State-wide shutdowns during the global pandemic caused many businesses to shut down their offices and have employees work remotely from home. While some businesses have transitioned back to the office full-time, others are operating in a hybrid workplace with hybrid teams – a combination of on-site workers, remote workers, and those who have the flexibility to work on-site on some days and off-site on others.
Although hybrid teams can help businesses lower costs, increase productivity, and become more agile during times of adversity, they’re not without their own set of operational challenges. Keep reading below for our top 10 tips that for managing hybrid teams as well as the hybrid work model.
1. Establish the Rules for Hybrid Teams
The first step to successfully managing hybrid teams is to establish a set of unifying rules that apply equally to both on-site workers and remote workers. Doing so will help the workforce to feel more like a single team and will provide the necessary consistency of a well-managed team.
With a remote-first approach, where the majority of communications occur online to include all workers, rules will need to be established for employees to clearly understand how and when to communicate and collaborate with colleagues who are not always physically present. Examples include establishing clear communication channels for contacting team leaders, setting rules for when employees can begin and end their day if flexibility is offered, and defining the times that employees are expected to respond to communications. By clearly defining equal parameters for all employees, you can eliminate any potential confusion and avoid a division between on-site and off-site employees.
2. Set Individual and Team Goals
One of the best ways you can keep employees on-task, regardless of whether they are working in the office or remotely, is to set clear goals. More specifically, there should be a combination of collective goals, which further the aims of the business, and individual goals, which help with personal development. However, when targets or objectives are too vague, too unrealistic, or impossible to measure, they become more of a hindrance than a help. Therefore, individual and team goals also need to be SMART, meaning: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based. SMART goals can serve to give hybrid employees purpose and a clear focus without the physical presence of a manager.
3. Provide Multiple Communication Tools
Hybrid teams rely heavily on video conferencing software for optimized remote collaboration, so platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are likely to play a key role. However, beyond this, employees should have other communication channels available to them too. Depending on the nature of the business, this may mean providing company phones, establishing an internal messaging system with dedicated channels, email, or all of the above. But as mentioned, rules and protocol for when and how to use each channel need to be clearly outlined by managers to avoid important information being lost in casual chats or, conversely, channels that should be reserved for important information being clogged up by irrelevant conversation.
Also, be wary of communication overload. A remote-first approach requires that most communication is done online, but constant notifications can be distracting. Therefore, managers should find a way for employees to stay up to date with important developments without having to respond to every notification.
4. Automate Processes Through Integrated Software
Establishing a centralized, cloud-based system such as Microsoft Office 365 or the Google Workspace collection is important to ensure everyone has equal access to tools and information, regardless of where they work from. These integrated platforms offer a level of automation that can save hundreds of manhours if used correctly, especially for hybrid teams. With actions taken within one application automatically registering across all relevant applications within the platform, managers can ensure that team members are always receiving the most up-to-date information. However, it is up to the manager to ensure that platforms are being used to their full potential and that all employees are properly trained to use the relevant software.
5. Optimize Team Meetings and Discussions
Meetings within a hybrid team take on a slightly different form as they may include a mix of in-person and remote attendees. However, with the growing familiarity of video conferencing and telecommuting, these kinds of meetings have become far more commonplace and fluid than they once were. Yet, the same issues that plagued traditional meetings have not disappeared – lack of direction, time-wasting, and unnecessary invites.
However, the transition to hybrid work can present a good opportunity for managers to address meeting formats and best practices within teams. Training in how to present a clearly defined agenda, knowing who to invite to avoid wasted manhours, and how to follow up can be combined with a basic rundown of how to run efficient online meetings. Despite most video conferencing platforms being extremely user-friendly, mishaps around connecting, screen sharing, and collaboration are still all too common.
6. Introduce Greater Flexibility
Possibly the biggest factor influencing the rise of the hybrid work model has been the direct demand for greater flexibility for employees. While the hybrid work model answers this call by giving employees the choice of location, there is still room for greater flexibility. For instance, flextime arrangements allow people to decide when they start work, rather than sticking rigidly to a 9 to 5 arrangement. Similarly, you might want to consider allowing people to work condensed workweeks or any of the other types of flexible work arrangements.
As a manager of hybrid teams, this will require finding the perfect balance between a team that is motivated by greater autonomy, a healthy work-life balance, and more control over their professional lives, and still ensuring that company goals and objectives are met.
7. Prevent Feelings of Social Isolation
In any setup where people are working remotely, it is important that you take steps to prevent feelings of social isolation from developing. This problem becomes more likely to manifest as people spend longer periods out of the office and can be especially significant for any employees who live on their own and work from home regularly. Aside from encouraging meetings, it is important to check in with remote staff and speak to them about their work/life balance and other issues. Where possible, it may also be worth encouraging remote workers to make appearances at the office from time to time so they can benefit from more conventional social interactions with colleagues.
8. Embrace Ergonomic Workstations
When it comes to remote and hybrid work, the word that comes up most often is productivity. While there is evidence to show that work-from-home employees can achieve equal or greater levels of productivity, it would be naive not to take the quality and ergonomics of both workstations into account. With hybrid teams, it is important to focus on both office ergonomics and ergonomics for remote workers as productivity and output expectations will remain the same within both areas. This means making sure staff know about the appropriate positioning of their monitors, investing in ergonomic desks and chairs, buying equipment designed with ergonomics in mind, and encouraging staff to take breaks at the right times.
9. Leverage the Best Technology Solutions
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an explosion of communication and collaboration software platforms designed to support remote and hybrid workers. This wave, however, is unlikely to slow down. New platforms will emerge, and current platforms will become more finely tuned to support the evolving needs of a shifting workforce. Therefore, it’s important to keep up to date with the latest technology trends to best support the operations and management of hybrid teams and avoid situations where competitors gain an advantage by acting faster.
Other solutions such as digital whiteboarding may play a valuable role in helping hybrid teams share ideas. There may also be value in providing dual monitors or second screens to improve multitasking capabilities or USB-C monitors to help hybrid workers move seamlessly between workstations.
10. Serve as a Hybrid Team Model
The final tip for managing hybrid teams is to lead from the front. In simple terms, this means you need to exhibit the sort of behaviors you want to see in your team. If hybrid work is new to your organization, team members will be looking at managers and following their lead when establishing best practices. From communication style to meeting formats to output expectations, team members are likely to look to management to set the bar.
Summing It All Up
The management of hybrid teams may differ from traditional management, but many of the same principles still apply. Good communication has always been a part of effective management, the only difference in hybrid teams is that communication has moved online. The same can be said of effective meetings. Again, people management is nothing new, but in a hybrid workplace, it needs to happen on a far more individual level as the group experience is now broken up into individual experiences that may differ from each other. Just be sure to always follow up with team members to see what challenges they face, optimize systems and operations where necessary, and lead from the front to set an example for your team!