As organizations around the world struggle with how to bring employees back to work, the stakes couldn’t be higher. While the numbers vary from study to study, there are some consistent themes that senior leaders cannot ignore. Employees want flexibility and many will leave if they don’t get it.
At the same time, employees are torn between a strong desire for more flexible work and an equally strong desire for the collaboration of in-person work. While the hybrid workplace and hybrid teams might be viewed as the great compromise of the future, organizations that get this right will have a huge competitive advantage.
Hybrid is Here
While all of us have grown weary of change, this shift to hybrid teams might be seen as yet another change. However, leaders and employees have demonstrated their resilience throughout the pandemic. They found a way to connect, communicate, and achieve results in a world burdened with personal and professional challenges and changes that none of us could have predicted.
Leaders can lift and shift some of the best practices and skills they developed when working and leading remotely and apply them to leading hybrid teams. And leaders can have an even greater impact on engagement and performance by focusing on these five best practices for leading hybrid teams.
Build Trust and Be Inclusive
This is one of the greatest challenges when leading remote individuals and teams. And it’s even more challenging with a hybrid team. To build trust, leaders must treat everyone with respect and fairness.
Remote employees might feel that those in the office have greater access to the leader and to other team members. Those one-on-one meetings that leaders increased during the pandemic should continue, equally, for all team members. And in a team meeting, leaders should seek to establish psychological safety. To do this, leaders need to deliberately include all team members and involve all meeting participants. This will help to create a sense of belonging.
Communicate Well and Often
There are two aspects of communication that are critical to the success of hybrid teams: the personal needs and the practical needs. Beginning with the practical needs, leaders, and team members, together, should establish ground rules for communication. This includes how they will communicate and collaborate, taking into consideration the needs of remote and in-person team members.
Leaders must pay attention to and meet the personal needs of each team member. The heightened focus on demonstrating empathy and genuine caring for each team member’s wellbeing that was a positive outcome of the pandemic must not waiver.
Drive Focus and Accountability
Accountability is achieved when leaders stay close enough to the work each team member is doing to provide the coaching and support they need, along with the recognition for their efforts. This must be done without micromanaging though. Leaders must also help team members “see” one another as well as their value and the part they play in the team and organization. Doing this builds commitment and focus to achieve shared goals.
Develop a Strong Team Culture
Hybrid teams are often comprised of individuals who have a history of working together. For example, they may have all worked together in the office at one time, or most recently, worked together all completely remote.
The hybrid team is in essence a new team, and leaders can ensure a strong start for their new team by creating a “team charter.” Together, the leader and team members agree about their purpose, accountabilities, goals, and metrics. They also set ground rules for communication and meetings.
Additionally, this is an opportunity to purposely consider ways to keep team members connected. Physical distance should not equate to social and emotional distance. Encourage team members to reach out to each other when they need help. Recognize those who do it. Continue to champion and attend those fun “virtual get togethers” so that all team members feel connected to each other and to you.
Beat Burnout with Empathy
Leaders need to remain vigilant about how employees are feeling about their work, their workload, and their work-life balance. It might be tempting to stop asking employees how they are feeling and to stop taking the time to listen. Don’t do it.
Working on a hybrid team will require all members to adapt in some way. Remote employees might feel they have to work harder and contribute more because they aren’t in the office. Those in the office might work even harder because they are more visible to leadership.
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