Hybrid teams and workplaces present new opportunities for the modern workplace, but they present new challenges as well.
Managing teams who work half-onsite and half-remotely, after all, requires new communication protocols, new workflows, new digital tools, and new management practices, among other things.
Below, we’ll learn how managers and team leaders can address some of these challenges.
4 Challenges of Managing Hybrid Teams – And How to Solve Them
Hybrid teams are composed of both remote workers and onsite workers. Before 2020, hybrid teams and office models may not have been very common, but now they have become very widespread – if not the norm.
To complicate matters, many organizations now employ both full-time staff as well as part-time workers, contractors, consultants, and other third parties.
All of these factors introduce a number of obstacles, pitfalls, and roadblocks that can make it difficult to stay productive and communicative.
Let’s look at a few of these challenges, then discover a few ways to tackle them.
1. Maintaining a cohesive company culture
How can managers maintain a unified corporate culture when some teams are onsite, some are remote, some are contractors, and some are full-time employees?
These types of divisions can make it difficult to build and communicate a solid company culture.
Employees who work full-time in the office, for instance, will have a different connection than remote workers, who may feel more isolated. Likewise, contractors will often feel even more isolated from the culture.
There are a few ways to overcome this issue:
- Develop a goal-oriented communication strategy and communication protocols that reflect the organization’s values
- Ensure that employees have a consistent digital experience no matter where they are working from, by, for instance, standardizing workflows, communication tools, and digital software
- “Over-communicate” with employees to mitigate the effects of social isolation and the physical separation between teams
Finally, it is important to proactively listen to employees when and wherever possible. Surveys, one-on-one chats, feedback, performance metrics, and other data can all provide insight into what makes teams tick – and how managers can improve communication.
2. Collaboration with remote teams
Several surveys have found that collaboration is one of the biggest challenges associated with remote work.
This challenge, fortunately, can be overcome by implementing many of the same processes covered above – namely, by improving communication and standardizing business processes.
- Analyzing and documenting business processes can ensure that employees understand expectations
- Sticking to the same software, such as task or project management tools, can simplify workflows, lower error rates, and reduce friction
- Making extra time for online meetings – or even social time – can improve the dynamics between geographically separated teams
Also, as mentioned above, listening to and learning from employees can help managers better dig up the root of any problems that might be hindering productivity.
3. Digital complexity
Digital disruption has driven many advancements in the modern world – but it has also added complexity to the modern workplace. That complexity can be stressful for many employees and it can lower productivity, increase errors, and even impact turnover rates.
The more tools employees adopt, for instance, the more they must learn and the more complicated their workflows become.
For hybrid teams, digital workflows can become even more complex, since they must now learn to use software both remotely and onsite. Fortunately, however, this “digital problem” can also be solved with the right digital technology.
For instance, here are a few ways to minimize technology-driven complexity:
- Use digital adoption platforms (DAPs) to streamline software onboarding, training, and technical support
- Cultivate digital savviness by enhancing employee training efforts
- Leverage automation tools to handle repetitive and time-consuming work tasks
The proper use of digital technology can boost employee productivity, but it is important to reiterate that technology alone is not enough – employees must have the right skills and a digital-first mindset in order to leverage those tools effectively.
4. Managing distributed teams
In the office, managers can maintain accountability by directly overseeing employees’ activity. Yet for the distributed, hybrid team, managers can’t monitor employees every second of the day.
Although some supervisors resort to micromanagement, this rarely works.
Instead, managers should “think outside the box” and try alternative tactics, such as:
- Holding employees accountable for results, rather than the time spent working on a project
- Using the same management strategies and maintaining the same standards for workers, regardless of where they are located
- Have set times for check-ins and meetings, which can add consistency and predictability to daily schedules
- Get the whole team together on occasion
These suggestions align with many of the tips covered above. Namely, managers will need to be more proactive and communicative to keep teams cohesive and productive.
While some may find a hybrid team management approach disconcerting and unusual, there are benefits. For instance, many employees prefer remote work at least some of the time – and there is plenty of evidence that suggests remote workers are more productive.
Those managers that adapt to the hybrid office model can expect to see a range of benefits, from improved employee morale to boosted organizational performance.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.