We are slowly starting to come out the lockdown with businesses slowly reopening and people starting to work again. However, the situation is far from normal. Many teams are still working remotely with some of them never planning to go back to the office and wanting to stay as a remote team.
In fact, recent studies show that the mindset of employees has shifted and there is desire for a mix between on-site and remote working. Some people want to go back to the office, but some would only like to spend 1-2 days there and work remotely for the rest of the week.
These types of changes raise many novel challenges around best ways of running and managing teams which work both in the office and remotely. It could become a tough job collaborating and working on projects together when 1 half of the team is away and the other half of the team is easily reachable on site.
However, these types of hybrid teams also have their benefits. 82% of people in these types of teams experienced lower stress levels and 30% of people claimed to be more productive and accomplish more in less time.
So what’s the best way of managing hybrid teams? Before jumping into it, let’s first look at the most common challenges these teams experience. Research shows that these types of teams struggle with communication, social disconnect, delayed communication because of different time zones and something known as a “one-way inconvenience”.
“Have you heard the announcement in the office today?”
“No, I am working remotely…”
When a part of your team is in the office and another part is working remotely it is very easy to let a crucial bit of information slip away. It’s important to remember that this isn’t anybody’s fault and that you are all working together as a team.
Establishing good communication habits is key here. Whenever you hear something that could be important make a quick note of it and tell it to your remote working colleagues. They will definitely appreciate it and feel in the loop.
You can also ask people who are working remotely if they feel they are out of the loop on certain things. You might be surprised at how much they will ask you!
The best way of maintaining good communication in a hybrid team is by having a good digital communication tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams. It is also beneficial to have 15-minute catch up calls in the morning or at the end of the day (or both) together as a team. By using a meeting scheduler like Calbot you will be able to quickly see when everyone from your team is available for a standup.
We are social creatures and it is no surprise that people in the team would want to socialise together once in awhile. Including remote workers into these socials could be an extra step, but it is 100% worth it for team building.
When organising socials, make sure to invite remote workers, who may otherwise feel left out. Set a date in advance, so that remote workers have time to plan their travels and come to the social. If someone can’t come, consider doing a social over a video call. Get everyone in the team a takeaway and play some online games or do quizzes together.
This type of socialising builds rapport between team members which makes the team work better together. Teams whose members are close to each other work better under pressure and through challenging times. Having a team with great rapport also means the culture is less divisive and members will be more empathetic to each other when something goes wrong.
Ensuring that these types of qualities are projected on all team members, including remote workers is a challenge, but it can be done through these types of socials and team building activities.
But what about those employees who work remotely full-time? You can look into companies like Zapier which are fully remote. As before, they host regular socials and get-togethers over video calls, but they also have full company retreats where once a year the whole firm comes together in one place to socialise and connect with each other.
When you are next to your coworkers it is very easy to turn around and ask them a question. It is also easy to message somebody on the chat to ask them a question you need answers to. But what if that person is in a different timezone and isn’t immediately available?
Work coordination is normally one of the first things that suffers when you start working with someone from a different timezone. Where previously you would have been able to easily message people or just turn around and ask, now you will find out that people are asleep or away from work.
Not only can this slow your work down, it can significantly decrease productivity of the whole team. However, this can also be an advantage for your team. Some people don’t necessarily like working 9-5 on the dot and would prefer to have their own schedule. And so, pairing them up with someone in a different timezone can speed up the work and also enable the other person to work at the times that are convenient for them.
Team members can also use productivity tools like Calbot’s meeting scheduler to figure out the best times for catch ups across timezones in seconds.
Moreover, your employees can also work on two projects simultaneously to minimise the time they waste when waiting for someone in a different timezone to get back online to answer their question. Not only will this make your team more productive, but it will also give employees a variety of work to do which will increase their job satisfaction.
One of the overlooked areas of running a hybrid team is the focus on the “home” country’s timezone. This means working around the times when it is convenient for the employees in the “home” country. This normally leaves remote team members rearranging their lives around those people in the office.
It could be immensely powerful for a team leader to give some flexibility to the people who are working remotely. This could mean taking an early or a late call to cater to the times of those remote workers. Not only will this integrate those team members into the team better, but will also help with retention of remote talent. Try building a habit of thinking about the perspectives of remote workers.
“Will this time work for them or will I interrupt their family evening?”
Bringing it all together
When building, running and managing your hybrid team – don’t forget about your remote employees and think of them as equals. Try to get into the habit of sharing important information through digital channels, so that they stay in the loop and try to compensate for the things they will normally miss out on, such as team socials.
Managing a hybrid team requires a lot more awareness, but it could be done with a change in perspective!