Ever since the pandemic, hybrid workspaces have presented new opportunities for businesses around the globe. It gives people a chance to merge on-site work and remote work from the comfort of their homes.
A recent survey by Accenture even revealed that out of approximately 9,000 worldwide professionals, an astounding 83% preferred to work in a hybrid model even after the pandemic ended. This is owing to both flexibility and ease of collaboration.
Read on to know how you can manage hybrid teams and what best practices you can follow for the best results. It will also help you predict and overcome potential obstacles.
#1 Make productivity tools and software accessible to your entire team
Technology can be of great help to teams during virtual communications. It is best to gain access to a standard set of hardware and software. There are many collaboration tools like Slack and Wrike that the team can use. If you are going to move all professional communications to Slack, notify the team and avoid personal chats on WhatsApp.
If the team must assign each other tasks on Wrike, inform them to avoid setting tasks verbally or through casual text messages. Such ground rules prevent duplication and allow for work to happen seamlessly. Ensure that adequate training is provided to all staff, so they know how to use all the different software.
“It makes people feel they are accountable for their actions and gives them a common workstation to report to. Productivity can be monitored and managed better with standard software like Google Meet or Zoom. It is best to establish these first,” said the Team Leader of a popular marketing agency in Chennai.
#2 Have regular meetings and status updates
This is basic but crucial to keep your team under check. It will help your teams collaborate better and stay in the loop with frequent communication. These sessions are not for you to call out the mistakes of your employees or to point out work that hasn’t been completed. It is a check to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It is to make sure that people working on-site and off-site are working in sync and to the best of their potential.
You can also gain input about any grievances your employees have such as poor network connections or an uncomfortable home office. Some of these meetings need not be work related at all but used to check on employee welfare.
These meetings can also be used to help the team brainstorm and discuss ideas – nobody ends up feeling drained or isolated. It will also help you report to each other and present data they have collected. You will develop an engaged and connected team that thrives with deep bonds rather than working in silos.
#3 Schedule clear deadlines and calendars
Online tools like Trello help you plan the calendar for your employees ahead of time. It is a great way to help chart out an employee’s weekly target and tasks to give them a clear picture of the deadline. People not only need to know what task needs to be completed, but also when it is due.
A key tool to managing your hybrid team is to have a strict schedule or a calendar. One such digital marketing agency created a content calendar for the entire month for all their clients. On what dates must the posts go out? What themes will the content revolve around? Who is responsible for what content? When is the billing date for the client and how much content should be completed by then?
Creating a similar calendar will keep your hybrid teams on track. They will know how to manage their time and projects – you are telling them what to prioritise and what sequence to work in. It builds team morale and helps managers to monitor every individual’s performance.
#4 Have faith and trust your team
Your job is to let your team know what work needs to get done by when – do not micromanage. Trust your team to get the tasks completed by following their path. Each person in your hybrid team has a different formula for working and different productivity time slots.
Some of them might wake up at six in the morning and get a weeks’ worth of tasks completed. Or someone might be at their productive best at ten in the night. The best thing about remote working is how flexible the hours of work are. Give your employees that privilege and trust them to get the work done on time.
“It is best to not micromanage teams and keep asking for updates. Not everyone works at the same pace as you. The first step to being a good leader is learning to welcome that. I will confidently say that my team is working to their best potential no matter where they are working from. I don’t need to see them in front of me in the office to believe that they are working. I don’t want to end up disrupting their workflow and making them think I don’t trust them,” said the Managing Director at a reputed data storytelling agency in Hyderabad.
#5 Have a plan to manage conflict and burnout
Disagreements and friction between teams are always possible no matter how smoothly your work is flowing. It is best to detect signs of a conflict ahead by how things are shaping and how your employees are communicating with each other.
Fix a platform to resolve grievances and conflicts. Try to discourage employees from calling each other and arguing without a mediator being present. It is best to keep such issues off public platforms to avoid the entire team from getting involved. Whether it is an online or offline disagreement, get the issue sorted by involving only the concerned team members.
Amidst all the uncertainty, it is also likely that your team might feel cut off from their co-workers and face burnout. It is ideal to combat this with activities where both on-site and remote workers can participate. Such steps will help you prevent employee burnout and maintain a healthy workplace.
#6 Create visibility and accountability
It is true that visibility is the antidote to mistrust. Show your work and nobody will doubt that you are slacking. Deliver results and nobody will judge you for taking an extended lunch break.
Let people know what the big picture is and what their role is to achieve it. Whether you are using tracking tools or having a weekly team meeting, ask your employees directly for a work report and what’s gotten done since the last meeting. It is like living in a glass house – you can see everything that is happening, and nobody has anything to hide.
“When my team moved to an online workspace during the pandemic, the first lesson we inculcated in their minds was that it is okay to be asked what you are doing. It is not a personal attack if you ask your team for a status update in a public group. You are carrying out your duty and they are carrying out theirs,” said a photographer at a popular newspaper agency in Chennai.
#7 Change your onboarding process for new employees
Over the course of the pandemic, and even now, companies have adjusted and re-adjusted their hiring and onboarding practices as they figure out what works best when it comes to remote and hybrid working. Needs have changed and the skill sets required from employees have changed too. Make sure that all hardware is sent well in advance of the employee’s start date, so they have ample time to set things up and explore tools, learning and other resources.
A study conducted by Microsoft on their employees showed that new hires are 3.5 times more likely to be satisfied with their onboarding if their manager is involved. If it is possible, request remote workers to spend the first week onsite where they can meet their team and manager. If the entire team is working remotely, then the manager should play an active role in the onboarding process. Every new employee can also be assigned an ‘onboarding buddy.’
If you are launching a new hybrid workspace for your team, you now have some best practices to make the space inclusive and comfortable for all. Try to involve both on-site and remote workers to work towards a mutual goal.
It is not possible or recommended for employees to work in silos or to feel disconnected from the team. No work can get accomplished if people are not on the same page or keeping each other in the loop. Have the right channels and communication tools in place to make new and existing employees feel welcome and comfortable.