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Hybrid teams: A guide to what they are and how to manage them

Best practices and tips for transitioning to hybrid work, managing hybrid teams, and communicating async.

July 5, 2021

The pandemic is entering a new phase. Local economies are opening, and global business leaders are shifting gears to accommodate hybrid work.

According to Microsoft, 73% of employees want flexible remote options to remain in place, while 67% "want more in-person work or collaboration post-pandemic." Further, 66% of business leaders "say their company is considering redesigning [their] office space for hybrid work."

As hybrid work accelerates, technical leaders need to understand the implications of the strategy and its impact on productivity and company culture. This starts with having a clear vision of hybrid work and a willingness to remain fluid about trying different approaches and strategies.

Keep reading to learn all about how hybrid teams work and some best practices for managing them and maximizing productivity in the emerging hybrid era.

What is a hybrid team?

As the name suggests, a hybrid team operates both on premises and across remote environments.

To illustrate, a Chicago-based company might decide to open its doors for hybrid work by allowing a limited number of employees on-site throughout the day. At the same time, remote employees would continue operating from their home offices as normal.

The company's be maintaining operational efficiency using a combination of on-site and remote personnel.

Deployments tend to vary from company to company. In some cases, the same teammates may work from home some days and from the office on other days. In other companies, entire teams may always work remote and other teams work entirely in the office. Many organizations are taking it one day at a time and making operational adjustments depending on employee feedback and productivity. Learn about the pros and cons of different hybrid work models.

Best practices for managing hybrid work

While the transition to hybrid work may seem simple, executing it can present a unique set of challenges. Managers need to anticipate these issues before they arise. To do that, they need to have a framework in place for experimenting with different deployments and adjusting to accommodate shifting needs and preferences.

With all this said, the following points should be top of mind when creating, deploying, and managing hybrid work models.

1. Give employees a voice about hybrid work

Companies need to be very careful about broaching the topic of remote work and rolling out hybrid work plans.

A large population of employees don't want any part of returning to physical offices and would sooner switch jobs than go back to their desks. Companies that botch this transition risk losing top talent and generating pushback—both of which can lower morale and negatively impact productivity and profitability.

For the best results, managers may want to consider having educational lunch-and-learn sessions and personal meetings with employees to explore hybrid solutions, gather feedback, and explore different work scenarios and policies.

By doing so, teams can answer questions and feel like they are part of the solution. And that beats feeling like they have to comply and put their health on the line or risk termination.

Get the free guide to remote work

Get the free guide to remote work

A primer for teams thrown into the deep end of remote work.

2. Invest in culture

Many employees wonder about company culture in a hybrid workplace. And leaders are worried too—30% of business leaders are concerned about maintaining corporate culture when managing a hybrid workforce.

Culture, in this sense, refers to the attitudes and behaviors that shape how a company’s employees interact with customers and drive growth.

It’s possible to maintain a strong corporate culture while enabling hybrid work, and some companies can greatly benefit from it. Building culture requires setting clear policies, maintaining above-average communication, and encouraging teamwork.

A great culture is rarely an accident. Instead, it’s cultivated by executives and carried out by managers and employees.

As such, leaders should take the time to carefully outline a vision for the company’s culture during and after the transition to hybrid work. After that’s done, they need to share the vision with employees to ensure a seamless hybrid rollout.

3. Coordinate schedules

Avoiding scheduling complications is key to success when managing hybrid teams.

This requires understanding how many people the workplace can safely accommodate. It also requires working with other department heads to prioritize on-site work and prevent scheduling overlaps.

Administrators and managers should first meet to determine how they want to move forward with scheduling. Some companies may want to have managers set schedules while smaller teams may prefer to let employees oversee scheduling.

Beyond that, it’s a good idea to explore different scheduling models.

For example, the cohort model has different teams reserving blocks of office hours on a rotating basis. And a staggering approach involves having employees come into the office at different times to reduce congestion.

4. Set ground rules

Preventing bad behavior starts with establishing firm ground rules regarding how employees should behave during work hours. This is necessary for maintaining an environment that is professional, profitable, and enjoyable for all stakeholders.

Technical leaders should focus on striking a balance between being empathetic and respectful about boundaries when working remotely. This way, they can keep team members on track with deadlines and in line with company policies and expectations.

It’s up to leaders to set ground rules governing issues like after-hours communication and moving between home and remote environments. There is a fine line between respecting a teammate's time and privacy when they aren’t in the office and preventing them from abusing remote privileges.

5. Be strategic about communicating

As most managers are already aware, communication is the glue that holds teams together. Once communication ceases, all bets are off.

At the same time, communicating with hybrid teammates can be challenging—particularly when working with highly productive teams that prefer autonomy and minimizing meetings and time waste.

One of the keys to making hybrid work successful is understanding various communications strategies and tools and knowing when to deploy them.

For example, sometimes an on-site meeting is necessary for motivating team members and getting everyone up to speed. Other times, sending a Slack message or SMS notification can do the trick. Believe it or not, even talking to an employee can be enough to pull them out of deep work and create conflict.

That's where asynchronous communication comes in.

Investing in asynchronous communication

Building a strategy for hybrid work requires focusing on the fundamentals of communication and laying the groundwork for a healthy, productive, and enjoyable environment. Taking the time to get this right makes all the difference in keeping teams aligned and working together toward common goals when collaborating across geographical distances.

Managers may find success using asynchronous communication, a strategy that enables team members to exchange information without being physically present at the same time.

For example, getting an important message to a developer about a policy or procedure may be top of mind for a manager. To the developer who is actively coding, the message may be distracting and irrelevant when it’s delivered.

By checking in and sending messages async, managers can trust employees will receive it and respond when their schedule allows instead of interrupting them for a real-time chat.

This approach respects everyone’s time, protects morale, and keeps workflows moving throughout the day—resulting in a situation that’s better for everyone involved.

Retooling for a hybrid world

Asynchronous communication isn’t always appropriate. That being the case, managers should ultimately use discretion when reaching out to employees and sharing information.

This is where it pays to have a tool like Range. In case you're unfamiliar, it's a team-building platform that enables asynchronous communication through daily check-ins and status updates.

Using Range, teams can communicate asynchronously most of the time and in real time when they have to do so.

Try Range Free

Easily build a foundation of async communication for your team. Join thousands of remote teams using Range to stay in sync and feel connected.

Free for 20 users No credit card required
Hybrid teams: a guide to what they are and how to manage them
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