Management styles are diverse, but the hybrid era is shining a bright light on the efficiency or, should we say, the inefficiency of many of them! To succeed as a hybrid manager, you will need to learn the nuances of how to manage your newly formed hybrid team.
Previously, a strict team manager could get away with being difficult to work with because the rest of the team was always present to provide office-based moral support. Nowadays, managers need to be more holistic in their approach, or they risk being squeezed out by the hybrid model. We've put together this handy 10-point checklist to help you manage your hybrid team so that you can focus on steering your team towards the right objectives.
What Is A Hybrid Team?
In the workplace, a hybrid team is a group of employees who work together in a hybrid format. Some individuals work from home whiles others work in the office, with flexible schedules as to when and where people get their work done.
On some occasions, the whole team will be in the office together and at other times, everyone will be working remotely.
To learn more about the different terms associated with hybrid working, we’ve created a dedicated flexible/hybrid/remote work glossary.
What challenges do you face when leading a hybrid team?
Managing a hybrid team comes with many of the same challenges leaders find in the office, but the difference is they are often harder to deal with due to the diminished face-to-face interaction.
Primary challenges facing hybrid teams include:
Previously, productivity was easier to keep an eye on in the office, as managers were able to gauge concentration levels by a quick walkthrough of the office. However, it must be mentioned that presenteeism isn’t always a good indicator of performance, as we will explore later.
Generally, keeping productivity high comes down to open communication. Managers need to pay extra attention to keep communication levels high within a remote or hybrid tram.
Perhaps more pressing than productivity as a challenge is a huge change in company culture when organisations move to a hybrid work model. Without daily proximity fostering workplace relationships, company cultures have taken a dive since the mainstream introduction of remote work.
Leaders are having to find innovative ways to create lasting bonds within hybrid teams that nurture an overall positive company culture.
Finally, collaboration can easily take a back seat if managers aren’t careful to prioritise it in their hybrid teams. Luckily, there are solutions to this challenge and there is a plethora of hybrid meeting tools and ideas available to help facilitate successful collaboration within hybrid teams.
What skills do you need to manage a hybrid team?
Managers who want to stand out when it comes to leading a hybrid team will want to focus on certain skills and qualities such as communication, emotional intelligence and adaptability.
The most important skill to focus on when it comes to hybrid work is communication. Learning how to communicate with remote employees from different cultures and backgrounds will be vital as the recruiting pool widens thanks to remote work.
Not just this though, being able to efficiently communicate via different platforms without misunderstandings is important as well, as hybrid managers will not be able to rely on subtle body language cues or tone of voice when it comes to more sensitive topics.
Related to this, is learning how to develop emotional intelligence when working with hybrid teams. Respecting your team members’ feelings and reacting appropriately in a way that makes them feel listened to and valued is an underrated skill that can make all the difference when it comes to how your employees feel about you.
Finally, the third most important skill for hybrid team managers is adaptability. The hybrid work model is an evolving concept and managers should be able to effortlessly customise their management style to better suit their new team’s work structure.
Best practices to manage hybrid teams in 2023
1. Openly Share Your Vision With Your Hybrid Team
As a hybrid manager, you should let your team members know which direction you're moving in, so they can share your vision for the future.
Be honest about the challenges you'll face, and let people know how their contribution moves the team towards your long-term vision. Give people a common goal, then navigate the route to success together as a team.
Invite feedback on your vision to get people feeling involved with the goal. The company culture is likely to have experienced a shift when moving to a hybrid work model and as a result, there might be employees who are feeling disconnected.
Foster a sense of belonging by getting everyone included in the vision planning stages, and reap the awards as the proud hybrid manager of an engaged team.
2. Refine Your Onboarding Process
Employees who are encouraged to take control of their own work experience are naturally inclined to perform well. Hire people who have a collaborative attitude and don't get overwhelmed by the unknown.
Once you've found these people, give them a solid foundation of quality training. New employees should be given a mentor, and they should have all the tools they need to work optimally wherever they are.
Make sure all team members are comfortable with speaking up if there’s an issue, and if you suspect they aren’t, then go out of your way to ask them how they are finding it.
3. Invite Individual Participation
An inclusive team will make your job easier as a manager in the long run, by trying to involve all members of the team. Identify the people in your team who are silent observers and actively connect with them. Listen to their opinions, hear what their experience is like, and then invite them to make an individual contribution to your team or project.
When the silent observers feel included, it creates a ripple effect through the rest of your team and unites people in their shared hybrid work experience. This will then snowball into a feeling of connectedness with the rest of the company too, helping to create a new company culture.
4. Create A New Hybrid Team Culture
One of the biggest problems hybrid managers face is the accidental shift in company culture. Homeworkers start to feel left out, while office workers may begin to feel like the homeworkers do less work.
This subtle change in mentality can cause the team to adopt two conflicting cultures, making the team more difficult to manage. The best way to avoid an accidental cultural shift is to create a new, intentional culture for your hybrid team.
Be clear about your team values. Make sure that any communication point with every team member aligns with the hybrid team's culture.
Have an online-offline buddy system so that people far away can always feel connected to a live human. This ensures that no one person feels excluded and prevents people from drifting away from the shared company culture.
