After months of remote work, we’re beginning to see a new type of team develop. While many companies are still trying to navigate their virtual environment, not everyone can continue in a purely remote context. As weeks out of the office stretch into months, companies are starting to take a long-term view of what work will look like for the rest of the year. Some are discovering they need options that will allow employees to return to the office, at least in a limited context. Hybrid teams, a team that is made up of a mix of in-person and remote employees, are growing increasingly popular as some employees return to work while others continue online. If you are going to start managing a hybrid team, however, what can you do to better support both types of employees?
Leading a hybrid team
Flexible work is the name of the game these days thanks to the pandemic and one of the things top talent is currently looking for. Where possible, it’s a good idea to give your employees options so they can find the best way to be productive that works for them. But don’t assume the way you’ve been managing your remote team will continue to work for your new hybrid one. Instead, consider the realities of working in and out of the office and come up with a management plan that covers both. You may want to start by considering the following:
Develop a communication strategy: The first thing your hybrid team needs is rules. How will your team get in touch with each other? What’s the etiquette for meetings that are made up of half in-person office workers and half that are not? How can you encourage team members to collaborate at a distance? The key to making a hybrid team successful is how easily and openly members can communicate with each other. When setting up your team, make sure everyone understands a few basic rules about how they should work together. This can include deciding what appropriate hours for answering emails are, how often team meetings or one-on-one check-ins need to occur, what kind of sign-off chain is necessary for approving work, etc. The more structure you can put in place, the easier it will be for your team to work together in a split context.
Understand your team: Team dynamics have never been more important than they are right now. If you’re leading a hybrid team, you’re probably going to run into some initial bumps along the road as your team settles into the new format. There’s always the possibility that you might see some conflict between the remote and in-house staff members as they compare their work environments. Or employees may need more support navigating the different stressors and challenges that come from returning to the office. Leaders can help keep their teams on-track by staying on top of the team dynamics and taking steps to strengthen the interpersonal relationships between colleagues. Leveraging team building activities or training, using assessments, or increasing opportunities for social interaction can all help hybrid teams feel more connected.
Measure performance: What will success look like for employees in the office versus at home? Will you be measuring hours at a desk or tasks accomplished by the week’s end? Where you work can impact what you’re able to achieve which managers need to take into consideration. Colleagues who can talk to each in-person might be better at brainstorming sessions, for example, while those working in a quiet remote setting might be better at fleshing out the details. If you have employees in both settings, take advantage of the benefits of each environment provides. That may require adjusting responsibilities or expectations but always be clear about what the employee’s targets are and how they’ll be measured on their performance.
Create a team culture: The number one thing you want to avoid in your hybrid team is developing a sense that there are two groups or two types of workers on the team. You don’t want remote workers feeling like they’re being ignored by their in-house colleagues who have the ability to speak face-to-face or vice versa. To get ahead of of that divide, focus on growing a team culture that prioritizes community. Provide opportunities for the whole team to be together in weekly meetings or other virtual events. Encourage taking virtual breaks together, sharing non-work related stories, having online happy hours, or anything else that can help employees work together more closely. The more employees learn about each other, the more connected they’ll feel to their colleagues.
Share goals: Whenever possible, trying pairing remote and in-house employees together on tasks. This gives them a chance to connect with someone working in a different way then they are and reap the benefits of both processes. The in-house employee will have a direct line to whomever else is working in the office which can be useful access for the remote employee. Likewise, the remote employee will probably be more active in the online community, possibly having more tech resources at their fingertips. Leveraging the strengths of both sides of the team can speed up projects, improve team relationships, and increase employee engagement.
Teams are evolving
Not every company will need to use this kind of team format but as we try to find ways of keeping our companies afloat that still protect employee well-being, hybrid teams are becoming an increasingly popular option. Whether some employees are burning out at home or there’s a pressing need to rotate staff through the office, there a multiple reasons why a company might want to have flexible working options. In fact, some of the decisions made about teams right now might even endure post-Covid as the world of work settles into a new norm. But if you’re going to straddle remote and in-person management right now, then you need to be aware of the realities and challenges of each environment and adjust your approach accordingly. Take steps to ensure every employee feels supported. The last thing you want is for cliques to form within your team as they can easily derail the work being done. Instead try to show your staff that they are still a community and in this together. Whether your working through a screen or in the office, take steps to ensure everyone on your team is being treated fairly, not matter where they work.