Companies around the world are turning to hybrid teams to manage the current employee demand that started with the COVID-19 pandemic. Hybrid teams are built using a combination of in-office employees and remote workers. As you might guess, this combination comes with many unique challenges.
Employees became used to working in a flexible environment, and many are demanding that it continue. As a result, it’s trickier to retain top talent because many employees prefer to work from home. Compounding this challenge is the fact that there are different needs that remote vs. in-person employees have, and they are often at odds with each other.
The result is that leading hybrid teams is becoming more complex. Leaders are tasked with creating a collaborative, cohesive culture that merges remote workers with in-office teams while maintaining consistently high performance. Leaders are often caught in the middle of these two volatile factors and struggle to find common ground.
Managing a hybrid workforce effectively requires a unique skill set. Leaders must follow several steps to merge all these elements and ultimately create an environment that works for everyone.
1. Set Clear Policies and Goals Together
Ambiguity is a common issue with hybrid teams. All team members need to understand the role they play and their responsibilities to avoid confusion and disengagement.
Examples of this role clarity includes accurate job descriptions, hiring procedures, onboarding processes and defining the organizational culture. The foundation of team collaboration is built on clarity. Companies lacking in this area will have employees who are stressed or feeling anxious, and that leads to potential conflict.
The team can hold a meeting to establish their overall hybrid working expectations once policies have been developed and posted. For example, what instances warrant in-person meetings, when team meetings are scheduled and what format hybrid team meetings will be in (e.g., a video meeting for everyone, including those in the office). Leaders should serve as facilitators so the whole team can communicate their thoughts and assemble goals collaboratively. As a leader, you’ll need to ensure the final expectations are clear in hybrid teams’ working norms and it is essential to compromise.
2. Create Interpersonal Time with the Team
Another common challenge with hybrid teams is building interpersonal relationships. In-house teams have higher levels of comradery amongst themselves than they have with anyone working remotely. That’s not necessarily flawed, but there are several ways to promote cohesive relations among all employees and avoid future silos of “in-office” versus “remote.”
For starters, schedule regular video conferences with the entire team. Have group calls where the team can discuss certain job-related tasks. Furthermore, allow and encourage non-job-related discussion through virtual coffees, small talk before calls, enterprise collaboration tools and social-focused team meetings.
When you or any in-office team member needs to have a tough conversation with a remote member of the team, don’t do so through text chats. Call them for these conversations. It’s hard to convey tone through text messages, so the conversation can easily be taken out of context.
3. Each Member Should Have a Unique Hybrid Work Plan
Everyone is different, and as a result, brings a unique set of skills to the team. There isn’t a single approach that works for everyone. Your job as a leader is to identify each person’s strengths and then identify the challenges they are likely to face.
Set every member of your team up for success. Ask these questions to prevent challenging situations.
- Is the task suited for remote work, or would it be better to assign it to an in-person employee?
- What support might the employee need to start and complete the task?
- What is their line of support in case of questions?
There will always be obstacles to overcome, so your job is to equip everyone with the right tools to help navigate those stumbling blocks.
4. Don’t Micromanage Team Members
While there are certain managerial styles that can transition flawlessly in a remote environment, micromanaging is not one of them. At the beginning of the pandemic, some companies tried implementing tracking software, but it created more problems than it solved.
Give your in-office employees and remote workers enough breathing room to do their job. Micromanaging their every move results in a toxic work environment because they feel they can’t be trusted to do the job that they were hired to do. Remote workers already feel as if they are under scrutiny for not working in the office, so it’s unnecessary to compound this feeling by micromanaging them. Many companies learned this lesson the hard way and lost key employees.
Once your team understands their responsibilities, track results through open communication and regular updates. These can be addressed directly if there are problems.
5. Build a System of Trust Among Your Hybrid Team
One of the greatest challenges of building a hybrid team is fostering the trust of both in-office teams and remote workers. Remote workers often feel as if their in-office colleagues have more trust. Leaders must take the appropriate steps to ensure every member of the team is equally important.
Leading a hybrid team comes down to building trust with all team members. At the onset of the pandemic, many leaders were afraid their employees were not being productive from home. Effective leaders overcame this initial fear by providing clear expectations to avoid ambiguity, providing support and focusing on results not the time spent. A great leader instills trust in the team. They create a system of accountability that ensures the job is done correctly and efficiently.
Address the issue if you feel efficiency is sliding because of the at-home conditions of a remote member of the team. However, the key is to build a strong foundation that provides direction to everyone on the team.
This current work environment has brought about questions that have left many companies struggling for answers. Many employees say they prefer working remotely but don’t consider that it’s creating a disconnect that is dampening motivation. Surveys reveal that 46% of employees have considered leaving their current employer. The pitfalls of a hybrid workforce contribute to this situation.
It’s up to leaders to find innovative solutions to make hybrid teams happy and productive as this model is more complicated than a fully remote team. There are unprecedented issues that will put it to the test. Pay close attention to your team members and continue to find ways to address their unique position. Your team will flourish and thank you.