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5 ways to effectively manage a hybrid team

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred plenty of changes in the past few months – including permanent, worldwide disruption to our current workplace practices and employment structures. 

With many encouraged to stay home, businesses have scrambled to adapt to these times through adoption of more flexible working policies; these include opportunities to work from home and “hybrid team” arrangements.

Hybrid teams combine the benefits of working on-site and working remotely, allowing those who prefer a specific setup to pursue the one they see fit. This could result in your working days looking different from one another, with some members of your team working in-office, while others choose to work from home. 

While this option sounds like the ideal compromise, it can also pose new challenges for leaders – such as establishing clear communication lines and ensuring all workers are given fair treatment and opportunity.

SkillsTalk dive into these challenges below, and how to effectively navigate them to successfully manage a hybrid team.

Define clear expectations and priorities

Your first step to successful hybrid teams is setting clear guidelines, expectations, and business priorities off the bat. 

While 40% of remote workers cite “flexible schedules” as the ultimate perk of their setup, it’s important to keep everyone on the same page. When transitioning to hybrid working arrangements, take the time to discuss with your team on any adaptive changes that may take place – and any workplace aspects that may stay the same. 

This can include methods of communication, key decision-makers, how meetings will take place (and who takes part in them), and who receives access to certain types of information. 

Additionally, it’s important to assess how individual employees plan to structure or rework their hours. Those working remotely will likely value more flexibility than those working on-site, for example. It’s important to have clear discussions on these expectations, making compromises where necessary.

Having regular meetings as members settle into these new work arrangements may be helpful in keeping others up to date on project progress and current assignments. Sharing work calendars also provides more transparency within a team, helping others know where a team member is and what they are doing at a given time. 

Lastly, prioritisation is crucial. Early each week, ensure all members concentrate on the most important tasks and assignments on schedule. This carves out flexibility down the line for other healthcare or family-related commitments (i.e. tending to a sick family member, caring for a child whose school has shut down, etc.). 

Exercise inclusion and equity

colleagues smiling

Another challenge for leaders who adopt hybrid team arrangements is ensuring fair treatment and equity for all members – both on and offsite. 

Firstly, it’s important to dismantle the misguided belief that onsite workers are “more productive” or “more engaged” than their teleworking counterparts. Rectifying this involves new practices and behavioural changes. For example, you can ensure all meetings take place on a teleconferencing platform (i.e. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, etc.) for both in-office and work-from-home employees.

According to Harvard Business School professor, Linda Hill, this practice effectively “equalises” communication by having everyone engage through the same tools and software.

It’s also crucial to discourage an “us vs. them” mindset, encouraging onsite and offsite workers to continue fostering their working relationships. Establish your intolerance for any bad-mouthing or negative attitudes towards the “other” group, facilitating inclusion and collaboration where and when necessary.

Of course, it’s important to assess your own biases and approach towards particular employees. Do you offer certain members more attention than others? Are there workers you hold in high regard, while others you view in a negative light? A hybrid team environment can potentially exacerbate these perceptions, so it helps to keep your own baggage in check – and make the effort to offer more equal time, focus, and opportunity to each member of your team.  

Establish effective communication practices

With employees working from different geographical locations, establishing clear methods of communication is vital. 

Define the tools and online platforms you plan to use to keep everyone connected – regardless of their work arrangement. This can include messaging software (i.e. Slack, Google Hangouts), project management tools (i.e. Asana), and teleconferencing platforms for weekly or daily meetings.

It can also help to set agreements on communication practices. For example: how often would online meetings be necessary, and who gets to take part in which conversations? What are the appropriate hours to send emails or messages on Slack? Should members of a group chat acknowledge each message received? 

Having these clear guidelines in place ensures all workers have efficient, effective means of interacting and collaborating with one another – leading to greater workplace productivity, harmony, and morale. Good communication can successfully bridge any gaps between onsite and remote workers; and keeps all employees in the loop, updated on the latest team decisions and company changes. 

Additionally, it helps to present yourself as someone employees can easily talk to when necessary. In these turbulent times, workers are likely facing higher levels of stress and anxiety than ever before. Ensure they feel listened to and cared for, by allowing them to express their feelings on new arrangements or business changes - ensuring that you’re committed to making adjustments that benefit everyone. 

Foster a fun, engaging culture

mother working from home, laughing with child

In preventing an “us vs. them” culture from propagating, it helps to craft an interactive environment that’s both fun and engaging. Inject a bit of playfulness into your new work arrangements by hosting online activities or introducing themed workdays or lunches – anything to loosen up workers and foster camaraderie.

Statistics show that 19% of remote workers cite “loneliness” as their greatest challenge, damaging their daily productivity and increasing the likelihood of burnout. 

Setting aside daily sessions or creating new channels for casual conversation and interaction can help simulate the feel of a face-to-face environment for remote workers; alleviating symptoms of loneliness or disconnection.

Even something as simple as sharing personal photos or memes on Slack can help maintain engagement and a sense of team spirit. 

With restrictions beginning to ease, you may even want to consider bringing the team physically together for a casual outing, which can also benefit new hires – letting them meet and get to know their colleagues face-to-face.
Keep new work practices in mind when hiring

Lastly, it’s important to keep your new workplace structure and practices in mind when taking on new hires. 

When employing new, remote recruits, ensure they have the proper skillsets to work efficiently without physical supervision and guidance. Successful remote workers will typically exhibit punctuality, responsiveness, initiative, and would (ideally) have past experience in telecommuting. Those who do will have general familiarity with the common tools and communication channels used to perform remote work tasks – saving you hours of training.

HubStaff recommends cross-training your new remote hires to perform a wide variety of tasks, allowing them to cover other employees (onsite or otherwise) when necessary. While training is generally better done in-person, new recruits can also complete their onboarding process through online manuals or video training sessions with screen-sharing tools. 

Furthermore, it’s important to seek out employees with high adaptability. If the year has taught us anything, it’s that our landscape is a highly unpredictable, often chaotic one – and we’ll need more workers with high agility and flexibility, moving forward. 

Want to brush up on your management skills?

With the global pandemic causing permanent change to our current working culture, business managers are challenged with navigating through this crisis – and establishing the appropriate structures, practices, and working arrangements post-crisis. 

Hybrid teams and working from home are currently two of the most popular setups adopted by companies, with its productivity and flexibility benefits made clear. 

To sharpen your management skills for the new working era, Upskilled offers a wide range of business and management courses to help keep your leadership, administration, and entrepreneurial skills relevant and up-to-date. Best of all, each course is delivered online – helping you train flexibly according to your needs and schedule.

Boost your managerial skills, and enquire about a course today. 
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