Every team, and every team member, is unique. What they’re working on, how they prefer to communicate, when they meet, who they turn to for help – all of these vary from team to team and from person to person. As a manager, you’re expected to understand how your team works and find the best methods for garnering team results.
Today, there’s one more question managers need to consider when learning how best to lead their team: Where is each team member working from?
In the past, the answer to this question was consistent for the entire team. Businesses either required employees to work exclusively from the office, or they adopted a remote policy and had everyone working from home.
Now it’s not quite so simple. Especially when you consider that the rising popularity of the hybrid workplace means that on any given day you can have teammates working in the office, at home, or halfway around the world.
Managing a hybrid team is new for a lot of managers and that can lead to a lot of stress. But rest assured, managing a hybrid team is entirely doable, so long as you have the right tools.
Adopt a ‘Remote-First’ Approach
Whatever your office’s hybrid policy is, there’s a good chance that at least some portion of your team will continue to work from home as often as they’re allowed. Knowing that, it makes sense to run a remote-first team rather than an in-office team.
What does ‘remote-first’ mean? Remote-first managers set everything up as if remote work were the default option. That means always including a video link for meetings, choosing tools that can be accessed from anywhere and on a wide range of devices, and centralizing communication to a single platform, like Slack.
Even if a number of your employees are working on-site, treating your team as fully remote ensures no one misses out on critical communication or information.
Even if you treat your team as remote-first, it’s inevitable that employees working together in the office will spend more time with each other than with those who telecommute. While there are plenty of companies trying to make remote work more collaborative, it’s easier for in-house employees to chat in the break room or grab lunch together.
As a manager of a hybrid team, it’s paramount for you to not adopt an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” attitude about your remote team members.
To avoid this, include every employee in all team communication, implement daily check-ins or stand ups, and find ways for remote employees to have regular face time with in-house employees.
In cases of teams who go back and forth between office and at-home work, schedule a time during the week for your whole team to be together in the office, whether for lunch, a team huddle, or just as a social gathering.
Create Opportunities for Social Interaction
When it comes to managing, don’t let your focus shift so much towards work results that you forget about the emotional side of work. At the end of the day, managers aren’t just responsible for strengthening the bottom line, but for making sure that employees are happy at work and in life.
Working from home can feel like working from a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, which can lead to feelings of insignificance or frustration. That said, forging the type of personal relationships we are accustomed to having at work is more complicated when your entire team isn’t working from the same place day after day. What’s more, employees who work in the office regularly have ample opportunities for water cooler chats or group lunches, making team members who choose to work from home feel even more isolated.
If possible, schedule regular opportunities for in-person social connection with your entire team. Whether it’s lunch, a hike, or a conference room meeting, find a time that works for everyone to get together on a regular and recurring basis.
If gathering all together isn’t possible, consider one of these ways to encourage relationship building amongst coworkers:
Set aside time at the beginning of team meetings for small talk or personal accomplishments.
Schedule a virtual event, like a trivia night, happy hour, or book club.
Schedule a recurring video conference at the same time each day for employees to jump on and talk while they handle lower-focus items on their to-do lists.
Prioritize Employee Feedback
Regardless of where your employees work, feedback is critical for team success. Studies show that 96% of employees want regular feedback with 43% of highly-engaged employees receiving feedback at least once a week.
Creating efficient feedback loops is harder for hybrid teams, but not impossible. Setting regular one-on-ones can be scheduled either in-person or virtually and are a great way to show that you’re invested in your team’s success both in and outside of work.
Trust Your People
The most important thing managers of hybrid teams can do is to trust their team. Avoid the temptation to check-in multiple times a day with employees who are working remotely for the day.
As long as you’ve set clear expectations for each team member, there should be no need to check-in more than once a day, regardless of where employees are working from.
Make yourself available to employees at any time, but make sure they know that you trust them to get their work done and will only ask for status updates at agreed upon times unless they ask for your help more often.
Remember that for hybrid work to be successful, you need to focus more on what results are produced and less on how they’re being reached.
Stay connected without being together
Hybrid work is here to stay. Managing a hybrid team can be a daunting task, especially for managers who have never known anything other than in-person work. If this is you, remember that you aren’t alone, and that every day more resources become available for you to successfully lead your team.