Despite the misconception, working from home isn’t a modern phenomenon. In fact, it’s been around in some form for hundreds of years. Still, at the beginning of 2020, just over 3% of the workforce worked remotely.

And, then the pandemic devastatingly arrived. As a result, there was a surge in people working from the comfort of their homes. But, as we begin to reopen, will this continue to the norm?

It seems the shift to work from home may be here to stay.

According to Gallup, 59% of employees who work from home want to continue doing so. Moreover, a Gartner survey found that 80% plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part-time following the pandemic, and 47% will permit employees to work from home full-time. Also, a PwC survey reported that 78% of CEOs believe that remote collaboration will be here to stay.

For those familiar with remote work, this shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, remote work attracts and retains talent. Moreover, remote workers are happier and more productive since they don’t have commutes and workplace distractions.

It’s also beneficial to the environment since less commuting means a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. And, between a more productive team and less money spent on real estate/utilities, it can also bolster your bottom line.

On the flip side, there are drawbacks to also be aware of. At the top of the list would be isolation and social withdrawal. Some team members more feel even more excluded than before the pandemic as well.

What’s more, it can be more of a challenge to collaborate and communicate. A lack of structure, development opportunities, and burnout are also concerns.

So, why not have the best of both worlds with hybrid teams?

A hybrid team is simply one that is composed of local and remote employees. However, in the wake of COVID, some remote team members could be local. They just aren’t comfortable returning to the workplace or there is a capacity limit.

Regardless, Slack has found that 72% of workers prefer this type of model. Why? Because it’s like having your cake and eat too.

8 Ways to Manage Your Hybrid Team

You and your team can tap into the benefits of remote work, while also prioritizing your health and well-being. You also have access to a deeper talent pool. And, when needed, you can interact and engage with others.

However, that doesn’t mean that managing a hybrid team is a walk-in-the-park. It’s a juggling act where you have to be aware of everything from time zones to miscommunication. But, since this is more likely what the workforce will look like going forward, here are 8 effective ways to manage a hybrid team.

1. Don’t let either team become an island.

“The biggest risk in a hybrid working model is that one group becomes an island and feels increasingly isolated,” writes Patrick Gray. “Often, the model the ‘boss’ adopts becomes the norm, and the other model feels like a team marooned at sea.”

For example, if you’re physically in the workplace, then you’re obviously going to be spending more time with your in-office team. In turn, this provides you with more opportunities for “formal and informal checkpoints and guidance. Even worse, he or she might assume the remote team is doing fine based on previous performance, and once regular check-ins become scarce until the remote team feels isolated,” adds Gray.

“Similarly, if the boss continues to work remotely, he or she may spend hours doing round-robin video calls with the remote team and interacting virtually, while the in-office team is left to fend for themselves,” he states. “Consciously plan for how you’ll interact with each of your teams.” In particular, “if you plan to return to the office, where it will be easy to slip into old routines and assume the remote portion of the team is doing fine.”

Always “schedule regular check-ins, and make sure you include all of your team in meetings,” Gray advises.

2. Foster a remote-first culture.

Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, explains that “being remote-first requires a mindset and behavioral shift. It means that the employee experience should be the same, whether you’re in an office one day a week, five days a week, or never.”

In short, it’s all about making remote work the default approach. Again, those who work remotely tend to be happier and more productive.

What if you have team members on-site? No problem. You can still foster a remote-first culture by;

  • Utilizing asynchronous communication. Async stands for short and doesn’t take place in real-time. As a result, this prevents overcommunication and unnecessary meetings.
  • Investing in the best tools. You don’t need to overdo it. This includes everything from laptops and standing desks to communication and collaboration tools like Google Drive, Slack, or Trello.
  • Including video links whenever you send out meeting invites. Invitees can then chose where to participate. Also, let attendees use their personal computers on video calls.
  • Focus on results based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) instead of hours worked.
  • You should set some guidelines. But, when within reason, allow for flexible schedules. Also, give your team the freedom to work wherever they feel most productive — even if it’s just a couple of days each week.

3. Make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Unlike your in-person team members, those working virtually can’t just stop by and ask you a question. Even if they’re local and working from home part-time, they may be working when you’re off the clock. In either scenario, this can cause bottlenecks if they have any questions on concerns.

