As the pandemic restrictions lift, you and your team will be heading back to the office. Most business leaders want their employees to work from the office. However, most employees want to work from home. Therefore, most businesses are opting for the hybrid work model as a fair compromise. Hybrid work entails doing some work from the office and performing the rest of the tasks remotely. Are you contemplating how you will be leading a hybrid team soon?
Leading a hybrid team is neither the same as leading a fully remote team nor an on-site one. Just like your team, you will also need to adapt to this new work arrangement. In your case, you will need to design a robust hybrid work plan. The success or failure of your business can depend on how you implement hybrid work rules and how you lead your hybrid team. Luckily there are many things you can do to transition and adapt your team to hybrid work. Let's see what some of the best tips for leading a hybrid team are:
Invest In Leadership Training - Be a Role Model
The pandemic has been transforming the landscape of work. We have more questions than answers about how things will change for us down the road. Employees will turn to you for answers. Your business operations/hours might have changed. Employees may be worried about job security, change of job description, availability of hours, updating skills, etc. You may or may not have all the answers. You and your team might feel equally frustrated about operating under uncertainty.
How you act and communicate can affect team morale. You do not want your behavior to impact employee engagement, satisfaction, or productivity. You certainly do not want your experienced and skilled workers quitting because they feel like you are not dispelling their doubts or fears. Therefore, you will need to lead your team with skill, sensitivity, and confidence. Research, learn, and train to sharpen your leadership skills. Just like employees have to update their job skills to remain marketable, bosses have to up their skills to remain competent leaders. Sharpen your leadership skills and model your conduct to adapt to these changing times. Your behavior will set the tone for how your team behaves. So aim to inspire their respect and confidence with your behavior.
Continue Traditions - Avoid Disruption
Transitioning from a remote to a hybrid work setting need not be about overhauling everything at work. Of course, as a leader, you can change plans, procedures, and processes. However, changing things unnecessarily will only stress out your employees. Sticking to traditions that work will minimize the adjustments they have to make when they transition to hybrid work. For example, if you have been conducting weekly meetings at a set time on Mondays when working remotely, then continue to do so when you adopt a hybrid work model. If everyone has been participating in happy-hour meetings, every Friday then don't stop the practice. Keeping some traditions that bring everyone together will help everyone in the team to remain connected or bonded to each other.
Remote-First - Just In Case
As you transition your team to hybrid work, remember to err on the side of more remote and less on-site work. We don't know when this pandemic will end. What if the disease resurges in your local area? And what if this disease becomes the annual flu? Imagine having annual or regular shutdowns in the future. And what if there are more pandemics in the not-too-distant future?
If your team usually works remotely, then there will be less disruption for you, them, and your business if there are more shutdowns in the future. It will be easier for everyone to take on more work from the setting that they are most familiar with. It will also help to minimize any losses from prepaid, unused office space. Planning for less office use saves money during regular times as well as shutdowns.
Allow Autonomy - Set Rules
Leading a hybrid team of happy, engaged, and productive workers start with flexibility and rules. Outline what you expect from them when they work remotely and on-site. Then let them have some say in when and where they work. For example, let them know how they must split their remote and on-site work hours. However, let them choose the days they work remotely or on-site. Or maybe let them choose their start times for work. Employees must be aware of the rules and privileges of their hybrid work set up well ahead of time. Clarity about rules and expectations can help employees avoid unnecessary disciplinary actions.
Streamline Communications - Avoid Confusion
When leading a hybrid team, you will have employees working remotely and on-site at any given time. Those working on-site might communicate information amongst themselves that they forget or neglect to communicate to others. Or maybe they use an ineffective way to pass on information to others. For example, they schedule a video meeting to pass on information that they can easily communicate by email or direct messaging. Sometimes employees are not sure about the best medium to use to communicate.
They might be concerned about not sharing all the details. So they might opt for over-communicating or using lengthy methods to communicate with their remote team members. Therefore, codify the best way to communicate under different circumstances with both on-site and remote team members. Dedicate one or two modes of communication for different scenarios and enforce these rules. Streamlining both what you communicate and the medium you use to communicate will help to disseminate information to the right people at the right time.
