Hybrid teams, comprised of both remote workers and those physically present in the workplace, can help businesses lower costs, increase productivity, and become more agile during times of adversity. But with this new system comes a new set of challenges for managers who have been trained within the parameters of the traditional workplace.
Keep reading for 10 tips that will assist you in managing hybrid teams, or head directly to the ViewSonic workplace solutions for more insights on the modern workplace.
Hybrid teams can be defined as teams made up of on-site workers, remote workers, and those who have the flexibility to work on-site on some days and off-site on others. The system essentially combines the benefits of remote work for employees and employers while still retaining the value of a centralized office and in-person collaboration where necessary.
With that being said, the combination of two work models and the flexibility on offer for employees to move between them does also present operational difficulties if not carefully managed. In this article, we provide 10 tips that can assist managers of hybrid teams in getting the most out of their teams as well as the hybrid work model.
1. Hybrid Teams: Establishing the Rules
The first step to successfully managing hybrid teams is establishing an inclusive work environment. This can be done with unifying rules that apply equally to both on-site and off-site workers. Doing so will help the workforce feel more like a single team and provide the necessary consistency of a well-managed team.
The first and fundamental task is to set clear communication guidelines. With a remote-first approach that requires most communications to happen online for all workers, everyone needs to be on the same page about how and when to collaborate. Having a clear rule that’s understood and accepted by everyone will facilitate teamwork between the employees in the office and their colleagues who are not always physically present.
Some of the tried-and-tested solutions 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. It’s also important to take into consideration emerging remote work trends and habits like triple peak workday where working hours intertwine with day-to-day personal activities.
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. Knowing set communication times will also lessen the stressful need to respond promptly to all messages.
2. Setting Individual and Team Goals
One of the best ways you can keep employees on-task, regardless of whether they are working on-site 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. These goals also need to be SMART, meaning:
- Achievable / Attainable
- Time Limited / Time Sensitive
When targets or objectives are too vague, too unrealistic, or impossible to measure, they become more of a hindrance than a help. However, SMART goals can serve to give hybrid employees purpose and a clear focus without the physical presence of a manager.
3. Providing Multiple Communications Tools
However, beyond this, staff 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. Automating Processes Through Integrated Software
In our previous article, How to Implement the Hybrid Workplace Model in your Company, we looked at the importance of establishing a centralized, cloud-based system such as Microsoft Office 365 or the Google Workspace collection 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. Optimizing 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.
For more meeting tips, read How to Run an Effective Meeting – The Complete Rundown and Wasting Time in Meetings? (And What to Do About It).
6. Introducing Greater Flexibility
Possibly the biggest factor influencing the rise of the hybrid work model has been the direct demand for greater flexibility for employees, with much being written about the benefits of flexible work schedules and their ability to boost employee morale.
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, while still ensuring that company goals and objectives are met.
7. Preventing 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 convincing remote workers to make appearances at the office from time to time so they can benefit from more conventional social interactions with colleagues.
Another small but impactful thing is to make sure that everyone has their webcam switched on during hybrid meetings. Seeing colleagues’ facial expressions and reactions directly contributes to a more inclusive collaboration and teamwork. This is when logistics come into play, though – it’s important to make sure all employees have all necessary videoconference hardware.
As social isolation is not the only challenge managers face when managing remote workers, you may also be interested in reading 10 Challenges of Working from Home for Employers (And How to Solve Them).
8. Embracing Ergonomic Workstations
When it comes to remote and hybrid work, the word that comes up most often is productivity. And while there is evidence to show that WFH employees can achieve equal or greater levels of productivity, it would 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. Leveraging the Best Technology Solutions
The 2020 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.
It is therefore 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 Role 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.
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.
For more useful management tips, read Remote Team Management: 15 Best Practices for Leading Effective Teams. You can also visit ViewSonic Workplace Solutions for a range of innovations that support the full spectrum of modern business.