Hybrid workplaces are the “new” new normal. Just months ago, leaders had to adapt to the “new normal” of remote work. Now, a new paradigm with unique challenges is emerging.
As pandemic risk subsides, business leaders must make strategic decisions about the future of their workforces. Many teams have grown accustomed to the increased freedom and flexibility of remote work, while also longing for the energy of an office.
In response, many leaders are examining hybrid remote/in-person policies. While a hybrid workforce can offer the best of both worlds, managing hybrid teams requires that leaders utilize best practices of remote and in-person management while also developing new strategies.
Let’s dive into 9 essential questions business leaders must ask when preparing to manage a hybrid workforce.
What does hybrid work mean?
Hybrid teams use a combination of in-person and virtual collaboration to produce goods or services. A hybrid work schedule allows employees the flexibility to choose when and if they commute to a shared office space.
With hybrid work, a team can define which days or which meetings will be spent together in an office as needed. Some teams may decide to set aside one day for in-person meetings while allowing freedom for the other four. Others may opt to allow some employees to continue working fully remotely, while others return to in-person. The decision will rest on your industry, job functions, and past experience with remote work.
For geographically dispersed teams, a hybrid work set up may consist of some team members remaining virtual full-time. These employees may in the future meet in person for major events like quarterly planning sessions. A hybrid team will need to balance the needs of these remote workers with those of the in-office team.
What are the benefits to my team of hybrid work?
Hybrid work promises to combine the best of remote work with the energy and camaraderie of the in-person office. As virtual teams have learned, working over Slack and Zoom all day can be exhausting and isolating. Hybrid work provides the flexibility of remote work with the team-building benefits of face-to-face communication.
The option to work at least partially remotely while hybrid has many advantages. The post-pandemic workforce will be accustomed to the non-existent commutes and increased freedom that remote work provided. Top talent will expect the option to work remotely as it fits their ideal work-life balance. According to Crain’s Future of Work survey, 78% of HR professionals say flexible schedules and remote work are the most effective non-monetary ways to retain employees.
Hybrid work also gives employers access to global talent pools if they maintain a permanently remote contingent. Transitioning to permanent, partially remote work creates opportunities to expand to new markets with sales and customer support staffing in new areas of the globe.
What are the disadvantages of hybrid teams?
Managing a hybrid workforce requires awareness of the pitfalls of remote work as well as the unique pitfalls of combining virtual and in-office teams. Having a split team threatens to actually split your team. With different needs and resource availability, hybrid teams pose unique challenges for managers.
The water cooler socialization, team lunches, and informal office friendships are critical for team well-being and culture building. By missing out on that, remote workers on hybrid teams may feel isolated and alienated. Remote team members may also face a struggle with balancing work and home life. According to Monster.com, 69% of workers are experiencing burn-out symptoms while working from home.
How do I measure employee engagement on a hybrid in-person/virtual team?
In the office, leaders have many ways of assessing their team morale. Gauging the temperature of a room is something we do naturally. Observing someone slumped over their desk is a clear sign they are unhappy. Assessing subtle clues like body language is not possible with remote workers.
To address this disparity, managers must take extra steps to assess their hybrid team’s level of engagement. Creating a Remote Employee Resource Group creates a place for virtual workers to connect and gather support resources. Additionally, being aware of and actively combating distance bias can further ensure that remote employees are fully integrated and engaged in the team’s activities.
Managers may also look to conduct a regular engagement survey using a metric like the eNPS (Employee Net Promotor Score) question. Beyond driving profits and business objectives, eNPS measures how leaders are doing in their most important job function: providing purpose and rewarding, meaningful work for all their employees. Consistent and measurable engagement feedback helps leaders maintain the well-being of every team member.
How do I monitor my hybrid team’s productivity without micromanaging?
In-person coworking makes it pretty easy to ask someone where they stand with progress on key tasks and goals. You just need to walk over and ask them. Facilitating this connection while in a hybrid work setup is more complicated.
Leaders must ensure workers are measured by the outcomes of their work and not on the superficial perception of effort like time spent at a desk. While the former drives business success, the latter will create unequal outcomes on a hybrid team.
How do I ensure my hybrid team stays connected?
Successful communication on hybrid teams requires everyone understands guidelines for how to communicate and when. The same essential information must be shared with both virtual and in-person team members. Properly using asynchronous and synchronous communication can help managers communicate effectively to all team members.
Adopting a practice like a daily standup provides a forum for all employees to connect and share their work. Regular communication rhythms must prioritize the inclusion of remote workers.
How do I keep remote employees equally engaged in hybrid work?
The biggest risk to hybrid team engagement is unintentionally creating two different cultures. If leaders do not take conscious steps to include virtual team members, they risk creating second-class employees. Sharing accomplishments in a shared space keeps remote workers feeling valued. Using all team meetings or asynchronous channels like Slack to shout out achievements and recognize progress towards goals maintains positive momentum and keeps remote employees feeling part of the team.
Celebrating achieving big goals in ways that can be equally enjoyed remotely or in-person avoids leaving anyone out. If remote workers cannot partake in a group a happy hour or a pizza party, providing a stipend for remote workers to buy their own and participate virtually fosters inclusivity.
Employers may also consider providing a subsidy to employees who choose to work remotely. In addition to passing some cost savings on to employees, this stipend helps the team create productive environments for themselves at home. While equally distributing resources may be impossible, leaders can still strive to provide equal opportunity for all workers to be productive and feel included.
How do I recreate the in-office chemistry for remote employees?
Remote employees do of course miss out on the in-person teambuilding of the office. Luckily all of our remote teambuilding Ideas for Remote Teams translate. Letting a remote employee lead team-building events guarantees events will be remote-friendly. If you have a culture committee or engagement team, make sure to include both in-office and remote employees in decision making and planning.
What tools are available for hybrid work teams?
The tools that enabled remote work like Slack, Teams, and Zoom will remain essential for hybrid teams. If your team is hosting hybrid meetings, you may also want to invest in high-quality AV equipment to improve the digital experience like the Owl Camera. Remote employees should be made to feel as though they are in the room as much as possible. This means keeping audio quality up and side conversations to a minimum.
During remote work, teams turned to Align to track strategic goals, communicate updates, and monitor critical KPIs. As teams adapted to their new environments and navigated stressful scenarios, this centralized outcome tracking kept teams focused on success.
Hybrid teams will also need tools that keep the whole team focused and accountable. By focusing on outcomes, rather than output, leaders ensure equal treatment of employees whether remote or in the office.
Building a team culture of success- whether working in person, fully remote, or a hybrid of the two- requires inclusion and alignment. With the right tools and enough strategy, leaders can find their most productive workforce yet during our newest new normal.
For more strategies for managing remote employees check out our full Leader’s Guide to Managing a Happy and Productive Virtual Team.