Before the beginning of the pandemic, roughly 20% of employees worked from home. Now, that trend has grown to 71% of employees working from home — and moving forward, 54% say they would like to continue working remotely. Hybrid work environments are the future of work.
Although hybrid teams are not a new phenomenon, they have skyrocketed in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic. And it seems that the hybrid workforce will continue to be prominent moving forward.
As we enter the post-pandemic world, there’s a shift from remote work as a necessity to the freedom to continue taking advantage of the benefits of remote teams. Although adapting to the future of work may be challenging for some, hybrid workplaces can have unique benefits.
These benefits are available to those who intentionally build healthy team dynamics and establish hybrid models that benefit both the in-office and remote team members. So let’s dive into the best ways to do that!
What is a hybrid team?
Simply put, hybrid teams work together from myriad locations while still having a central workspace they can gather in for face-to-face meetings. Team leaders may choose to ask the entire team to be at the office for in-person check-ins once a week or they may leave that entirely to the discretion of their team members.
It is important with hybrid teams to work on building trust and team culture. While this looks different than it did in the past, many of the same principles still apply. In just a moment, we’ll upack five tips for how to build trust over distance. But first, let’s talk about the unique benefits of hybrid teams.
The unique benefits of hybrid teams
Change can be hard. Rather than focus on what “used to be,” let’s take a quick look at the benefits that remote teams offer to everyone involved.
Many workers say they want the flexibility to work from home in the post-pandemic world. According to this survey, 40% of employees said they would quit their current job if not allowed to work remotely. Considering how important employee experience is to retention, hybrid teams are here to stay!
Hybrid teams benefit employees by offering flexibility to work from home some days while coming into the office on others. Studies link the hybrid model to increased employee happiness as team members are able to choose what works best for them on the given day.
A Microsoft study found that remote teams have equal or higher productivity than their in-office counterparts. The key contributors to this are employee happiness, no wasted time commuting, and flexible work hours (as team members can work at the time of day that works best for them).
Access to remote employees
If you plan to have a hybrid team, you’re no longer limited by hiring local talent that can commute to the office. As the saying goes, the world is your oyster! Interview and hire remote workers who are the best fit for the role and company.
A smaller office space (and lower monthly rent)
Hybrid work means less people in the office at any given time, which opens a window of opportunity to downsize your office building and save on the overhead costs of rent. Take some time to observe how many people you regularly have in the office. Test out different configurations within your office space to find a setup that saves square footage and still allows your team to work comfortably.
Now that we’ve covered why hybrid work rocks, let’s get into the how. More specifically, let’s discuss how you, as a manager, can effectively manage your hybrid team. We get it — when your direct reports are split between the office and home, it can feel like you’re managing two very different groups! We’re here to help with a roundup of five best practices for leading hybrid teams.
5 tips for leading a hybrid team
Leaders of hybrid teams may need to learn and adapt. Change can be hard, but letting your team know that you care about them and want to create an environment in which they can thrive is so important. Here are a few tips for team leaders of hybrid teams.
1. Set your team up for success
Leaders of remote teams should make sure that their team members have the tools they need both in the office and at home that will allow them to flourish. For many remote teams this will mean ensuring that all team members have high-speed wifi, a dependable computer, and a camera they can use for Zoom calls.
Some teams will need specific tools they can use for collaborative work. Team leaders should think through what features would best help them lead their team effectively. You might need a messaging platform like Slack or a project management tool like Trello. Read up on the unique features each platform offers users before deciding which ones will benefit your team the most.
On a social level, make sure that your remote team members are not being left out of team building opportunities. Remote workers want more than sweatpants and Zoom meetings! Plan fun team-building opportunities like remote happy hours or learning opportunities like webinars with industry thought leaders.
Ensuring good working arrangements for everyone should be a top priority of any remote team leader. Be sure to ask your team members what they need in order to feel equipped and supported. Within reason, try to accommodate their requests.
2. Build a team culture that allows people to flourish
It is so important to build trust and make sure your entire team knows that you see their unique contributions and appreciate their teamwork. It can be easy to fall into proximity bias, a phenomenon where workers who are close (in proximity) to their boss are seen as contributing more to the team. This will be demoralizing to your remote workers.
