As many teams across the globe transition from remote to hybrid work environments, a new set of management challenges have emerged.
We have met with countless clients and liaised with expert hybrid teams management specialists to get a pulse on the general attitudes, obstacles, expectations, concerns, and benefits of this new work culture.
While there will always be a degree of uncertainty in large organizational changes, we’re here to let you know that you’re not alone. There are ways to manage hybrid teams as effectively, if not more effectively than you have in the office or remotely.
When working in hybrid teams, important information often gets lost in the shuffle. An effective leader will set aside time to provide context to the team on why what they are doing is important to reach team or organization goals. This may slow down other tasks that day, but that is okay because these ‘context updates’ are essential to build trust and a sense of purpose among team members.
Proximity bias is the implicit preference for those that are physically closer to you rather than those that are physically further away. This is a subconscious bias that hybrid managers should not be blamed for, but aware of. Although it may be easy to ask your colleague at the next desk to complete a quick task for you, be mindful of the disparity of time, attention, or communication between yourself and each direct report.
Check out this BBC article about how proximity bias may lead to favoritism if not carefully monitored.
Releasing control of longstanding processes is difficult, but at times necessary to progress. This became obvious to one of our clients whose onboarding process was eating up managers’ time. They needed a way for onboarding topics to be easily streamlined to one convenient online location for remote and in-office team members alike. After training with us, they planned to create a central web-based onboarding “hub” for all company policies and standards. They even customized the online experience to appeal to both hands-on, visual, and auditory learners!
Set expectations on topics such as cameras on/off during meetings, how/when to call meetings, who will send out the meeting agenda, how to share confidential information, how to know when a team member is on a break or have signed off for the day, etc. Don’t leave your team guessing on these day-to-day operating protocols. If everyone is aware of and fulfilling the expectations, ambiguity and diffusion of responsibility will decrease.
Virtual meeting fatigue is one of the top challenges we’ve heard when working with our clients. Managers and team members are often inundated with meeting invites, leaving them burned out and without time to complete their individual tasks. If you are going to accept a meeting invitation, be intentional in doing so. Why is it important that you are in that meeting? If you can’t answer this question, the meeting likely isn’t an effective use of time. Normalize saying “no” to some meetings and empower your team members to do the same.
Our instinct may be to fill our 8+ hour work day with as many tasks as we can possibly complete, however this has proven time and time again to be an ineffective approach to reaching greater objectives. An extra cup of coffee may help you get to the finish line of the day, but it is not the most effective way to achieve your big-picture goals. There is no substitute for rest for the human body or mind. Be mindful of when your productivity begins to wane during the day. That’s usually a good signal to take a break. Make an effort to tell your team members when you are taking a break to demonstrate that it is okay for them to do the same.
Bonus tip: When you are taking breaks, set your Microsoft Teams or online status to ‘Be Right Back’ to notify your colleagues that you are stepping away for a few minutes.
A Team Operating Agreement (TOA) is an effective way to discuss, establish, and document how a team will function. TOAs help team members: work together with an aligned purpose, be aware of group expectations, work through issues and challenges, and remove assumptions around how projects will operate.
Create a detailed agenda before each meeting and be intentional with who receives the invitation. Agree on meeting etiquette such as mute on/off– these meeting protocols can be executed in your Team Operating Agreement. Punctuate meetings by summarizing progress made at the end of each agenda point. Most importantly, if you are being joined by team members both physically in the room and virtually, create opportunities for the virtual folks to contribute throughout the meeting (not just in the very beginning or end). We have found calling team members out by name to be effective in engaging everyone’s expertise.
Gone are the days of being limited to top-tier talent in only the local or tri-state area. Utilize flexible, remote work opportunities to attract the best talent all over the country and world. This may mean getting more comfortable with asynchronous communication as the primary mode of liaising with team members. Asynchronous communication across multiple time zones enables greater control of workflow around the clock all the while respecting each team member’s daily sign-off time.
If you found these tips helpful, reach out to us at Global Business Culture to set up a time to discuss how we can bring our expertise in managing and working in hybrid teams to elevate your organization to higher levels of operation.
Curious about the ROI of Hybrid Teams Training? See below.
Emma is a Cross-Cultural Consultant with Cultural Business Consulting. She is American by citizenship, and has significant experience studying and working in Belgium, Australia, and Japan. Emma is currently based in Honolulu, Hawaii.