Being a people manager has presented new challenges since the onset of the pandemic. Now that a hybrid model has become the “new normal” at work, it is even more difficult to be a leader. How do you handle a situation where some team members prefer working from home, while others want to come into the office every day? How will you ensure productivity and satisfaction in hybrid workplaces from your direct reports?
Managers and leaders must adapt their management styles to accommodate these changes. They also need to develop strategies to improve team collaboration and productivity, to keep employee engagement high in the hybrid environment.
What is a hybrid team?
A hybrid team has a mix of remote workers and office employees. Hybrid teams can have many different configurations, including:
– Onsite team spread across multiple locations
– Teams with both onsite and remote workers
– Remote team with an onsite leader
This article focuses on managing a hybrid team with onsite and remote members.
How can managers set up a hybrid team for success?
1. Team Culture
The most important way that managers can set their team up for success in a hybrid work environment is to create a strong team culture. This is even more difficult without in-person team building traditions, like taking everyone out to lunch or to an after-work happy hour, which don’t always translate remotely. However, if you remain focused on the employee experience, the team culture will benefit.
Here’s a tip: Ensure that you are initiating a great employee experience by creating the space for your direct reports to let you know how they are doing. Allow them to be candid with you by encouraging honest feedback.
2. Build a trusting and inclusive environment
With a mix of remote and onsite workers, trust is paramount. In the hybrid work model, managers have to trust their employees to work effectively and manage their own time. Employees also need to trust their managers’ decisions and feel supported.
Here’s a tip: as a manager, you can build trust in a hybrid work model by encouraging accountability. Facilitate “retrospective” meetings where you encourage your team members to take responsibility by discussing the things that went well, and areas of improvement for the next project.
3. Use the right workplace management technology
Another way to set your team up for success is to implement a desk booking or workplace management system where team members can see when their colleagues will be in the office.
Here’s a tip: if your team members work a mix of remotely and onsite, the “find a colleague” tool is a great way to plan when to come into the office to enhance collaboration and team building.
4. Set clear expectations
Finally, it may be helpful to establish core hours within your team, where there is an expectation to be available for calling, chat messages, and meetings. Setting these boundaries can ultimately help reduce stress levels and avoid burnout.
Here’s a tip: implement a “morning meetings only” rule, so that employees can decide how they will take advantage of their flexible work arrangement.
Keeping connected in a hybrid team
Communication is extremely important in a hybrid workplace. There are plenty of opportunities for casual check-ins among in-office workers. For remote workers, “water cooler chats” are rare and usually scheduled. Err on the side of over-communicating to keep your virtual team connected in the hybrid office.
Collaboration tools like Miro, or a project management tool like Asana, can increase visibility into projects and tasks for team members. Another benefit is that these tools encourage asynchronous collaboration, allowing team members to operate when they work best.
Use hybrid team meetings as a way to connect your entire team and remain productive. For remote employees, establishing guidelines around video cameras during virtual meetings can help to increase connection.
Management skills needed to lead a hybrid team
In addition to creating a strong team culture, there are several key managerial skills that are required in the hybrid workplace. They are a lot of the same skills that were needed when teams were completely onsite, with some key differences. These include:
– Effectively managing multiple priorities. Focus your time on what’s important, and encourage your employees to do the same. Staying organized to support your team is crucial in the hybrid work environment.
– Maintaining transparency. Remote staff may struggle with having visibility into what their colleagues are working on, unless there is transparency. Foster a culture of honesty and communication by keeping connected.
– Setting clear expectations. Communicate how your team can achieve success, and decide together what “great” looks like. A hybrid work model is focused on outputs, so ensure that these are well understood.
– Establishing boundaries. Set an example as the team leader by setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, and encouraging your employees to do the same to avoid additional stress and potential burnout.
These skills are important to ensure that employees feel supported and respected. Remain empathetic to your direct reports’ circumstances, whether they operate in a different time zone, or perhaps have a stressful personal life. It is beneficial to understand more about your employees and what they are balancing.
Benefits of hybrid teams
The hybrid office offers many benefits to both managers and employees. Employees benefit because they can choose how and where they want to work. This flexibility allows them to balance personal life and professional commitments, while still meaningfully contributing to the business. Managers benefit by getting more productivity from their teams, and by allowing employees to work at their own pace.
As a leader, you can benefit from recruiting top talent irrespective of location. A hybrid team does not need to be co-located, which allows you to remain focused on shared goals and objectives, and celebrate accomplishments.
Embracing an employee-centric culture
The concept of a hybrid team is new to many of us, and remaining agile, encouraging employee feedback, and learning along the way will ensure that your hybrid team is as successful as possible. As a leader, if you act with your employees in mind, this will ultimately help to improve their experience and enjoyment at work. Foster a culture of trust, and don’t forget to have fun.
Ultimately, if you’re agile, learn from your errors, and keep a strong sense of trust in yourself and others, you’ll be able to benefit from hybrid work and be an effective leader.