Giving and receiving feedback in a hybrid workplace

Feedback in a hybrid work environment can be challenging, especially for people working remotely at the time when they need to receive feedback and performance review.

At SmaRF Solutions, we still rely on a tried-and-true mix of informal chats and formal meetings. 

However, as soon as we implemented a hybrid working model, 3 questions came to our mind.

  • How would we provide feedback to a team member who’s been working remotely?
  • How often would we provide feedback in such conditions?
  • How would we deliver our feedback? 

This article gives you our answers to these questions, but also a glimpse into our company’s culture of feedback. In essence, if you’re a small team, you really don’t need to complicate matters.

How do you provide formal feedback to a remote team member? Well… You don’t.

This might sound counterintuitive. If you google “feedback in hybrid workspace”, you might find hundreds of articles on the subject.  

However, imagine sitting at your desk at home, working on a task and waiting for your boss to call you and provide you with feedback. 

No eye-contact, no feel for the atmosphere that day. People working remotely can’t gauge the current atmosphere in the company and their mood is probably completely out of sync compared to the in-office team that day.

So instead of making detailed feedback strategies or putting employees in uncomfortable situations, we postpone feedback sessions (unless urgent!) to days when they come back to the offices and sync with the rest of us in all aspects.

We’re a small team and it’s a luxury we can provide to ourselves.

How often do you provide feedback in hybrid workspaces? Honestly – as usual.

In-office feedback tends to be frequent because of small talk in the hallways. A hybrid workspace is missing this dynamic and you can’t 100% compensate for it. 

Occasional calls and messages are fine but calling your coworkers and pinging them multiple times a week (or day!) just to give them tiny bits of feedback might look like micromanagement and be intrusive. 

(But if the situation demands it, we believe the team should revisit the project, communication, and expectations – not feedback strategies.)

Besides, we’ve already talked about how people working remotely might be out of behavioral/emotional sync with the in-office team.

Our rule of thumb is the following:

  • In 99% of the time, feedback can wait until the person comes back to the office. Issues related to projects and internal functioning aren’t feedback. It’s part of standard communication in the company.
  • When they return to the office, do a quick informal sync/chat first, so nothing slips through the cracks.
  • For formal feedback and performance reviews, a meeting once in 3 months is completely fine.

The general idea is to build trust inside the team while setting healthy expectations in regards to performance. That’s why we decided not to change anything drastically even though some people work remotely from time to time.

How to deliver feedback in hybrid settings? The Feedback Sandwich Method.

While some might argue that the Sandwich method overprotects the recipient and numbs the effectiveness of feedback, we’d argue that it still works – especially in hybrid settings.

First, according to studies, people who work from home might believe their work is being reviewed more harshly just because they’re not in the company. 

Second, when they come back, they need to know they’re still part of the team, as usual, that nothing has changed, that they still belong here.

Leading with positive feedback before suggesting improvements provides them with psychological safety – and instills trust that you’re looking at their performance from a wider perspective.

To deliver the famous Feedback sandwich, we keep in mind the following:

  • Use “I” statements often.
  • Praise the person.
  • Convey the message.
  • Give them guidance both for positive and negative sides.

Master tough conversations and you’ll be a good leader

Master tough conversations in challenging conditions and you’ll be a great leader.

In the end, master the art of simplicity in communication and you’ll avoid unnecessary stress. If you’re a small team, you really don’t need to implement harsh guidelines for feedback.

As we adapt to flexible working models, we have to learn on the go how to keep the company culture intact. 

If you had your doubts cleared, feel free to share it with your colleagues on messaging channels or social media.

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