‘Be Thoughtful and Deliberate’: One Vice President’s Advice on Navigating a Hybrid Environment

Sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group

Christina Villena

Photo courtesy of The Hanover Insurance Group.

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Prior to the pandemic, Christina Villena, vice president of risk solutions at The Hanover Insurance Group, considered her company culture a strong one. And now, “It still is [very strong],” she says, “It is one of our greatest assets that attracts employees to The Hanover. We are a collaborative organization and live our CARE values.”

The Hanover’s CARE (collaboration, accountability, respect and empowerment) values help them achieve their goals of making a difference and helping both their employees and their communities. And, it was these values that helped employees at The Hanover push forward and continuously excel throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this interview, Villena offers advice on how to make the shift to a hybrid workplace and reveals important lessons that she’s learned as the leader of a hybrid team.

Tell us about your job. 

I currently lead the risk solutions department, which provides consultative risk management services for commercial lines and specialty insurance customers.  

Now that you’re part of an even more hybrid team, how has this affected you and your fellow team members?

Working through the pandemic has made us stronger. We place more emphasis on thoughtful engagement with one other. When everyone started to work from home, it leveled the playing field, enabling everyone to have a similar experience.  

What are the top challenges of managing a hybrid team?  

The challenges include facilitating equitable engagement with remote employees and office-based employees and finding technology that can accommodate in-person and remote employees.  

What’s your best advice for people who are managing hybrid teams?

With employees returning to the office, it’s important as a leader to continue regular engagement with remote employees to avoid favoring in-person/office staff. This requires being thoughtful and deliberate as to how you communicate with your team members.  

Additionally, I’d encourage leaders to schedule periodic in-person connection points with all team members. When scheduling in-person events, build flexibility into the agenda for team members to connect with each other on topics outside of work, such as through an outside team-building event. A quick caveat: this will be more doable once the pandemic passes and employees feel comfortable in larger group settings. 

What do you think are the top 5 traits managers of hybrid teams should have?

  1. Empathy

  2. Flexibility

  3. Compassion

  4. Vision

  5. Ability to communicate their vision to the team and letting team members know they are instrumental to the realization of that vision. 

Has managing a hybrid team taught you anything interesting or unexpected?

I’ve learned more about my team on a personal level, which has helped me to build a stronger connection with them. 

Do you think that other companies would benefit from similar hybrid work initiatives? 

Yes! Providing flexible work requires planning, but if implemented well, it can result in happier employees — and improved retention and business results. 

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Technology is rapidly advancing and with that will come better tools for hybrid meetings. Stay familiar with what is out there and experiment to find what works best for your team. 


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