Together Wherever – How to Lead a Great Hybrid Team

The Covid-19 pandemic has made working in different places one of the biggest priorities organisations need to get right. We all managed through remote or virtual working while on lockdown but hybrid working is the really challenging part. Some employees will want to remain working at home, others will want to get back to the office and some would like a mix of both, with some flexible working. What’s more, it’s a choice that team members increasingly expect to be able to make.
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Continuing our series of webinars with our guest speaker, experienced senior HR professional and Fellow of the CIPD, Jo Redgrave; this blog covers a number of practical and operational tips to put into practice to help navigate the new Hybrid norm.

Wherever staff are now based – people need to be engaged, productive and feel both a sense of team and a part of something. So, managing or leading a hybrid team requires effective communication and leadership styles to successfully embed these new complex working arrangements.

1. What is the hybrid model?

Let’s start by looking at what hybrid working involves, although the term is still evolving. It’s a combination of remote, semi remote and entirely office based employees. For many organisations this means members of the same team potentially working to different scheduled days and locations, and very likely to different work patterns due to flexible working.

Some people may be working in bubbles with each other, so they may be office based at the same time, but for only part of the week. It’s also going be a time of anxiety as employees settle into their new routines. So managing this – and working within such models – is clearly going to require adjustment and some patience.

2. Hybrid working challenges

Many of the challenges of hybrid working are similar to those we faced throughout home working during the various lockdowns. Time away from colleagues can increase feelings of isolation. Reduced access to line managers and team members makes communication harder. Missing out on face to face contact reduces those unplanned conversations that often help create better ways of working or that solve problems.

While working from home can help work-life balance, this isn’t always the case. Many people have found it harder to switch off from work and maintain boundaries. While new starters could relate to an office and get to meet new colleagues pre-pandemic, home working made on-boarding much harder with no physical place involved. And the technology itself has repercussions. There’s Zoom fatigue and the draining effect of too much screen time.

And yet, despite all of this, many team members would prefer not to return to the office. Which is why overcoming these challenges will be so important when leading a successful hybrid team.

3. The opportunities of hybrid working

Remote working has shown organisations that people now like to work and learn differently, and, while work-life balance still needs to be managed, many do report a greater sense of wellbeing without the daily commute. Working through the pandemic has required greater levels of trust – particularly from line managers that their teams will get the job done without supervision. In many instances this trust shown has been motivational and many employees flourished and responded by maintaining productivity.

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR HYBRID WORKING

  • Ask your team to pinpoint the activities that they really value, that make them feel part of a team and perform at their best. How can you incorporate these into your hybrid working arrangements?
  • During team meetings – virtual or otherwise – in addition to summarising and celebrating successes from the week, purposefully take time to invite team members to share where they observed good work from others which may have gone unnoticed.
  • As team members will be working in different places and at different times, there’s a risk of missing out on what’s happening – which itself is likely to increase frustrations. So, what communication method works best for what and when? Recognise the need for consistency to avoid things getting missed.
  • Be mindful of scheduling too many meetings in one day, especially via Zoom or Teams which require greater concentration.
  • Fluidity regarding working hours can lead people to feel they are (or need to be) available at all times, blurring the lines between home and work which can lead to burnout. So, encourage your team to be clear when they are not available – and the same goes for line managers who also need to protect their boundaries.
  • Give people time to prepare. Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute including those not ‘in the room’. (All of which may take more time).
  • Don’t forget those ‘team socials’ you did while in lockdown. Effective hybrid working communication is as much social as it is about work.
  • And don’t forget that the best communication is two way: avoid talking ‘at’ your team members.
  • Encourage time for reflection. What has gone well, what could be better?
  • Review performance objectives in light of new working arrangements.
  • Agree common or shared learning objectives across the whole team.
  • Recognise individual and team successes to drive inclusiveness and a positive culture.
  • Collaboration is why teams succeed. Ensure all team members have access to opportunities, irrespective of where (and when) they are working.
  • Create shared goals and purpose (the Why) but allow the team to decide the How.
  • As a line manager, encourage open communication.

Employer branding touchpoints

Hybrid working doesn’t only require new thinking in terms of how you manage your team, you also need to reflect this new working culture in your employer brand communications.

That’s why the flexibility offered by hybrid working should be reinforced at all your brand touchpoints during the recruitment process, from your recruitment microsite to your video testimonials. By offering a comprehensive glance of life at your organisation, you are allowing candidates to decide whether they are a good fit and making it more likely that you will be able to retain them.

In conclusion

It’s important to remember that introducing hybrid working is a change programme – and good communication always helps change happen more smoothly. Expectations need to be managed throughout – so be realistic as to what can be expected and acknowledge that getting a system that works for everyone won’t happen overnight.

Those organisations that acknowledge the contributions that team members have made during earlier home working will send the right signal when they want to see their hybrid working models adopted. A little empathy will go a long way.  

If you want help in discussing how you can adopt these new practices, please do get in touch with us at Signature in London or Bristol.

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