Discover 5 strategies to manage hybrid teams so they’re as connected, supportive, and productive as in-person ones.
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Hybrid work offers people more freedom and flexibility because they don’t have to be in the office five days a week. This flexible work is particularly valued by younger generations—even more than salary.* Therefore, facilitating hybrid work makes you more attractive to top global talent.
However, it’s not enough just to make hybrid work a company policy. Managing hybrid teams is very different from managing an all in-person or all-remote. That means you need to know what a well-functioning hybrid team looks like and create an environment where everyone has equal opportunities to do their best work.
In this post, we’ll look at five strategies to effectively manage hybrid teams, from building connections to using the right tools. We’ll also outline how Switchboard creates a great environment for collaboration no matter where you are.
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What does a well-functioning hybrid team look like?
A well-functioning hybrid team is made up of a mix of on-site and remote workers. Some may always work from home, while others might only do so on certain days. Either way, team and company culture are strong and everyone feels equally included and heard no matter where they are. This is thanks to strong team leaders who create the right atmosphere and a level playing field for all.
Across the team, everyone is clear about their tasks and has the tools, resources, and autonomy they need to complete them. They know when to work together in real time and when to work async to make the most of the hours they’re all online together (assuming they work across time zones). To do this, both on-site and remote employees use digital collaboration tools for hybrid teams to work and communicate effectively. This allows them to move work forward without constant meetings.
Let’s take a look at how you can achieve this.
5 strategies to effectively manage hybrid teams
One of the first things you need, he says, is to create a culture of inclusion: “That's always important, no matter the situation, but it's especially critical to have top of mind as a principal or a value. In a hybrid setup, you have to be extra sensitive to making sure everyone’s feeling included, part of the team, heard, etc.”
Here are some ways you can do that.
1. Be an inclusive leader
According to Gallup, when managers connect with their team and communicate purpose, it’s easier for employees to see how their work fits into the bigger picture, which gives it meaning.
However, employees working from home typically have less contact with their manager than those in the office. That means you need to make a special effort to connect with remote employees to provide feedback, recognition, and opportunities for development.
If they come into the office at certain times, use this as an opportunity to spend time with them and strengthen your relationship. If they never do, ensure they have equal access to you by establishing open “office hours,” 1:1 check-ins, or coaching sessions. Think about how you can replicate the in-person interactions that happen in the office. You also need to build trust and psychological safety so they feel comfortable speaking their minds.
You should also employ collaboration strategies like defining and communicating goals and clear expectations, and ensure they have the resources they need to achieve them (more on this later).
Finally, think about your management style. Ninety-one percent of hybrid employees say they are as or more productive than when they’re in the office. However, it can be hard for leaders to relax when they can’t see people working. However, micromanagement benefits no one, so you need to move toward measuring progress and deliverables rather than hours worked. If you’ve established clear goals and productivity metrics, this will be easier.
Pro tip: Set up a dedicated, persistent Switchboard room for 1:1s where people can always find you and get the support they need.
2. Connect your team
While 71% of hybrid workers report improved work-life balance and 58% reduced burnout, 32% feel less connected to the organization’s culture. Great teamwork takes strong, connected teams, so you need to be intentional and think differently about how you build them in a hybrid setting. You also need to improve collaboration skills like empathy and good communication that help people have each other’s backs.
When people are on-site, encourage them to spend time with teammates and colleagues from other teams to build the relationships they need for cross functional collaboration. If they’re fully remote, you need to pick team building activities that both in-office and remote employees can participate in equally. For example, rather than going to a physical escape room, make it a virtual one. Border also suggests socializing in ways that can accommodate those joining virtually. For example, having drinks with your in-person team in a company lounge while remote employees join on video.
You also need to replicate the spontaneous in-person interactions and groupings you get in the office, says Border: “In team meetings or team activities, create opportunities for breakout groups. Allow folks to have one on one conversations, or maybe small groups working together on a problem, or just spending time getting to know each other. Try to replicate some of the things that happen more organically in the office.”
Pro tip: Set up a persistent room for games or “watercooler” chats in Switchboard to replicate the fun, spontaneous interactions you get in the office.
3. Avoid proximity bias
Proximity or location bias is when in-person employees are consulted more regularly, have more access to leadership, or are perceived as working harder than those working from home.
To avoid this, Border says you need to be mindful about giving people equal opportunities to present work—and access to the meetings where important conversations happen. This ensures their work doesn’t get overlooked or go uncredited. “It takes a bit more thought than all-remote teams or all in-person because people are coming from unequal situations… it's not the same, so that's a potential barrier you have to be really thoughtful about.”
You should also establish “rules of engagement” governing how everyone interacts when not everyone is physically present. For example, during hybrid team meetings, everyone should join on camera, even when they’re in the same room. This ensures everyone can hear what’s being said and there are no side conversations that would exclude those joining remotely. It’s all about creating a level playing field where everyone’s operating under the same conditions and nobody is at a disadvantage.
