With an increasing expectation for companies to make room for remote work, managing hybrid teams has rapidly come to the forefront.
But it’s no walk in the park.
In fact, fully remote or fully in-house are both easier formats than a blend of the two. With hybrid teams, managers need to wear two hats and be constantly aware of the needs of each group. No more spontaneous team meetings where you gather everyone in the meeting room — a hybrid manager needs to implement strategies that include everybody at all times.
Sure, it’s not the easiest balancing act, but it’s far from impossible. With the right tools and techniques (and a few mistakes put down to experience), you can reap the benefits of a hybrid team — namely a happy workforce who are willing to go the extra mile.
So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into our six tips for managing hybrid teams efficiently.
Your employees who work from home can’t just be cut off from the rest and left to their own devices. Managing hybrid teams first of all entails creating the framework for all your team to work in — whether they’re in-office or at home.
A lot of managers call for a morning standup meeting to kick off the day. It takes no more than 10 minutes and is a great way of making your remote teams feel a part of the bigger picture.
However, you might also want to trust your staff by allowing them to freely choose the hours they work. It’s a sure-fire way to keep morale high, but doesn’t work with teams that have to work simultaneously, such as call center departments.
Whatever the rules you put in place, a firm structure makes expectations clear and puts your team on a path to productivity. It means decisions made within the rules can’t be seen as unfair. Instead, they allow your employees to focus on the job at hand, rather than second-guessing every step.
And speaking of fairness, remember your rules can’t be unilateral. One of the keys for how to manage a hybrid team is to set the standards in close communication with those who will have to abide by them.
This doesn’t mean acquiescing to every request — you still need to do what is best for the team. Instead, take on board people’s ideal plans and do your best to accommodate them. Taking kids to school in the morning and working until slightly later is a popular one for both in-office and remote workers. However, others value the structure of a nine-to-five with firm cut-off points.
Managing hybrid teams that are working on different systems and platforms is just screaming out for information to be lost and tensions to rise. At its worst, you can also open yourself up to security breaches. Therefore, get yourself set up with a cloud-based system that everybody can use from wherever they are.
When thinking about how to manage a hybrid team, the top tools you’ll need are:
Video conferencing tools
A cloud-based drive
While the real work is done on the software side, you can also offer additional extras.
It’s much cheaper to retain an employee than to recruit a new hire. Therefore, make sure you’re beating your competitors on what you offer. If one of your work from home team needs an office chair, it’s much easier to fork out $200 and keep their morale up than to lose a valued team member and have to find and train a new one. So while you don’t want to pay for a home refurbishment for your staff, a list of optional extras is a safe bet.
Best online tools to manage your remote and hybrid teams efficiently. Free collaboration suite, advanced project and resource management.
We’re sure you’ve read a million pieces of nebulous advice about team spirit and company culture, but very few actually go into the details of what they actually mean.
With that in mind, here are a few areas to tackle that will help to gel your team together:
Even the most optimistic employee will start to underperform if they feel their work has no purpose. Therefore, as you begin a project, focus on the why. Will it improve accessibility for the elderly? Will it improve your customer journey? Or will it simply bring in a ton more revenue? Then, as you assign each task, point out its importance and how it will contribute to the overall picture.
A great way of integrating team spirit in your hybrid team management is to use your intranet for more than just work-related discussion. Sure, it's great for productivity too, but with the best team tools, you can create mini groups for your social side. Base them on common interests or themes, such as a hiker’s group or in-jokes for your programmers.
Clearly, you can’t let your office turn into a social club, but these small outlets are the perfect way to unite your in-office and at-home teams.
While Zoom drinks on a Friday might be a tough idea to sell to the in-office gang, there’s no reason you can’t set aside a bit of time during the week for a catch-up. Coffee breaks on a Monday are fast becoming part of the leading hybrid teams’ weekly schedule. Use it for an informal video call to catch up on what's been going on or any fun stories from the weekend.
If you’ve tried coffee mornings and they’re a tad stilted, why not launch Friday quiz afternoons with an on-going leaderboard? It's a great way to let your hair down and you can foster that team spirit by pairing people up to compete against each other.