To address this before it becomes too problematic, consider;

  • Providing them with the right contact for specific issues. For instance, if they have an IT issue, they should contact that team member instead of you.
  • Layout your team’s workflow. Everyone should understand what they need to do without having to ask.
  • Provide crystal clear directions and expectations so that they know what exactly is expected.
  • Assign reasonable deadlines. It also wouldn’t hurt to set reminders to check their progress.
  • Ask your team to document what they accomplish. Besides keeping them focused, this can hold them accountable. And they can see where there’s room for improvement.

You don’t want to micromanage your team. You do, however, need to make sure that they have everything they need to succeed from the get-go. It’s like being a coach on the sidelines.

4. Avoid impromptu decisions and meetings.

We all have those moments when the proverbial lightbulb ignites. Since you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity, you excitedly approach a team. The two of you then decide to take action on your idea.

There are several problems with this.

First, there’s no documentation, which means the idea could eventually just evaporate. Second, unless it only involves this specific team member, others will be excluded, causing friction among them. And, you may be encouraging the dreaded productivity killer context switching. Third, with no documentation or notes, you then leave that fresh idea to be claimed as another team member’s work — and you won’t remember this — but the team member that gave you the idea will think you did this on purpose.

If you do have a moment like this, make a note of what you’re thinking. Then schedule a meeting with your team. A shared team calendar will let you see everyone’s availability or run a poll to find the best time for most of the group.

Remember, don’t leave anyone stranded on an island. Taking the extra time and effort seems inconvenient, and your own excitement may fade a little by waiting. But, you’ve dug up the energy to lead your team many times — and it’s what leadership is about.

In the end, you’ll actually speed up the decision-making process when people are right in front of you; all key stakeholders need to be included. No exceptions.

5. Reenvison the workplace schedule.

The days of having your entire team on a Monday-Friday, 9-5 schedule are long gone. Technology that has made remote work possible and valuable has saved many modern businesses during the pandemic. As team members slowly come back to the workplace, there remains the question about how many people can safely be in the workplace at one time. And as you have seen — there is still the desire for flexibility, as well.

With that in mind, you may want to think about allowing different workplace schedules, such as;

  • Cohort schedules. Here you could divide your team into two groups. For example, the first would only come in on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Friday, everyone would be remote.
  • Staggered schedules. Team members would arrive and depart at different times. In turn, this would prevent everyone from showing up and being in the workplace at the same time.
  • Custom schedules. While not at predictable, flexible schedules allow team members to work whenever they want. Some might do this when they’re most productive. Others may prefer to do this based on factors like when their children are home.

6. Update even if there’s no update.

“Uncertainty fuels anxiety,” Timothy R. Clark writes over at HBR. “The more you communicate and share, the less chance there is to develop an information vacuum within your team.”

“Communicate regularly even if you don’t have new information to share,” he suggests. “Maintaining transparency through a crisis with frequent updates is the ultimate expression of good faith, empathy, and genuine concern for your team.”

7. Unite the team.

When you have team members who are working side-by-side, shooting the breeze at lunch, and even spending time together outside of work, it’s natural that they’ll be creating a bond. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having friends at work can boost job satisfaction, happiness, and productivity.

What you don’t want? Klicks that lead to the, us vs. them mentality. Rather, build a connected culture.

  • Inviting them to pieces of training, birthdays, or happy hours — even if they can only attend virtually.
  • Planning virtual lunches and team bonding exercises.
  • Having a virtual water cooler or Slack channels reserved for informal chats.
  • Sending them company swag like a coffee mug or t-shirt.
  • Organizing in-person events like a holiday office party or retreat.

8. Keep an eye out for burnout.

Even remote workers aren’t immune from burnout. In fact, it may even be more prevalent. According to a survey, almost 70% of employees have experienced burnout in 2020.

What can you do? Well, be aware of the warning signs, like;

  • Increased absenteeism or avoiding work.
  • Becoming more apathetic and irritable.
  • Missing deadlines and a decline in their performance.
  • Having not taken time off.
  • Indicating signs of hopelessness or sadness.

Hopefully, no one on your team is displaying any of the above. If so, reach out to them and make yourself vulnerable. But, you can also avoid this if you;

  • Encourage boundaries between work and home life.
  • Remind employees to unplug and disconnect from work frequently.
  • Schedule “no meeting” days.
  • Help them practice self-care through resources and non-work-related hobbies like instituting a book club.
  • Offer mental health screenings and access to apps like Calm or Headspace.

Most importantly? Make an effort to check in on them regularly.

These have been unprecedented times and adopting hasn’t been easy on any of us. But, staying in touch shows that you genuinely care. And, it will give you the chance to put out any flame before they become a raging fire.

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