You should also be flexible about meeting times if your team is working across time zones. Vary these so that nobody’s always meeting out of office hours for them, which helps maintain work-life balance.
Pro tip: Create a level playing field by meeting in an async-first collaboration platform like Switchboard that replicates the feeling of being in the same room—even when you’re not.
4. Combine real-time with async work
As Border says, if your entire team only overlaps for a few hours each day, “that time is gold, it's super precious.” That means you need to think carefully about how you use it, and the best use may not be constant meetings.
Working in sync with your team can get you fast answers, but it can also lead to too many interruptions and burnout. Plus, if you default to meetings for every decision, you quickly lose control over your calendar and it becomes hard to find time for focus work.
To avoid this, think about when you need to talk and when you can make progress on your own schedule. For example, things like planning, brainstorming, or setting goals are good to do in person because you can go back and forth and hash things out. By contrast, completing tasks and responding to non-urgent messages can be done anytime.
Let's say you begin quarterly planning by holding a meeting in your Switchboard room. Once department heads have shared their priorities live, one person then commits to creating a roadmap for development. When it’s ready, they share it in the room so people can hop in when it suits them to leave feedback in a comment thread. Combining real time with async in this way lets team members express their ideas while keeping meeting time to a minimum.
Pro tip: Create persistent Switchboard rooms to organize all the people and materials you need for your project in one always-open space. That way, everyone can always find what they need–no more digging around in tabs and tools–and can move work forward when it suits them. If you need to call an impromptu meeting, you can also see who’s online and ask them to hop into the room to talk things out.
5. Use the right tools
Hybrid working relies on having the right digital tools to replicate in-person connections, work in real time or async, and create a level playing field for everyone. Unfortunately, 80% of workers have lost time due to technical difficulties during online or hybrid meetings and 76% say their tech prevents them from contributing effectively.
If that sounds like your company, it’s time to overhaul your tech stack. Here are a few tools you need:
- An async-first digital workspace like Switchboard where you can keep everything and everyone organized in persistent rooms that save your work.
- A video conferencing tool with breakout rooms and features that allow people to participate in virtual meetings, like emoji reactions, voting, polls, etc. If you’re using Switchboard, all this is built in, so you don’t need to sign up for a separate meeting platform. Plus, everything’s multiplayer, so you can work side by side on any browser-based app or file–without sharing screens.
- Chat or instant messaging like Slack so you can resolve things fast without the need for a meeting.
- Cloud storage and file collaboration tools like Google Workspace so you can work together in real time or async alone on the latest version of a file.
Managing hybrid teams: A breeze with the right strategies
Hybrid work models offer a lot of benefits like greater flexibility, work-life balance, and productivity. However, managing hybrid teams takes more than just policy changes. You need to take a strategic approach to creating the right environment where everyone can do their best work.
Five key strategies to manage hybrid teams include creating an inclusive culture, starting with leadership, by connecting people, overcoming proximity bias, balancing real-time and asynchronous work, and using the right digital tools. Implementing these strategies helps build a strong team culture where everyone feels included, valued, and has what they need to succeed, regardless of their location.
When you use Switchboard for hybrid work you get an async-first collaboration platform that saves your work and makes everything multiplayer. This means everyone can communicate and contribute equally in meetings and in between them, making hybrid work not only possible, but efficient, enjoyable, and productive.
Get more done wherever you work.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms give your teams a place to find each other and get work done—anytime.
Sign up free
*State of Hybrid Work 2023, Owler Labs
Frequently asked questions about managing hybrid teams
What is a hybrid team?
A hybrid team is made up of people working from the office and others working remotely, for example from home. Some employees may only ever work in one location, while others may alternate between the two. Some companies allow a fixed number of days per week for remote working while others allow employees to choose.
What are the benefits of hybrid teams?
Hybrid work potentially offers the best of both worlds: the camaraderie of being in the office with the flexibility and lack of distractions you get with remote work.
Some other benefits of hybrid teams include:
- The freedom to choose when and where you work
- Lower rates of burnout or fatigue
- Higher productivity
What skills do you need to manage a hybrid team?
Some of the skills you need to manage a hybrid team include:
- Flexibility to adapt to different needs and circumstances of remote team members as well as those in the office
- The ability to delegate and trust people to complete tasks
- Good communication and active listening to create an inclusive environment where everyone is in the loop and feels heard
How do you lead a team in a hybrid environment?
Leading a team in a hybrid environment involves:
- Focusing on outcomes over output
- Setting clear roles, goals, and milestones
- Offering support and the right resources and tools
- Building strong connected teams that are accountable to each other
- Keeping people engaged and productive wherever they are