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To create a level playing field for hybrid team members, be deliberate about bringing all voices into the conversation, especially those not in the room.Drazen_/Getty Images

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Ask Women and Work

Question: My company has recently hired several new people who will be working on my team either hybrid or fully remote. I’m struggling to find ways to help these new employees get to know the rest of the team and each other since there will be minimal opportunities for in-person interaction. How can I build connection within my hybrid team?

We asked Zabeen Hirji, strategic advisor, talent and culture, and former chief human resources officer, RBC, to tackle this one:

As human beings, we long for connection and a sense of belonging, and for the connective tissue that binds people across organizations. During the pandemic, we got comfortable bringing our human side to work, which is a timeless leadership approach. To build connection with your new employees, you need to get to know the humans behind the screen.

Have a one-on-one conversation with each new employee and ask them open-ended questions about life: how their weekend went, what they enjoy doing in their leisure time. If they are new to the town or city they are living in, ask how that’s going and ask if you can help. Be empathetic but make it genuine.

Be transparent – tell them you want to help them get to know other team members and that you’re finding it difficult. Ask them for their ideas for creating connections and a sense of belonging. Invite them to experiment, to test and learn. Ask all of your team members to give you feedback and listen to their insights. Remember that while there are good practices to leverage, you also need to make it work for individuals – one size doesn’t always fit all.

Hybrid meetings are likely a core part of how your new employees will interact with the team, so it’s important to create a level playing field for people in the room and on video. Start team meetings with an icebreaker that helps people get to know each other, personally and professionally. Be deliberate about bringing all voices in the conversation, especially those not in the room – and don’t wait until the end. Inclusion matters!

If the team is having lunch, send a food delivery gift card to employees who are working from home. Ensure that online participants don’t miss the wrap up conversations which frequently happen after meetings. To mitigate this, clearly state action items and next steps.

You can also enlist team members to act as ‘culture builders’ – individuals who walk the floors and digital spaces, connect with colleagues by phone or video call and role model the desired behaviours. Encourage intergenerational dialogue and reciprocal mentoring, which is especially important to increase retention with younger employees. Establish ‘buddy programs,’ considering fit when pairing people together. It’s a bonus if they live in close proximity and can meet periodically. Then, be sure to reward and recognize the individuals who are helping new employees learn and feel connected.

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

People need to come first: How to stop the burnout epidemic in middle management

“Middle managers are in a state of crisis,” says Karima-Catherine Goundiam, founder and chief executive officer of digital strategy firm Red Dot Digital and business matchmaking platform B2BeeMatch.

They were suffering from burnout before the pandemic and the cascade of changes, stressors and work-related demands has only exacerbated the problem. According to a survey by the Workforce Institute at UKG from earlier this year, nearly half of middle managers planned to quit their jobs within the year.

“I left the corporate world because of my own frustrations while in middle management; it’s much more satisfying to run my own company. But as someone highly involved in the business world, I still deal with a lot of middle managers, both within the companies that are now my clients and in wider business settings. So, I’d like to offer my perspective as a semi-outsider looking in. Why are middle managers burning out?”

Read why caregiving responsibilities and a ‘disconnected c-suite’ are contributing to burnout.

Infosys investor Sudha Murty on why women must be bold and speak their minds at work

Sudha Murty knows “how to beat the boys.”

In fact, the 72-year-old investor, educator and philanthropist wrote an entire chapter about overcoming misogyny in one of her 42 books. Let’s debunk the myth that it is easier for her to be outspoken about women’s rights.

Sure, she’s a billionaire, the benefactor of information technology services giant Infosys Ltd. and the mother-in-law of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. But she had no fortune, fame or family connections when she started smashing glass ceilings in India.

As a young woman in the 1970s, Ms. Murty famously confronted industrialist J.R.D. Tata about his company’s sexist hiring practices – and won.

Decades later, however, gender inequality remains a persistent problem across the corporate world. That is why Ms. Murty is encouraging a new generation of women to take corporate leaders to task. Her message: Don’t be afraid to rock the boat at work.

Read why patience and boldness can go hand-in-hand when it comes to making change at work.

Focus on grit, leadership skills could reverse Canada’s entrepreneurship decline, BDC study says

A focus on soft skills, such as grit and leadership, could help reverse Canada’s declining number of entrepreneurs, according to a new report from the Business Development Bank of Canada.

BDC, a Crown corporation that lends to small and medium-sized businesses, conducted a study with researchers at the University of Montreal to look into why there are fewer Canadians launching businesses and what skills could be missing. The authors conducted surveys of entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs and analyzed Statistics Canada data.

The study estimates there are 100,000 fewer business owners than there were 20 years ago, and just 1.3 individuals out of 1,000 started a business in 2022, compared with three out of 1,000 in 2000.

Some demographic and economic factors are to blame for the decline, such as more than half of entrepreneurs being over the age of 50 and looking to retire, and a tight labour market in recent years making it more attractive for Canadians to get a job rather than start their own business.

Read why attitude may be a key factor in why entrepreneurship is on the decline.

In case you missed it

These coaches want to help you be better at your job – by paying attention to your period

UK-based career coach Pamella Bisson starts every client session with a question: “Where are you in your cycle?”

It might seem an invasive question in another setting, but her clients aren’t offended – they’ve come to Ms. Bisson for her method of helping people match their workflows to, well, another flow: their menstrual cycle.

While everyone’s body is different, a monthly cycle typically has four phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. In each phase, the body releases different hormones, which, studies show, can influence mood, energy levels and even mental health. The follicular phase and ovulation, for example, are both associated with happiness, high energy and creativity, while the luteal phase can mean low energy and irritability.

Ms. Bisson, and other coaches like her, are raising the question: Why aren’t menstruators tapping into that cycle to help guide their working lives?

Read the full article.

From the archives

Is it time for you to quit your job?

In a time of economic uncertainty, it can be hard to quit a well-paying job.

But with Canadian women reporting high levels of burnout and stress and women’s representation in leadership roles declining, could the answer to career advancement be leaping into the unknown?

As vice-president of marketing for Procore Technologies, Aleya Chattopadhyay navigated her team through the tripling of its work force, global expansion and the construction management software company’s IPO. She was also named interim chief marketing officer for nine months in 2021, at the height of the pandemic.

By mid 2022, the realization hit that she was all work and no play. “I had lost my joie de vivre,” says Ms. Chattopadhyay. “I wasn’t socializing with family or friends and I wasn’t feeling healthy.”

Having worked in a number of industries in the past three decades, Ms. Chattopadhyay had a broad knowledge base to leverage in a new role. Although she would miss her team, the possibilities of a new opportunity were a strong lure.

Read the full article.

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