Hybrid teams are beginning to become more common as some businesses head back to the office. With vaccines rolling out across the world, a hybrid workforce is probably the next hurdle facing managers. But leading a team who is in two places at once isn’t as simple as just turning on your webcam and getting back to work. Hybrid teams come with their own unique set of management challenges from how to keep everyone on the same page to navigating culture divides. If you’re running a hybrid team at the moment, then keep these 5 tips in mind to set your employees up for success.
5 strategies for hybrid teams
If you’re managing a team that’s both in and out of the office, consider these strategies as you start making your plans.
Provide training: Odds are, your employees may not know how to work in a hybrid team any more than you do. This is a new way of working after an already long year of upheaval. Give employees a chance to wrap their minds around being in a hybrid team with the proper tools to work that way. Employee training is the perfect place to start to ensure everyone is on the same page and understanding how hybrid work is meant to go. Think of it as onboarding 2.0. Don’t just drop employees back at their desks. Explain how hybrid teams will work, what the schedule will be, and the goals of rotating employees this way. And if any new technology is going to be leveraged, make sure that’s part of your training too.
Build trust: With employees working in and out of the office, it’s going to be important to build and maintain a strong foundation of trust with your workers. You want your team members to come to you wherever they’re working if there’s a problem because you probably won’t be there to see it. Make sure as a manager you’re setting clear expectations and walking your talk so your colleagues see that you lead authentically. Check-in with your team frequently and with individual employees either in-person or via video so you can keep your relationships, not to mention team culture, strong.
Pro-tip: Prioritize building trust on your team for long-term success
Be careful of a “them” and “us” culture: One of the biggest problems with hybrid teams is they tend to cultivate two different team cultures and two different employee experiences at the same time. That can lead to ill-will on a team. Office workers, for example, might think they are working harder while remote team members may believe they are putting in longer hours. Without working directly together there’s no way to quickly dispel beliefs like this that can become insidious on a hybrid team. If employees don’t trust or respect each other, they’re not going to work effectively together. Make it clear that you’re not two small teams but one large one that needs to pull together. If you see a split culture beginning to develop, bring your team together right away to address it. The earlier you can get ahead of this culture problem, the better off your team will be.
Make a communication plan and write it down: When you have workers moving in and out of a workspace it can be tricky to ensure everyone is kept up-to-date the way they should be. Sit down with your team and make some rules about how you’re going to communicate. You might even want to write them down and give everyone a copy to make them more official. Consider what hours employees can email each other, what channels will be used, and whether remote employees will have different processes than employees working face-to-face. You want to avoid anyone falling through the cracks or thinking one side of the hybrid team is getting better insight than another.
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Use learning to gel teams: Just because your team is split in two places doesn’t mean you can forget about team building. In fact, staying on top of team dynamics has never been more important. Create opportunities for your team to learn together and try to focus the L&D on skills or abilities they’ll need to succeed as a unit. Assessments can be useful in a setting like this to improve both self-awareness and awareness of others on a team. Whatever you choose to do with your employees, try to help them learn more about each other’s individual differences and how that comes into play at work to improve cross-team communication and strengthen interpersonal understanding.
Hybrid teams can still be strong teams
After a year of remote work, coming back to a hybrid team environment can feel a little strange for everyone. Don’t just re-open your office doors and expect things to fall into place. Managing a hybrid team requires leaders who actively want to build a shared team culture and invest their efforts in both types of employees, whether they’re in their seats or remote workers. The last thing you want is to create a work environment that only benefits part of your staff. Instead, use video calls, virtual happy hours, regular team meetings, set clear expectations, and communicate with every employee equally to give your hybrid team the best chance of success. Think about the whole team when you make your decisions and don’t see them as two separate groups of people, but as one cohesive unit that simply works in different places.
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