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Leading a remote team versus leading a hybrid team

It’s fair to say that the challenges of leading an entirely remote team are better known than leading a hybrid team.  What’s the difference?  Well, an entirely remote team can be local, national or spread across the globe; they are used to working remotely; they are unlikely to meet-up face-to-face.  It is also fair to say that many of the principles of leading a remote team apply equally to the remote workers in a hybrid team.

However, a hybrid team is different, some people may go to their place of work full time whilst others may visit on occasion and yet others may not visit a place of work at all!  Some may be given full ‘authority’ to choose when they attend their place of work whilst others may have a minimum requirement (e.g. 2 days per week in their place of work and 3 days at home) and yet others may have times when they need to be ‘in’ and times they can work remotely.  The frequency with which they occur has expanded exponentially over the last 18 months and, therefore, team leaders have had to adapt.  This throws up some interesting, but not insurmountable challenges.

10 ways to lead a newly hybrid team

Hybrid teams are nothing new: back in 2007 I was leading a team formed of salespeople who were ‘on the road’ and office-based employees who had fixed hours.

Effective leadership of a hybrid team, in essence, comes down to practising fairness and inclusivity with every member of your team, irrespective of where they are working. In order to lead effectively and mitigate the issues that arise there are a number of things to consider:

  1. Define clear working hours. It’s vital that people in your team are clear on others’ working hours.  It can help with workflow, collaboration, scheduling meetings etc.  In short, it makes your team more effective.  You may need to monitor when your team members are working, not for purposes of ‘getting the job done’, rather, making sure that the work patterns you have put in place work for everyone.
  2. Agree on expectations and accountability. You’ll notice the word ‘agree’ rather than ‘set’ – and it’s an important distinction.  Agreeing expectations and making accountability clear to all team members is the first step on the road to the becoming self-reliant – so that both home and office-based employees can work together productively and know who is doing what. As part of this, you might run daily or weekly meetings with your entire team to start each day or week on the right foot, then share progress regularly on key projects with the entire team to maintain momentum.
  3. Discourage a ‘them and us’ culture. When you’re managing a hybrid team, it can be very easy for unhelpful or negative attitudes about the ‘other’ group to slip in. You won’t want your office-based staff, for instance, to think that remote team members don’t work as hard or have an easier working experience. So, encourage office-based and remote workers to proactively build on their working relationships, and facilitate this as much as possible. There should be a culture of support and respect in your hybrid team.
  4. Understand the benefits of each working situation and ensure fairness. For example, your team members who are working from home may find it easier to maintain a healthy work-life balance or they may feel obliged to work during the time they would be commuting, putting more effort than is healthy. Either way, you should be mindful of when each team member is and is not working.  This is different from micromanagement in many ways not least of which is its purpose: mental wellbeing rather than getting the job done.
  5. Be mindful of communication. Remote workers may miss out on face-to-face interaction. This means you will need to think carefully about how you can make them feel equally included via virtual meetings, during which you as the leader might be sitting next to a work-based member of your team. When communicating with remote team workers, choose voice or video over email or chat, depending on the task. Seeing and hearing you regularly will help your remote staff to feel included and part of the team.  On this final note, you may want to ‘insist’ that, wherever possible, the remote workers have their video feed switched on during meetings, if only so others can see their faces rather than just a voice from the ether. A side benefit for you is it will allow for any non-verbal communication to come across – the facial expressions that give away so much in your dealings with face-to-face colleagues.
  6. Commit equal time and focus to each member of your team. The amount of attention and help that you give to each employee should not depend on where they’re working or what their role is. Just because some members of your team work remotely (even on occasion), they should not receive less of your time and support.
  7. Think about how you will measure performance in a fair way. Your focus will need to shift from effort or hours at desks, to output, based on set objectives. No matter the locations of your team members, you should be concentrating on the quality of the work that they produce. You also need to ensure that career progression paths are fair and equal for both office-based and remote staff.
  8. Create occasions to physically bring your team together. If possible, it can help team unity, harmony and morale if you arrange occasional opportunities for your hybrid team members to meet and get to know each other face-to-face.  This can even be across different time zones if budgets and travel restrictions allow for it.
  9. Keep your remote employees informed about company and team decisions. Team members who are not ‘in work’ may not be privy to decisions that your on-site employees make, or indeed, decisions made at the executive level, so you should set up a regular, dedicated time with them to share such details, ensuring as much transparency as possible. This will give them a clearer picture of the strategic direction of the organisation and wider team, while minimising any sense that they feel out of the loop.
  10. Monitor diaries frequently. You may need to set up a reminder to check diaries, not to see what your team are up to, but to check on work distribution, when they are working (also occasionally check the time on emails and any chat platforms you may use).  Again, this is not for the purposes of getting the job done, rather to avoid burn-out, uneven distribution of effort and mental wellbeing issues.

We offer a range of programmes to help your managers get the most out of their hybrid or fully remote teams.  Contact us today on info@phoenix-training.co.uk or 020 7234 0480 to discuss your objectives in more detail.