Hybrid teams are a new and still-evolving form of work culture. Increasingly common in modern organisations, a hybrid team is one made up of staff who have differing "work modes".
These are teams with some mix of employees who telecommute from home, freelance workers hired locally, subcontractors working remotely, staff members who attend the office at their discretion and full-time staff who work the traditional Monday-Friday office hours. There can even be people who shift between all those modes as their tasks evolve.
The hybrid team trend has been gathering momentum for a long time, and, as it comes to full flower, it presents management with new challenges around keeping their crew cohesive, coordinated and effective. Meeting these challenges with new skills and tools is the topic of this post.
Read on for some pointers that will help you get to grips with hybrid teams, how to overcome their unique obstacles and, ultimately, lead one of these teams effectively.
How To Successfully Manage A Hybrid Model Team
1. Social Technology For The Win.
If anything has enabled a remote or hybrid team to work well, it's high-bandwidth internet connections that underpin social technology tools such as Slack and Zoom. These technologies enable new forms of remote yet real-time collaboration.
When coupled with solutions that make team collaboration easier, such as Google Workspace (recently renamed from G Suite), the ability of your people to quickly and seamlessly have planned or impromptu videoconferencing calls via your preferred service is greatly magnified. So long as the time zones and availabilities work out, it doesn't matter where your team members are physically.
2. Fostering a Remote-First Culture
What does it mean to be remote-first? It's not just a buzzword. To put it simply, this approach makes remote work the default for your team. People are enabled and empowered to successfully do their jobs from anywhere.
Even if you have employees who are working on-site, you, as manager, are still focused on leading a remote work team. When you make this shift in approach, it helps you get the right systems and processes in place to enable your entire team to do great work. Those working at the desk next to you enjoy the same quality of engagement and support to be effective as those who are on the other side of the world. Indeed, nothing really changes for any of the team members when you, the team leader, are the person whose work location changes from one day to the next.
To achieve this, your employees should have access to the same files, the same information and the same resources regardless of where they're working. They might not get the free break room coffee when they're working from home, but everything else they need should be easily and equally available to them - including access to your advice, expertise and support.
3. Set Expectations and Accountabilities Early
There are generally two ways an existing team becomes "hybrid": a top-down corporate policy change or by evolution as more hybrid options are gradually introduced. Either way, when it is clear that your team is now hybrid, you must set expectations and make accountability clear to all staff. Both your home and office-based employees must understand how they can work together productively and have an unequivocal view of who is doing what. As part of this, you might run regular meetings with your entire team to start each day or week on the right foot. From this common touchpoint you can then share progress regularly on key projects with the entire team to maintain momentum.
4. Define Clear Working Hours
When everyone knows when everyone else is available - and not available - it helps you and your team know what to expect from their co-workers. Sharing work calendars will help to further boost the visibility of this crucial information. It will enable your team members to keep abreast of whether someone is "on the clock" and what they are doing at any one time, including colleagues who they do not physically sit near or may never have met.
5. Understand the Benefits of Each Working Situation to Ensure Fairness
Knowing how all the different working modes play out in real life is important because, for example, your employees working from home may find it easier to maintain a healthy work-life balance than those who are in the office most of the time. You might therefore try to encourage or facilitate the same level of balance for your office-based team members. Perhaps give them the flexibility to pick their kids up from school or go for a run during working hours. It's also important to role-model healthy working behaviour yourself, regardless of where you are based.
6. Commit Equal Time and Focus to Each Member of Your Team.
The amount of attention and help that you give to each employee shouldn't depend on where they're working or what their role is. Just because some members of your team work remotely, they should not receive less of your time and support. Likewise, just because someone is nearby, that doesn't mean they can waltz to the head of the queue when they want access to your time or guidance. The convenience of proximity should not be a reason to skip the proper protocols.
7. Be Mindful of Communication.
It's unavoidable that your remote workers will miss out on face-to-face interactions - both with you and with their teammates. Because of this, you'll need to think carefully about how you can make them feel equally included via virtual remote meetings. This goes double in those instances when your end of the virtual meeting has more than one person sharing the same camera. It can very quickly make the remote worker feel like the outsider in an us-and-them workplace dynamic.
Managing a Hybrid Team: Maintaining Awareness is the Key
At the end of the day, managing a hybrid team means maintaining awareness. Remote staff and on-site staff have different experiences. Acknowledge, understand and anticipate them and then be proactive to level the playing field. Maintaining strong team dynamics is the goal.
Choosing the right technology plays a pivotal role; so too does maintaining strong communication and information-sharing practices. Next, ensure your assignments and responsibilities are clearly set. Finally, give everyone some travel flexibility. Find the right balance between these key points and you will set your people free to do their best work: your hybrid team can then really perform!