What is a hybrid team and how to lead one?
12 minute read | Nick Deligiannis | Article | Leadership Flexible & hybrid working Workforce Management
Hybrid working is here to stay but do you know how to lead hybrid teams effectively? Find out how employers and managers can take the unique challenges brought by hybrid teams into account.
Hybrid teams: Key insights
- Organisations have adopted a range of hybrid working models since the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. These arrangements vary from place to place but fundamentally all hybrid team leaders face similar challenges.
- A popular hybrid model is where employees split their time working from home and the workplace. You could also have a hybrid team with a mixture of working models. Some could be fully remote, some fully office-based and some might switch between the two.
- To ensure efficient leadership of a hybrid team, it’s important to consider the unique benefits to every style of working. Treat every team member fairly by setting aside an equal amount of your time for every employee regardless of their location. Try to steer away from offering office-based benefits that your remote workers can’t enjoy. It’s also important to measure success in a way that is fair to everyone and not tied to the number of hours spent behind a desk in the office
- Clear communication is key to a successful hybrid working model. Keep everyone up to date with important decisions and involve your remote workers virtually in meetings that take place in the office. To build team morale, try to create opportunities to get the whole team together face-to-face if possible.
Find out more about our top tips on how to effectively manage a hybrid team.
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Hybrid teams: Background
The Coronavirus pandemic normalised home working and the trend of remote and hybrid teams continues in a post-Covid world. Many organisations adopted more flexible working policies as a result of the pandemic, allowing at least an element of home working after the lifting of national lockdowns. They found that even in times of crisis, their teams remained engaged and productive, having adapted quickly to their new working lives.
It’s key to note that the hybrid work model is still a relatively new shift to working patterns in a variety of industries. So, how should managers lead their employees in this new era of hybrid work?
The experience of hybrid working hasn’t been the same for everyone
Many employees found a flow in their remote working lives and established routines that suit them well. Consequently, they have been able to both heighten their productivity and achieve a healthier work-life balance.
It’s important to remember, however, that there are also some workers who struggled with the transition. These employees welcomed the partial move back into offices for the social interaction and clearer dividing line between their home and work lives.
Everyone is different when it comes to their attitudes to working from home. Employers need to take the time to understand each of their employees’ preferences in the new era of work.
The rise in hybrid teams
Organizations have adopted a range of working arrangements since the end of the lockdown restrictions.
Some organisations have left the decision as to whether and when to come back to the workplace to each individual employee. Such employers manage this process on a case-by-case basis, acknowledging that some people are keener than others to come to the office.
Variations in employee circumstances, preferences and requirements within the same workforce have led to a rise of hybrid models of working. Hybrid working arrangements vary from business to business. Some organisations allow set days for remote work while others are more flexible. Many workplaces are also now happy to look for talent beyond the locations where their physical offices are, creating hybrid teams where some staff work from home fully.
So, each day at a hybrid workplace looks very different. A part of your team might come into the office on some days, and others stay at home. This is an entirely new challenge for most established leaders, so it’s important to think about how you can lead your hybrid team efficiently in the long term.
11 tips for leading hybrid teams
Effective leadership of a hybrid team, in essence, comes down to practising fairness and inclusiveness with every member of your staff, irrespective of where they are working. You can achieve this in the following ways:
1. Set out expectations and accountability
Set expectations and make accountability clear to all staff, so that both home and office-based employees can work together productively and know who is doing what. As part of this, you could run daily or weekly meetings with your entire team to start each day or week on the right foot. Share progress regularly on key projects with the entire team to maintain momentum.
2. Define clear working hours
Setting working hours will help you and your team know who is working when and where. Sharing your work calendars helps to further boost visibility of this crucial information. It enables your team members to know what each other is doing at any one time, including colleagues who they do not physically sit next to in the same space.
3. Discourage a ‘them and us’ culture
When you are managing a hybrid team, it can be very easy for unhelpful or negative attitudes about the ‘other’ group to slip in. You don’t want your office-based staff, for instance, to think that the fully remote team members have an easier working experience or don’t work as hard.
So, encourage office-based and remote workers to proactively build on their working relationships and facilitate this as much as possible. There should be a culture of support and respect in your hybrid team.
4. Understand the benefits of each working situation and ensure fairness
Your employees who work from home may find it easier to maintain a healthy work-life balance than those who are in the office space for most of the time. You could try to encourage or facilitate the same level of balance for your office-based team members. Offer them the flexibility to pick their kids up from school or to go for a run during working hours. It’s also important to role-model healthy working behaviour yourself, regardless of where you are based.
5. Commit equal time and focus to each member of your team
The amount of attention and help that you give to each employee shouldn’t depend on where they’re working or what their role is. Just because some members of your team work remotely, they should not receive less of your time and support.
6. Be mindful of communication
Remote workers miss out on face-to-face interaction. So, you’ll need to think carefully about how you can make them feel equally included in meetings where a majority might be physically in the office. Seeing and hearing you regularly over video calls will help your remote staff to feel included and part of the team.
7. Think about how you will measure performance in a fair way
Your focus will need to shift from hours spent at desks to output based on set objectives. No matter the locations of your team members, you should concentrate on the quality of the work that they produce, rather than how much time they spend at their desks. You also need to ensure that career progression paths are fair and equal for both office-based and remote staff.
8. Hire wisely
If you’re recruiting for a role that you anticipate will mainly involve remote working, you must ensure you’re hiring for the correct skill sets. The traits you should be looking for in a remote worker include the ability to ‘self-start’, punctuality, responsiveness and – ideally – prior experience of remote work. Above all, regardless of where your people are based, it’s clear that adaptability is a key in-demand soft skill in the new era of work.
Find out more about the traits you should look for in remote workers.
9. Create occasions to physically bring your team together
Arrange occasional opportunities for your hybrid team members to meet and get to know each other face-to-face where possible. These events will help build team unity, harmony and morale.
10. Keep your remote employees informed about company and team decisions
Staff members who aren’t in the office may not be privy to decisions that your on-site employees make or decisions made at the executive level. Set up a regular, dedicated time with them to share such details, ensuring as much transparency as possible. These catch-ups will give them a clearer overview of the strategic direction of the organisation and wider team while minimising any sense that they feel out of the loop.
11. Ensure rewards and benefits are fair for all
Offering office-based rewards or benefits that remote workers are unable to participate in, such as in-office yoga classes, can be demotivating. If you do offer rewards that are inaccessible to remote workers, you need to at least give them alternatives that feel broadly equivalent to those that office employees enjoy. For instance, if you are paying for lunch for your team, send your remote workers a food delivery. If you are providing an in-office mindfulness class, live stream the session for your remote workers.
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About this author
Nick Deligiannis began working at Hays in 1993 and since then has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business, including the role of Director responsible for the operation of Hays in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In 2004 Nick was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors and was made Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand in 2012.
Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.