Managing Hybrid Teams

Hybrid teams come in all shapes and sizes. Organizational policies, along with manager discretion, will inform what they look like and the degree of flexibility that goes along with them. Some will offer employees complete flexibility to choose from fully remote, fully in the office, or something in between.

Others will establish specific days or weeks where all or some team members will be in the office. Additionally, fully remote team members alongside team members who split their time working remotely and working in the office is another type of hybrid team.

There has been lots of research and many articles written on this topic, and what follows is a summary of the key areas on which to focus to support employee engagement and productivity in this new environment:

Trust and Inclusion

Trust is the foundation for building productive and collaborative teams and can be one of the greatest challenges when leading hybrid teams. Remote employees might feel that those in the office have greater access to the leader and to other team members, providing them more opportunities to build trust and be included in impromptu conversations and decisions. When remote teams miss out on these opportunities this can lead to feelings of frustration or isolation.

Guiding Principles

Hybrid teams are usually comprised of individuals who have a history of working together. Some may have worked together in the office at one time, and some may have worked together only remotely. The hybrid team is in essence a new team, and leaders can ensure a strong start for their new team by creating Guiding Principles (sometimes called a “Team Charter”).

Outcomes and Accountability

All teams, but especially hybrid teams, work best when success is measured by outcomes and not by number of hours spent at a desk. Clearly defining expectations on an ongoing basis not only provides the roadmap for success, but also helps to clear confusion and connect employees to their purpose and impact. Accountability is achieved when leaders stay close enough to the work team members are doing to provide coaching, support, and recognition, but without micromanaging.

Wellbeing and Connection

Working on a hybrid team will require all members to adapt in some way. Leaders need to remain vigilant about and empathetic to how employees are feeling, regardless of where they are located. Remote employees might feel they have to work harder and contribute more because they aren’t in the office, while those in the office might feel they need to work even harder because they are more visible to leadership.

Meeting Facilitation Practices

In a hybrid team, leaders must practice effective meeting facilitation. This means thinking beyond standard best practices (like sticking to an agenda and ensuring proper summarization of the next steps). Hybrid meeting facilitators must pay special attention to the people on the phone or video chat, since they are naturally encumbered by an inability to see the whole room and cannot easily interject into the conversation. If leaders don’t find a way to equalize the input from both on-site and remote team members, the offsite workers may slowly grow distant and more removed.

To learn more about specific actions to take for each of the five areas, read the full article here.

Hybrid teams are addressed in most of our workshops, with more details covered in our Coaching for Performance workshop, or contact us if you’re interested in a workshop dedicated just to this topic.

Helen Schneiderman, Partner