The term “hybrid teams” refers to far flung teams, some of whom work in the office and others who work remotely, from home, perhaps in other cities or countries. To lead such teams successfully, managers have had to learn an additional set of management skills that bridge both office-based and virtual work environments. Learning a whole new skill set is a tough task while also navigating the ever-changing work landscape – even for managers who might have sufficient time on their hands. Yet, there are leaders who are stepping to meet the challenge, embracing the skills needed to manage exceptional hybrid teams.

Here are eleven things today’s successful managers know:

  1. Employer expectations: Establish a hybrid workplace policy
    This policy should lay out a formal set of guidelines for hybrid operations. These should include the company’s overarching expectations as well as itemising employees’ responsibilities required to maintain workplace policies as a workforce. On a departmental level, this could include clear guidelines for maintaining daily work and project processes for employees to follow, allowing them to align when determining their hybrid work schedule and coordinating with other members of the team.
  2. Employee expectations: Set clear expectations for all hybrid employees
    In a hybrid work environment, setting employee expectations is even more important than within the traditional workplace, because it is more difficult to monitor remote work performance. Thus, employees have a greater responsibility to self-monitor and meet established expectations without constant direct supervision. As a result, this is not just about accountability, it also includes everything, from being clear about work schedules to ensuring team members have the right tools to complete the tasks they have been assigned. The key here is consistency.
  3. Encourage employees to share their thoughts
    One of the best ways to encourage your employees to share their thoughts is to involve your team in the process of setting expectations. Moving forward, managers should encourage their employees to share their concerns and feedback openly and provide regular, safe opportunities for discussion and collaboration. It is also important to share any known variations or hurdles expected for future periods, so individuals and the team can anticipate what to expect and make necessary adjustments. This will build trust that results in continued participation and sharing.
  4. Create an environment of trust within your remote team
    With people working out of sight you may feel compelled to micro-manage, but this is toxic management behaviour and will only limit innovation and productivity. It will most certainly result in a demotivated workforce. Trust and permitting certain level of autonomy are well understood as providing a huge boost in motivation and productivity to hybrid workers. While your employees do need to earn your trust through turning in excellent work, it is helpful to remember why you hired them in the first place, and to show them your trust and support. Not only will this motivate your teams, but it will also increase loyalty and retention.
  5. Ensure everyone feels included
    Hybrid employees may be concerned that they are missing opportunities for collaboration and important spontaneous discussions when they are not in the office. Managers could unconsciously favour managers the employees they see more often. It is important to focus on a management style that addresses these concerns and challenges in a meaningful way, one that increases employee’s engagement and helps them feel genuinely seen and included.
  6. Move away from tracking “hours worked” to measuring progress
    Remote and hybrid work expectations should be about outcomes over time spent working. The first step for leading in a hybrid workplace is to focus on the outcomes—not the number of hours worked. Managers need to be clear about their expectations and shift away from the traditional “9-5” measurement of success. They should focus on the result of tasks well completed and objectives reached over how many hours an employee works. This allows employees more flexibility in their work schedule while ensuring that tasks are completed on time. It also engenders trust.
  7. Help your team understand their work style
    Nobody wants to be stuck doing work they do not enjoy or are not equipped to do. A team leader could ask each of his team how they like to work or identify each employee’s work style by observation. For example, take note of signs such as the length of your employees’ emails. How long do they spend on projects? What is their communication style? Knowing these things about your employees will help you to categorise them into one, or a combination, of these work styles:- Leaders – The leader is a type that will often take control, whether they have the authority to do so or not.
    – Doers – Doers are employees who are all about getting things done.
    – Logical – The logical worker is also a doer, but they also look at their work analytically.
    – Detail-orientated – Detailed-oriented employees are thoughtful, systematic thinkers, who approach their work strategically.
    – Supportive – Employees with this work style build relationships and foster collaboration among team members.
    – Idea-orientated – The idea-oriented work style comprises big-picture thinkers. They energise everyone else with their enthusiasm.
  8. Use integrated communication and collaboration software
    Team collaboration software helps decrease the time spent on back-and-forth emails and searching for the latest version of project documentation. Collaboration software makes it easy for employees to track project details in real time, in one place. It makes it easy to upload and work on the same document and communicate changes all in one platform. The team leader can clarify action items and deadlines for the entire team online. Each new project can have a face-to-face online project kick-off meeting to present guidelines. During follow up meetings, team members can discuss their progress and ask for help if needed.
  9. Establish systemised training programmes
    Mentoring of the past, where a new employee would work alongside a more senior colleague and learn on-the-job, by example, is not as feasible as it used to be before the rise in remote work. Today, workplace learning needs to be systemised and use excellent quality training materials designed to nurture skill development. In-person training can be expensive and difficult to organise. Consider cutting back on costly, difficult-to-organise in-person training sessions and invest in on-demand digital training tools.
  10. Establish multi-faceted development programmes
    Soft skills are critical in both the physical and virtual workplace. As more companies adopt remote work arrangements, management is coming to realise that there is a critical development component that can get overlooked—the development of soft skills. These include things like teamwork, negotiation skills, communication, problem-solving, and creative thinking. Coaches help employees develop new competencies, hone soft skills and overcome challenges, but it takes time. Use live coaching smartly by combing it with an on-demand approach to soft skills training.
  11. Set aside “meeting-free” time
    No one can do their best work if they are over-scheduled with team meetings. It is hugely beneficial to set aside meeting-free time throughout the work week, blocking time when employees can focus on their work. When formal blocks of designated “meeting-free” time are in place, it forces employees to evaluate the necessity of scheduling team meetings at all. Could an e-mail or a message on the project platform be used instead? The entire team can be more productive when ad hoc meetings are reserved for crucial or urgent issues.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

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About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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