Born and fueled by the recent pandemic, the hybrid working model has gained a widespread and long-term appeal among employees who want a more flexible working schedule. According to a survey conducted by Accenture in March 2021 on more than 9,300 professionals globally, around 83% of respondents wish to be a part of a hybrid working model moving forward. Thus, leaders must look ahead and prepare themselves for the future of work and the hybrid working society that will empower it. Let us first explore and define what a hybrid team will be and how business leaders can effectively lead a hybrid workforce.
Defining A Hybrid Team
Hybrid teams come in all shapes and sizes. They essentially consist of employees working in varied locations, some remotely while others in the traditional office environment. How these teams are formed, and the degree of flexibility they can enjoy will solely depend on an organisation’s policies and the managers’ discretion.
Employers may offer their workforce several choices depending on their preferences, be it complete flexibility to go fully remote, full time in the office, or perhaps something in between. Depending on the company’s needs, they may also dictate when teams need to be present in the office during specific days of the week or for more extended periods.
Business leaders are unequivocally the linchpin that drives employee engagement. However, they are presented with more challenges when faced with hybrid teams. But if they manage to get around such difficulties, deploying hybrid units come with many advantages, such as attracting, retaining, and engaging key talents that will bolster the company’s workforce, an unprecedented opportunity that should not be underestimated.
4 Key Practices to Be an Effective Hybrid Team Leader
1. Emphasise inclusion
Building an equitable and fair workplace is far more complicated for hybrid teams. A proximity bias could arise and may lead to the wrong assumption that members working in the office are more productive than remote ones. As such, leaders must establish practices that prevent this from happening.
One such method is to enforce ground rules that all-team meetings will be conducted through video conferencing platforms like Zoom, regardless of whether some members are beside each other in the office. This ensures fair treatment for all and keeps everyone in the loop. Moreover, consider encouraging members in the office to talk about work without excluding their remote colleagues so that they too get a chance to weigh in their input. Of course, making this happen can be achieved in many ways, but the most effective and seamless method would be to lead by example.
2. Prioritise with flexibility in mind
What is inevitable right now is that the future remains completely unpredictable given the growing concerns over the pandemic; previous restrictions may be reintroduced, and lockdowns could be enforced again. As such, the best way to prepare for the unknown is to set clear priorities that let the team know what is most important. Leaders could hold regular “Monday huddles” that let teams discuss and prioritise the essential tasks that need to be accomplished for that week and deliverables that would be great to have if members have discretionary time. By prioritising the critical workloads, hybrid teams can build flexibility that lets others pick up the slack when one member becomes unavailable.
3. Create and set expectations
Establishing a hybrid team offers the chance to assert which aspects of the company’s culture must stay and same and which needs to be adapted. An explicit discussion must determine how and when to communicate, which individuals get access to certain information, whose presence is indispensable in meetings, and who needs to weigh in on which decisions.
This activity helps everyone agree on topics like the norms for communication. Should members always include the whole team? Are recipients required to acknowledge every message? Which channels should be used for specific purposes?
In addition, it is vital to discern how members intend to structure their working hours. Remote workers may wish for more flexibility and freedom when reworking their hours. In contrast, office workers may prefer to have more structure. Ultimately, it is necessary to compromise.
4. Offer support
A manager’s primary role is to support their employees, even more so now amid a global health crisis. Everyone is under more stress, and it would go a long way when leaders reach out to their teams. For instance, managers could ask about the individual circumstances of their employees face-to-face in the office, one-on-one video calls for those working remotely, or even provide the necessary equipment needed to work from home.
Getting to know their worries does not mean being obligated to help; sometimes, lending an ear is enough. Moreover, it could also serve to understand how employees feel about being asked to return to the office or their thoughts on being kept at home. By getting these inputs, managers can better understand everyone’s situation and demonstrate that they are committed to making things work for everyone on the team. Making people feel safe and cared for ultimately helps build trust among coworkers, which is even more important for a hybrid working team.
With the global workforce calling for more flexibility in their work, the hybrid working model is shaping to be the next step for many companies moving forward. And while making such an arrangement work is undoubtedly well within the capabilities of business leaders, especially since they managed to overcome the sudden and more demanding hardships of recent years, the fact remains that they may need to put more time and effort into this endeavour.
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