When managing hybrid teams, it’s incredibly easy to focus more on those sitting in front of you than those working from home. However, failure to share tasks and opportunities across your whole team can lead to envy among those missing out — and burnout among those taking all the responsibility. Therefore, taking a more global approach to how you spread out work is crucial for hybrid team management.
But you don’t have to spend every waking hour guaranteeing your fairness. With the right tools, you can evenly distribute tasks and much more without tearing your hair out.
For example, you can automate task assignments and avoid giving all responsibility to the team member sitting next to you in the office. This way, you don’t end up with the situation of a “teacher’s pet” taking all the glory while the rest are crying out for a chance.
Furthermore, you can run analytics on your team’s performance in a strategic way. Rather than working on a hunch of who your top workers are, you can set customized metrics that give you a faithful representation of how well your team is doing on an individual level.
Start off with clock-in and clock-outs. This doesn’t mean you need to impose strict starting and finishing times. As long as everybody puts in their agreed hours over the day, that’s all good. An advanced task management tool will let you see if there are any dead hours during the day by keeping time records for every completed task, update, or comment. Then you can delve into more specific metrics with efficiency reports where you can produce reports on workload, tasks completed, deadlines missed, and work evaluations.
Clear, fluid communication is important to any team, but when it comes to managing hybrid teams, it’s totally essential. Just some of the benefits of a great communication strategy include:
Including all members of your team
Creating a good company culture
Staying in sync across your department
Monitoring team and individual progress
While all those benefits come in handy, we’ll focus on a couple of lesser-known ways you can benefit from smart communication.
When it comes to company-wide meetings, especially announcements, there may be little that individual members can contribute. So why not record the meetings and allow your team to catch up when they are available. This helps for those who have a busy schedule and need to focus on their work, as well as for those on flexible timetables that work around their family life.
With your in-office team, it’s usually obvious if somebody is having a bad day. But all that goes out the window with your remote teams. They could be buckling under pressure and feel unwilling or unable to raise their concerns. As a manager, it’s your duty to look out for the welfare of your staff, and nowhere is that more important than when managing hybrid teams. Schedule in informal one-to-one calls on your video conferencing tools (cameras on!) and provide that safe space to discuss workloads, external pressures, and inclusion with the group.
Remember not to neglect those in the office either. Their one-to-one chats can take place in a closed-off meeting room and address the same issues.
While we’ve taken a look at the best practices to manage hybrid teams in 2022, times and technology change at a breathtaking pace. We’re not saying you need to have a major overhaul of your strategy every year. If leading hybrid teams is one thing, it’s an on-going process to provide the best framework for you and your team to work within. It’s not just about advances in technology either. As your team evolves, their demands may change, so you need to be flexible in what you offer.
Against that backdrop, we’d recommend adopting a kaizen mindset — small, frequent changes rather than massive changes every quarter. The benefit to this way of moving forward is that you don’t unsettle your team once they’re used to a process.
The kaizen method makes managing hybrid teams easy as suggestions can come from anywhere. You might find you get feedback from your team if things aren’t going right, but you can also look at your analytics dashboard to see what the numbers say.
Let’s take an example of a remote worker who feels they can’t fully participate in meetings over your video conferencing tools. In your next meeting, try a “hands in the air if you want to speak” tactic. As the mediator, you can also take control by throwing questions to your remote teams at logical steps. Similarly, you could ask online participants to write their suggestions in the chat and raise them yourself in the room.
Test each of these small adjustments and check their efficacy before making them part of your hybrid team management strategy.
Now you’ve got your head around our best practices to manage hybrid teams in 2022, you’re one step closer to getting that dynamic right.
Some of these tips will take a while to implement — agreeing on schedules with your whole team isn’t exactly a five-minute job — but there is something you can do right now that will get a lot of the legwork done in an instant.
When you register with Bitrix24, you get all the tools you need to manage hybrid teams, from a cloud-based drive and project management tools to complex performance analytics and all the communication channels you could ask for.
Oh yeah, and it’s free to get started.
So what are you waiting for? Register for Bitrix24 today!