How To Manage Hybrid Teams Effectively
Microsoft, Google, and Ford are just some of the many organizations that are planning to adopt a hybrid work model as we move into the post-pandemic era with more and more people getting vaccinated every day.
But as companies plan the return to physical offices, there is a need to pivot the usual team management strategy in order to unequivocally support employees working on-site, those who have opted to go completely remote, and several who will be alternating between offices and remote work.
Managing hybrid teams can feel daunting and even overwhelming at first, but once you get past the initial hiccups, you will start seeing the true benefits from it. Let’s go into detail about what you need to do to ensure your hybrid team is productive, happy, and engaged.
The main challenges of managing hybrid teams
Assuming managing hybrid teams is the same as managing in-office teams
With an in-office team, you have all employees sitting in close proximity which makes discussions and collaborations easier. You can have an impromptu meeting with the entire team whenever needed.
But things get trickier with hybrid teams — huddling in a meeting room with just the in-office employees can make remote employees feel left out. Moreover, expecting remote employees to be available for impromptu meetings is also impractical because that would chip away at the freedom that they have to set and establish their own work schedules.
Using the same existing tools to manage hybrid teams
Just because your existing digital tools helped you manage in-office teams successfully in the past does not mean they can also work for hybrid teams as well.
When it comes to hybrid teams, you need tools that can digitize team communication and collaboration in order to always keep team members connected and in the loop with what’s happening within the team, despite where they are working from.
Inequality between in-office and remote employees
Over 70 percent of remote employees feel left out of their team. Almost 57 percent miss out on important information and 55 percent often get excluded from meetings just because they are not present in the office.
Inequality among remote and in-office employees is one of the biggest challenges that hybrid team managers need to tackle. Managers need to ensure that both remote and in-office employees have everything that they need to perform their best. More importantly, they shouldn’t feel like the others are getting more preference over them.
The tops mistakes in hybrid team management and ways to avoid them.
1. Adopting too many tools
Adding more tools to your already existing digital infrastructure will not lead to better connectivity in your hybrid team. In fact, too many tools can inevitably lead to silos, disparities, and knowledge loss. Employees would have to constantly toggle between different tools just to find the required information and communicate with team members, making collaboration a nightmare
Adopt a centralized digital workplace that can give you access to all the digital tools that your team needs to collaborate, communicate and manage all the work through a unified dashboard.
2. Sharing team updates
Updating your team irregularly and non-uniformly can cause miscommunication issues and affect employee morale.
For instance, let’s say there is a sudden change in project requirements and you quickly communicate that verbally to all the team members present in the office. But it takes you until the end of the day to share the same updates with the remote team members, who might end up feeling blindsided.
Getting important updates late in the game can not only affect work performance but also make them feel less appreciated within the team and lead them to think you aren’t being all transparent with them.
Establish policies in place to share important team updates with everyone, all at the same time. By default, updates should be shared online through team communication channels so that all the employees are always aware of what’s happening, even when they aren’t working from the office.
3. Unclear ownership
Without a sense of ownership, employees won’t have any sense of autonomy over their work and they will need constant hand-holding. While it’s still possible for managers to instinctively provide feedback and guide employees when they are in the office, hand-holding employees when they are often working from outside the office can be incredibly difficult.
Moreover, giving employees ownership can make them feel trusted and more invested in the team’s success.
Establish clear ownership in your hybrid team by decentralizing command and giving employees more autonomy. As the manager, you should still be the one taking big picture decisions, but every employee, both remote and onsite, should have their own set of responsibilities, freedom to make their own decisions and be accountable for the decisions they make.
4. Not trusting your team
The foundation of every team is trust, and when you don’t trust your team, or your team members don’t trust each other it can cause severe damage to your team’s spirit. With part of the employees coming to the office and others working remotely, it’s easy for in-office employees to feel like remote employees have more freedom or for remote employees to feel like they aren’t trusted enough by their team leaders. All of these trust issues can quickly snowball and create severe crack’s in your team’s foundation.
Hybrid team managers should make sure they are giving equal opportunities to both remote and in-office team members. You should schedule routine 1:1 meetings with every team member to understand their grievances and address them. It’s also a good idea to organize occasional team meetups and lunches where the entire team gets together to have face-to-face interactions.
While it’s good to communicate necessary information with the team, overcommunication can lead to employees feeling overwhelmed with constant messages, notifications, and phone calls, leaving them little to no time to do their actual work.
Balance out communication within the team in the way that employees don’t get bombarded by messages or calls throughout the day, but at the same time they shouldn’t feel like they are left on their own with no support from others. Chalk up communication guidelines including details about both asynchronous and synchronous communication, along with the communication tools that the team should be using.
Micromanagement in hybrid teams stems directly from the lack of trust. When their own managers don’t trust them and closely monitor their work, it can quickly lead to a drop in employee motivation and further impair productivity. On the contrary, showing trust in employees makes them 76 percent more engaged in their tasks.
Start by asking your employees how they would prefer to be managed, when they are working from the office and when they are working remotely. Also, set clear expectations for every team member. When employees know what is expected of them, it becomes easier for them to deliver the right work with the least amount of follow-ups. More than anything, practice delegating tasks. Relinquishing at least some responsibility can empower employees, boost their morale, free up your time, and yield better team performance.
Streamline hybrid teams with the right tools
Introducing the right remote working tools can make managing hybrid teams a whole lot easier. Instead of introducing dozens of disjointed tools which will only end up creating silos within your team and making collaboration a big challenge, you can introduce a digital workplace platform to streamline all the teamwork.
With a digital workplace, you get access to the complete set of digital tools that you need to manage projects, processes, cases, collaboration, and communication. With a centralized dashboard to store all the work-related information, it becomes a whole lot easier for both in-office and remote employees to always stay connected and collaborate effectively.