Asynchronous Communication - Time Management
Coordinating meetings between remote and on-site team members can be frustrating. For example, when team members are living across time zones. Therefore, only resort to scheduling such meetings when absolutely necessary. You can record and send information that employees can watch at their convenience. Ensure that pertinent information is documented properly, sent to the right parties on time, and stored correctly. Use appropriate collaboration tools when synchronous or live meetings cannot be avoided.
Encourage Team Bonding - Avoid Division
Over time, employees that mostly/exclusively work remotely and employees that mostly/exclusively work on-site can develop animosity towards each other. Remote workers might feel that they are missing out on the perks of working in the office. They might feel that they are invisible to their bosses even if they are high-performing employees. On-site workers might feel that they have longer workdays and higher expenses because they have to commute to work. They might feel that remote workers are lazy. Or that remote workers do not have to be under the scrutiny of their bosses all the time. Such sentiments just deepen the divide between remote and on-site employees.
You can encourage bonding, trust, and understanding between your remote and on-site employees by encouraging them to spend more time with each other. For example, they can play online social games to get to know each other. Brightful offers games, quizzes, and guided meditation that employees can use to get to know one another. You can also have dedicated mediums and channels for employee bonding. For example, set up a dedicated Slack channel where employees connect over their hobbies, pets, or other non-work-related topics.
Solicit Information - Provide Feedback
Ask employees for their thoughts and ideas on how to implement the hybrid work structure before you design it. Ask them about the things that you can improve when they transition to hybrid work. Check to see if they think practices and processes need to be improved once they have settled into their new routines. Employee insight can help you to make improvements that will boost productivity at work. From your side, give them some feedback. Tell them about what you see that they can improve. Do not wait for annual performance reviews to give feedback. If you feel the need to provide pointers to improve productivity and company culture, then do so promptly.
Equal Benefits - Avoid Resentment
Employers indeed tend to give better benefits and promotions to employees that they are more familiar with. For example, paying for lunches and outings for employees who usually work on-site. Those who mostly work remotely might be out of sight and out of the minds of their bosses. Avoid creating this picture of bias due to proximity. The remote employees will be resentful of both you (their boss) and their often on-site peers. Avoid losing the respect and confidence of your remote workers. Distribute perks and benefits equally. If you buy lunch for some, then send gift cards or meals to the rest of the team. If you take some employees on an outing, then pay for outings for others. Treating all employees equally will make leading a hybrid team much easier for you. You will also not worry about accusations or lawsuits about worker discrimination.
One-On-One Meetings - Increase Visibility
Exclusively remote employees are at risk of feeling isolated and disconnected from their team members. Their dissatisfaction will only increase when they feel that they are also invisible to their bosses and peers. Therefore, ensure that you commit to regular one-on-one meetings with your mostly/exclusively remote team members. Use ice-breakers and online games/quizzes to make these meetings memorable. The more you interact with remote employees, the more you will be aware of their circumstances and strengths. You can promote more fairly when you are aware of the strengths of all your employees and not just the ones you usually see in person. You will also conduct performance reviews of remote employees with more thought when you interact with them regularly. They won’t be just a number to you.
Allow For Time & Tools - Better Adoption
Just as employees needed time to adapt to remote work when the pandemic started, they will also need time to adjust to hybrid work. Be patient with your employees and the process to realize the benefits. Everyone will be happier and embrace their new work arrangements better when they are given time to adapt. In addition, when employees are engaging in both remote and on-site work, they will need the right tools/technology to be just as productive remotely as they are on-site. So invest in the right tools and technology for all your employees.
Reorient Plans - Adapt To Changes
The most important tip for leading a hybrid team is to adjust your specific plans as needed. Changing circumstances or productivity concerns will require you to adjust the hybrid work model that you have in place for your employees. Be proactive in making the necessary changes to boost employee satisfaction, productivity, and the bottom line of the business.
Leading a hybrid team requires careful thought and planning. By considering factors such as employee autonomy, the best methods/tools for communication, and the team culture, you can create a happy and productive hybrid team.