Ensure you are reachable via different communication methods where you can, whether that’s instant messaging, email, a video call, a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.
  • Make it clear you are approachable and non-judgemental – no topic is out of bounds.
  • Hold regular team and 1:1 catch-ups that work best for your team and the individuals within it. This may be once a week, once a month – whatever will allow communication to flow effectively and respectfully.


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Build connections between employees

For many, working from home has improved colleague relationships. Research by the British Red Cross revealed 43% of people who moved to a home working model said they had become closer to colleagues.

The same report highlights how loneliness affects more than half of the UK workforce, with one in seven employees feeling lonely most or all of the time. Hybrid working doesn’t always allow for day-to-day interactions such as eating lunch with someone, chatting over coffee breaks, or sharing ideas with the colleague working next to you. For people who live alone, especially, this can make hybrid jobs feel isolated.

Helping to build connections between employees can help to alleviate this, for example:

  • Allow time in team meetings to discuss non-work interests.
  • Promote ‘lunch and learn’ events on a range of topics.
  • Encourage joining projects such as engagement forums or becoming a mental health champion.

Bear in mind that for some employees, working remotely is all they have known in their professional career, and others may be happy to minimise non-work contact with other colleagues. As a manager it’s about keeping communication flowing and offering opportunities to tackle loneliness or feelings of isolation that may arise from working outside of an office environment.

Promote healthy habits

When we work from home, we don’t have the day-to-day commute to gear up and decompress from the working hours, and our day often ends with shutting a laptop and moving to another room in our home – sometimes moving from one screen to another. Promoting healthy tech habits within your team helps keep individuals motivated, productive and maintain positive wellbeing.

Try these healthy tech tips for your team:

  • Make it clear that time away from the computer in the day is important – the Health and Safety Executive recommends five to ten minutes per hour of screen time.
  • Encourage movement – this doesn’t have to be strenuous physical exercise; it could be stretching, gardening, walking the dog, even yoga at your desk.
  • Be open to your team working from different environments if practical and feasible – could they work from a friend or family’s house a few days a week, or a café? Or come into the office every day if that is the best solution to maintain positive mental health?
  • Make adjustments for people with different circumstances – not everyone can get out for a walk at lunchtime, but there may be other ways to inhibit healthy hybrid working habits.

Learn to recognise signs and symptoms

How can you tell if a member of your team is experiencing poor mental health? It can be much harder to determine whether your employees need support when you don’t see them face to face every day, but making sure you check in regularly and get to know your team members means you’re more likely to recognise abnormal or irregular behaviour.

Look out for these signs and symptoms:

  • unusual quietness (this may be evident on calls or a lack of email responses)
  • unprovoked aggression
  • missed deadlines
  • reduced standard of work
  • lateness or absence
  • atypical behaviour e.g. neglecting appearance, reliance on smoking or alcohol, reckless behaviour (this may come across as a general lack of concern for work).

Find out more in our blog for managers: How to recognise the signs of work-related stress in yourself and others


Upskill your management team

Leading a resilient team in a hybrid work environment presents new challenges where face-to-face contact may be limited, so it’s more important than ever to upskill the management in your organisation to take a preventative and proactive approach to employee wellbeing.

Our Mental health awareness for managers training enables managers to foster a supportive work environment, effectively address employee wellbeing, and optimise productivity and overall team performance.

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For Managers