Even though remote work isn’t a new concept, the forced transition to it has been difficult for some companies. And while some companies are eager to return to in-person collaboration, others are finding they prefer having remote flexibility. But what if you could have the best of both worlds?
More than half of employees prefer to work remotely at least three days per week, according to a recent study by McKinsey. More and more workers are choosing to work from home and businesses are seeing the benefits of a hybrid team model. However, the challenge for many businesses is how to transition their teams into this new environment on a more permanent basis. Hybrid teams can be an excellent way to optimize the time and space needs of your employees, but it’s not always easy to get everyone on the same page. Here are a few tips for how to get your team set up for success in its hybrid environment.
Evaluate Your Business Needs
The past couple of years have been a wild ride for many of us around the globe. The rise in remote work has sent companies scrambling to adapt, and it’s tempting to just push forward with whatever seems to be working on the surface. But if you’re not careful, you could end up making changes that are detrimental to your business and/or your employees.
That’s why it’s important to have a clear idea of what kind of changes you need to make, and why you need them. A hybrid model can be great for some businesses, but you want to make sure it is the right fit for yours. The key is determining what matters most for your company—and then deciding whether switching models will help or hurt.
Before you decide whether your business would benefit from making that transition, it’s important to consider a few factors:
- Are there any pain points with the current setup that could be improved by switching to a hybrid model?
- Assess your existing technology infrastructure and capabilities. Do you have enough bandwidth for a hybrid working model?
- Do you need face-to-face meetings with teammates?
- Do many of your employees have long commutes?
- Are there health concerns with having people in the office?
- How will this change affect company culture? Can it improve company culture or weaken it by reducing collaboration and team cohesion?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, start there—and don’t move on until you do. Switching to a hybrid model is one that is going to require a lot of effort to put into place. If it doesn’t serve a compelling reason, then pause going through with it.
Maintain Open Channels of Communication
Say you’ve decided that a hybrid working model is the best fit for your team. Now it’s time to make sure everyone stays in the loop and on the same page with this new structure. You’ll need to establish open, reliable, and consistent channels of communication to keep your team engaged, connected, and productive. Regular communication between team members is essential for creating a cohesive team culture and for completing tasks effectively.
Because there are fewer opportunities for spontaneous communication when people are not physically present, it is important to schedule regular meeting(s) throughout the week. These may include daily check-ins or stand-up meetings, weekly planning sessions, and regular retrospectives where teams can discuss what went well and what could be improved.
When planning these meetings, it’s important to focus on keeping the conversations relevant and not boring. Open with personal connection time, get the context of where the business/team is by quickly reviewing your progress on metrics, priorities, what you said would be accomplished this last week. Then you have the majority of the time to focus on the meaty/strategic issues, opportunities, questions, concerns. This is what draws teams together – communication, wrestling with problems together, solving them together, clarity in the actions going forward.
Remember Company Culture
As companies try to manage the hybrid working model, they may run into challenges with maintaining their organizational culture. For those who have transitioned all or part of their teams to remote, it’s important to ensure that the company culture doesn’t get lost in the transition. Many companies develop and reinforce culture by clarifying and living the values, creating planned and impromptu events that cultivate a sense of camaraderie, help people see how they tie into the bigger purpose of the organization, show the value of their people by providing training to help them develop even further. And more! As adjustments are made to the in person/virtual/hybrid workplace, it’s important to ensure company culture doesn’t get lost in the transition—but instead is embraced and strengthened – intentionally and purposefully.
It’s important that managers understand how to integrate company culture into a hybrid working model so people feel included, valued, and engaged in their job.
Here are some things you can do to effectively integrate your company culture into a hybrid working model:
- Make sure your working culture is clearly defined and communicated between teams, so that everyone knows what is expected of them and what is expected of their co-workers when it comes to working together remotely as well as in person.
- Maintain existing company rituals. Do you have a weekly coffee chat? Daily stand-up meetings? These and similar traditions can be easily modified to include remote members of your team.
- Highlight where the company culture lives in the organization. Is it in the way projects get assigned? How meetings are run? Wherever it lives, recognize that it is present and ensure it’s maintained during the transition to a hybrid work model.
- Set time aside for fun team-building activities so you can continue to focus on building trust and rapport between team members. Not all team-building activities need to be in person!
- Don’t assume that team members understand what’s expected of them. Make sure all expectations for the new way of working are clear, and that everyone knows who to go to if they have questions or concerns.
Resist the Urge to Constantly Check in with Them
There are a lot of reasons why a company might decide to use a hybrid working model, but there’s one important element that underlies the success of any hybrid team: trust.
Trust is key because it allows your employees to work independently and with autonomy. This means you’re giving them the freedom to set their own schedule, choose the location they work from, and ultimately take ownership of their own productivity and results. To make a hybrid model work, you need to view your team members as capable, strong-willed professionals. You hire smart people. This means you should resist the urge to micromanage them, even though they are no longer in the office.
The best way to build trust is to simply let them do their jobs and not constantly ask for proof of their work or check in with them every 5 minutes. If you’ve hired responsible people, they will get their work done and respond if there is a problem. Otherwise, if you’re constantly trying to get proof of their performance or checking in on them all the time, this will lead to a lack of trust that will prevent your hybrid team from being successful. Ensure you have scheduled time and impromptu time for them to talk with you about what they’re working on, how they’re doing, where there are roadblocks you and/or they can work through. It is a collaboration, not a dictatorship.
Hybrid Teams Success
By following the above tips, you can set your team up for success in a hybrid working model. Assessing your business’s suitability for this type of structure is an essential first step. However, garnering trust, communicating openly, and a commitment to maintaining the culture of the business are just as important in giving yourself the best chance at success.
Two great resources for this are Tara Powers’ books, Virtual Teams for Dummies, and Working from Home for Dummies!
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