For an effective hybrid team, make sure the entire team knows that you see and value their contributions. Try sending a quick Slack message highlighting the unique contributions each team member makes.
For example: “@team, that client meeting went so well! @JaredF, thank you for all the time you put in researching their competition, and @JasperH, you did an amazing job putting the powerpoint together — it looked so good!”
Be sure to regularly name the contributions each team member makes (both in front of others as well as in one-on-one check-ins). This will help people feel seen and valued. Feeling valued is one of the top contributors to employee retention.
Make sure your remote team members don’t feel left out of what is happening in the office. If there’s a spontaneous conversation while you’re refilling your coffee mug, send a message to the whole team letting them know about any ideas you’ve had.
Utilize messaging platforms life Slack and Microsoft Teams to get to know each individual as well! Learn a little about their family or how they spend the weekend, just like you would if you bumped into them in the office on a Monday morning.
3. Be upfront about your expectations for communication
Leaders of remote employees and hybrid teams need to be intentional communicators. When onboarding team members, let them know clearly what you want communication and check-ins to look like. For example, you may tell a new team member, “We have weekly face-to-face team meetings that take place every Monday. For the first few weeks, I’d really like you to join in-person so you can get to know a few other team members. After that, you can feel free to join via Zoom if you’d prefer.”
Clarity is key. Set expectations so your employees know what you want from them. “Preventative communication” is much better than “corrective communication.” If you let your team members know what is expected of them upfront, they will feel much more valued than if they feel like you’re upset with them for something they never knew.
Take some time when onboarding new team members to let them know how often you want to get project updates and how they can best get in touch with you. When beginning a new project, make sure everyone knows who the point-person for the project is.
4. Make your meetings better than they’ve ever been
In 2011, Google hired a team of analyzers to find out the key difference between high- and low-performing teams. The number-one thing that differentiated these two groups was that in high-performing groups, everyone contributed roughly the same amount to collaborative projects and brainstorming meetings. Creating a healthy meeting environment can make or break your team’s success! And if you are proactive about it, a hybrid model can have a really positive impact on that.
Make sure your whole team knows that they are valued and heard — regardless of whether they’re there physically or via Zoom. Hybrid meetings can be hard to manage, but setting clear expectations will help.
Encourage employee engagement by asking everyone to share their ideas during a brainstorming session or asking if anyone has feedback on the most recent projects. Have regular one-on-one check-ins with your remote team members to ask them how you can improve their hybrid meeting experience. See if they feel left out of what is going on and then work to change that!
It is also important to fill everyone in on the little things they might miss if they’re a remote team member. Try to find a place for the camera where they can see the entire room. If that isn’t possible, be sure to share the little things like “Don’t worry — that was a joke, Todd’s smiling!” or “Anne is passing around the handout now, I sent it to you as an email attachment. Did you receive it?”
If a team member is unable to attend a virtual meeting, record the video call (both Zoom and Microsoft video calls have the ability to do this). Then send the recording to the entire team so everyone is able to stay informed with what is going on.
5. Encourage your team members to have healthy work-life balance
The best way to encourage healthy work-life boundaries is to model them yourself. Yes, your team will respect and follow you if they see you are the hardest working person in the room, but it’s not going to do anyone any good to have a room full of burnt-out people.
With so many people working from home, it can be easier than ever to have work-life steep into personal-life. Encourage your team members to “clock-in” and “clock-out.” Model this by logging out of your Microsoft, Slack, and Zoom accounts at a set time. During check-ins, ask about people's families or if they have any special weekend plans. This interest in their personal life will encourage them that it is appropriate for them to have a life outside of work.
Flexible work does not mean that work should take over life!
Hybrid teams in the post-pandemic landscape
As we adjust to a post-pandemic world, we are seeing that flexibility is a high priority amongst workers. So much so that many workers are willing to quit and find another job if not offered the flexibility of a hybrid environment.
Leading remote teams might be hard as you adapt to the new norms of the workforce. As with any new skill, there is a learning curve. Be honest with your team that you are learning, but that you genuinely want to create a healthy work environment where every individual can flourish. Let them know that you welcome their feedback on how to improve the hybrid model.
If you are having a hard time adapting to the hybrid team model, bring in a consulting firm or schedule a webinar with someone who has more experience. Having a team of happy employees is worth the work.