Managing Hybrid and Remote Teams

Flexible working is not a new thing. Pre-pandemic, some organisations already had this in place and some managers had experience of managing remote teams.

Post-pandemic, hybrid demands are forcing businesses to rethink their entire strategy, leaving some leaders and managers inexperienced in how to lead and manage successful hybrid/remote teams.

3D Isometric Flat Vector Conceptual Illustration of Hybrid Work, Remotely Work from Home

What does hybrid working mean?

It means that the workforce splits time team between office locations and remote locations, such as home.  Firms around the globe are rethinking their future workplace strategy and whether hybrid or remote models benefit the company, the team, the role, and individuals.

The purpose of this blog is to share some tips and advice for managing hybrid/remote teams. 

Tips and Advice for Managing Hybrid/Remote Teams

  1. Team Culture – be clear on the team culture you want to create.  Identify what behaviours are needed, give positive indicators of what good looks like and how to bring it alive with a hybrid or remote working model.  This clear vision can help with decision making in the future, more clarity on whether actions help or hinder in achieving the goal. 
  2. Cascade of objectives– when working remotely for any period it is easy to focus on what we need to do and forget about the wider business needs.  When people understand the value of what they do and how it helps, it can create a strong sense of purpose. It is important that individuals have a clear line of sight between organisational vision and goals, their role and tasks – helping to create a sense of achievement.
  3. Understanding of key result areas (KRAs) – every person needs to be clear on their key result areas – the things that they need to do to meet goals and be successful. Encouraging time management and priority planning to help to minimise the feeling of being overwhelmed.  If everyone knows what they need to do, it can help focus energy and time.  Allowing them to work autonomously can offer greater work satisfaction and improve motivation.
  4. Clear communication – When the team is split, managers need to be more mindful about where, when, and how they communicate with their team.  For staff that happen to be out of the office on a day that others are in, set virtual meetings, encourage cameras to be on to promote the feeling of being included and part of the team.  It also allows others to see the congruence in the managers body language.  Impromptu office meetings can exclude those that are not in, this can also create a ‘them and us’ divide if this happens frequently.  Think about the office design and layout – does it allow for private virtual meetings as well as group meetings where some people are remote, and some are in the office?
  5. Sharing the team schedule –Using technology to share schedules will help the team understand where their team will be and who is doing what.  If schedules are transparent and people are open about where they are, this can help foster trust.  This also allows team members to plan how they will communicate with one another in advance, this can help reduce interruptions and time stealing from others.
  6. Create psychologically safe spaces – Leading the way to establish a culture of transparency where all team members are encouraged to share their experiences, concerns, and ideas in a supportive and safe environment.  If remote and in-office teams can openly chat with an equal amount of talk time, be heard, and feel respected, strong team bonds will develop.  This in turn encourages improved communication, creative problem solving and sharing of knowledge.  Watch this short YouTube video on how Google builds the perfect team
  7. Make wellbeing and mental health a central focus – Managers are not always able to see the subtle changes in their team’s behaviour.  Spending time with everyone to discuss life rather than outputs can help managers explore the headspace of their teams, leading the narrative around the importance of talking about mental health.  When people work in their home environment, they often work longer hours, giving the feeling that they are living at work.  Encourage and enforce boundaries for the teams to avoid presenteeism and being overwhelmed.
  8. Creating inclusive culture – there is a danger of ‘out of sight out of mind’.  Ad-hoc office meetings where decisions are made can exclude those not in the office.  Managers need to be mindful of making quick decisions if the team contribution is needed.  Encourage everyone to rethink how they will communicate with each other, regardless of where they are working – pick a few methods and stick to them.  Set boundaries on when to contact them, being mindful of others time.
  9. Turning ‘I’ into ‘we’ – Encourage individual contributors to consider the teams needs when deciding on their working location.  They may get more done at home, but it can help team unity, harmony, and morale to come in on agreed days to get to know each other face to face, help to build trust and natural bonds.  Sharing and bringing the team culture alive can help others to make decisions based on the wider team’s needs, not just personal preference.
  10. Fair and consistent – When managers and their teams are in the same location it can be easier to see their progression, outputs, and identify their training needs, compared to those working remotely. With clear smart objectives and deadlines – managers can focus on individual outputs and quality rather than how long people are at their desks. Exploring unconscious bias and indirect discrimination when it comes to career progression and opportunities – managers may see someone is going above and beyond, because they have physically seen them doing it.  Remote workers may also be doing the same, but managers may have missed it.  Take the time to have regular 1:1s with everyone to make sure there is fair and equal opportunity for both office and home workers. 
  11. Allow time for human needs – When arranging virtual meetings that are only task focused means we can lose human social interaction.  When people feel part of a team, they gain a greater sense of belonging and purpose, it’s important to allow time for social chit chat before or after some meetings. 
  12. Making use of technology – Use technology to encourage communication and collaboration.  Software that allows teams to book hot desks ahead of time to ensure they are together can be very effective.  It can also give valuable data of how people use the space and show trends on workspace utilisation.  Set up virtual meetings to enable remote teams to be kept informed and feel included with key messages, company information, strategic direction, and general day to day updates.

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