If possible, get people together in the office as often as feasible for team bonding events. The office has morphed into a hub for socialising, so make the most of it and build a team with great relationships!
If physical get-togethers aren’t an option, then try other methods like informal channels on your messaging platform where people can chat throughout the day for a ‘water cooler’ effect.
5. Build Genuine Trust With Your Hybrid Team
Trust is going to be vital for hybrid managers wanting to build long-lasting teams.s Hybrid work presents a myriad of change-driven challenges. People are pushed outside of their comfort zones.
Many people are working from home in a sub-optimal home office, making them feel like it's easier to fail at home than in the office. Some teams may also have previously discouraged homeworking, creating an underlying perception of mistrust with no real ground.
Trust is a two-way process. Your team needs to trust that you'll give them the benefit of the doubt when things don't go to plan. Everybody should have open communication doors, and people should feel psychologically safe within the boundaries of their new work environment.
In return, managers should trust their employees to do their work as best they can within their personal situations. The best managers take an individual interest in their team members, so they can tailor their support system to meet the proper needs of each person in your team.
6. Nurture Inclusive Behaviours
Successful hybrid teams rely on the right combination of people being together at the right times to optimise everybody's performance. Employ active listening. Empathise with people to see how you can reduce any potential workplace anxieties before they become a problem.
DuoMe's hybrid work scheduling software helps coordinate your team roster or schedule around the team's needs, but the team members should also be encouraged to make small points of contact with each other throughout the workweek to keep the team close.
Think about ways you can encourage socialisation. Perhaps you can have a team coffee break on Zoom, or arrange weekly catchups in a nearby coffee shop. The goal is to create regular touchpoints in your everyday team environment so that nobody feels left out or left behind.
7. Encourage Active Learning
What the pandemic showed us is that people love to learn new skills. During lockdown, people from all walks of life taught themselves everything from speaking Spanish to old-school butter-making, which has reawakened the importance of workplace learning.
Hybrid managers need to provide opportunities for self-development and encourage people to find solutions on the job.
Give your team members time to upskill themselves. You may like to include an online learning platform subscription in their employee benefits or send them on an industry-relevant training course.
Some people are also naturally inclined to seek out new ways of doing things, which should be actively encouraged in hybrid teams. It's a good idea to have regular face-to-face interactions for people to share their challenges and new nuggets of knowledge with each other. If somebody in your team finds an easier way to perform a task from home, let them feel heard and use their discovery to benefit the entire team.
8. Set Measurable Goals
Goals and objectives have moved away from presenteeism. Being in the office the most hours isn’t the benchmark of good performance. The transition towards output-driven metrics that measure the quality of work produced is a crucial theme of hybrid working.
Hybrid teams can become stressed when the goals shift, so it's essential to be clear about what you expect quality work to look like from the outset. Set out your expectations in writing, and make sure that all hybrid team members know where to get the answers they'll need to perform well autonomously.
Check-in regularly with your team to find out how progression is going and don’t be afraid to reevaluate if a project isn’t going as planned. As mentioned before, adaptability is an important skill to nurture in hybrid team managers.
9. Lean Into Micro-Gains
Hybrid managers and the people they manage to face unprecedented workplace challenges in today's new normal. Each micro-gain makes an enormous impact on the success of a hybrid team.
Small wins have taken on new shapes, and these should be celebrated. If a team member figures out how a piece of challenging software works or gets the job done in a busy family home, send praise.
These small acts of recognition can mean a lot to individuals, and thoughtful compliments can go a long way with how your team views you as a manager.
10. Be Kind
People are motivated by their ability to make a difference. Performance appraisals in a hybrid team should always lean towards positive encouragement over negative critique so that people feel trusted and valued within the team.
Stick to the facts behind the person's measurable performance, but take time to listen to their challenges so that you can work with the employee to make improvements where needed.
Be understanding of individual differences, just because you might find it easier to adapt to hybrid work doesn’t mean all your team members are equipped with the same skills to transition.
How do you keep hybrid teams engaged?
As today’s workforce is becoming more and more stringent in what they expect from a company and their willingness to walk away increases, many organisations are dealing with engagement and attrition levels. By utilising the best practices we’ve outlined in the article, as a hybrid manager, you will be able to keep engagement levels high in your team.
To keep a hybrid team engaged, focus on the three key pillars of trust, communication and adaptability as a manager. Being open and honest with your team will go far and keeping yourself open to change as well will mean you’ll be responsive to any engagement issues.
Keep your finger on the pulse by involving your team in regular reviews, listening to any feedback on your management style as well and if there’s anything you could do that would help your employees feel more engaged with their work as well.
Managing Hybrid Teams Is About Staying Agile
Today's hybrid managers are stretched in new directions every day. The best hybrid managers actively understand the people they manage. Listen closely to people to gain a genuine insight into their personal situations and daily challenges.
Find ways to implement micro-gains that will improve individual performance. Foster a sense of belonging within the team. Communicate clearly, always with the team's collective culture in mind.
If people feel trusted and valued, they'll become the prized members of your thriving hybrid team.