Hybrid teams are uncharted territory for a lot of managers, which means you might experience some hiccups. That’s okay – provided you are committed to learning from them. The following are a few strategies to help you manage a hybrid team in this new world of work.

1. Foster A Remote-first Culture

It’s entirely possible that a good portion of your employees will decide to head back into the office while only a few opt to continue working from home. Regardless of what those numbers tell you, running a remote-first team will be your best bet to keep things running smoothly.

What does it mean to be remote-first? Simply put, this approach makes remote work the default for your team. As a result, people can successfully do their jobs from anywhere. Even if you have employees who are working on-site, focusing on remote work helps you get the right systems and processes in place to enable your entire team to do great work—whether they’re working at the desk next to you or across the world.

There are both big and small changes you can make to ensure you’re taking the emphasis off of location and more on collaboration, including:

  • Utilizing tools that team members can access from anywhere (and ideally, from any device).
  • Centralizing communication in a specific platform so that important messages aren’t siloed or missed.
  • Always including a video link with meeting invites, so participants can still join if they decide to work from home that day.
  • Asking everybody to join video calls from their computers (even if they’re in-office), so it’s easier for team members to see facial expressions and interact with each other.

Here’s the simplest way to think about it: Your employees should have access to the same files, information, and resources regardless of where they’re working.

2. Trust Your Employees To Fulfill Expectations

When you have employees working here, there, and everywhere, it can be tempting to keep an eye on their every move. That’s not sustainable (especially if your team is growing). Plus, there’s a crucial ingredient for true employee autonomy: trust. If you’re going to allow employees to choose where they get their best work done, then you also need to trust them to determine how and when they power through their to-do lists.

For that reason, a results-based culture is the best fit for a hybrid team. This requires you to emphasize what your employees are producing and less of how they’re doing it.

How do you foster this sort of culture? Start by setting clear expectations about what tasks employees have to complete and what responsibilities you need them to fulfill. Then, provide clarity about how you define success. Basically, what is the end goal?

Using SMART goals can give both in-office and remote employees the necessary visibility into what they should be focused on—so you can step back and get out of their way.

Note: Talent Development offers a class on Crafting Goals with the SMART Methodology – watch for the next scheduled class or request a customized training for your team – email csutraining@colostate.edu for more information.

3. Regularly Offer And Solicit Feedback

It doesn’t matter where your employees are working—they want feedback, but they don’t always know how to ask for it. In a survey conducted by Reflektive, 25% of employees admitted they don’t know how to request the feedback they crave from their managers.

With all of your employees, schedule a recurring one-on-one meeting (at least once per month) where you can connect about their daily work, challenges, and their broader career goals. It’s not only a great way to demonstrate that you’re invested in their work and success, but it also presents an opportunity for you to collect feedback about what is and isn’t working in your hybrid work environment.

Some questions you could ask include:

  • You’ve been working [in-office/remote/combination]. How has that been going?
  • What do you think our team is doing well in terms of collaboration?
  • What challenges are you running into with team members working in a hybrid environment?

These questions provide a chance for employees to bring up concerns or sticking points that might not have occurred to you otherwise.

For example: Perhaps a remote employee will mention that in-office workers often forget to turn off screen-sharing when they’re done with a presentation. Then, remote employees are stuck staring at the slide deck and can’t see their other team members. It’s a seemingly small snag but has the potential to make remote team members feel like an afterthought. So, it’s worth addressing with your entire team to ensure everybody feels valued and included.

4. Provide Opportunities For Social Connection

There are many logistics to take care of when leading a hybrid team, but the emotional side deserves just as much emphasis. The relationships we share with the people we work with significantly impact our happiness, performance, and even stress levels.

Forging these bonds becomes a little more complicated when your entire team isn’t working side-by-side, and loneliness is reported as another major struggle of remote work. Even further? If in-office employees have regular opportunities for small talk and shared lunches, team members who choose to work remotely can feel even more isolated from their colleagues.

For that reason, you need to provide social opportunities that are accessible regardless of where employees choose to work. It is worth thinking about “how to bring some playfulness (fun) into the workday.” Find times where there is no agenda, where team members can chat freely. Your goal is to make people feel connected and create a sense of community. A few ways you can do this include:

  • Create a dedicated instant message channel for all things friendly-chatter, like Netflix recommendations, favorite music videos, and pet photos.
  • Reserve time at the start or end of your team meetings for personal updates and small talk.
  • Schedule some remote-friendly team gatherings and activities, like participating in a virtual trivia contest, attending a virtual happy hour, or contributing to a shared productivity playlist.
  • Set up a standing video conference where people can easily jump in and have lunch or coffee together if they want.

You don’t want your work-site employees to have one experience with your culture, while off-site employees have a completely different one. So, offering these opportunities that bring all of your employees together will help them forge strong bonds from wherever they are.

Gone are the days when you’d poke your head out from your office and see all of your employees working side-by-side. Hybrid teams are a new reality, and this level of fluidity can feel daunting for managers who need to figure out how to help their teams collaborate seamlessly. Be humble. And be patient. You have the opportunity to help your team co-create an even better work environment.

Key Points to Remember

DO

  • Set clear goals and priorities so that everyone on the team focuses on what is important and knows what is expected of them.
  • Be inclusive. Even if some people are in the office, hold all team meetings online to be fair to everyone.
  • Reflect on your biases and predispositions. For example, ask yourself, “Are there people on my team that I haven’t connected with or presumed positive intent, and what would it look like if I did?

DON’T

  • Be rigid. You have the opportunity to learn and create a working environment where all team members can be productive and at their best. This will require flexibility.
  • Ignore signs of stress from your team. Instead, be empathetic, ask questions and help team members prioritize what is important.
  • Forget about fun. Look for ways to enjoy connecting with your team and bring some playfulness into the workday.

Adapted from How to Manage a Hybrid Team, Rebecca Knight, Harvard Business Review, October 07, 2020 and How to Successfully Manage a Hybrid Model Team, blog from Trello.com, February 19, 2021