As the number of people getting vaccinated increases and restrictions become lax, more workplaces are adopting a remote-first hybrid approach. Yet, the core challenge managers face is being able to effectively lead their hybrid teams. While many managers have adapted to managing workers remotely, others would prefer their team to be in office. Despite numerous studies showing that remote workers are more productive, managers still have the “butts-in-seats equals more productive” mentality.
The pandemic not only challenged but exposed poor management skills and workplace inequalities. In-person teams enabled poor managers to create a false impression that they were effective. Additionally, managers were able to shirk responsibility and make excuses for their team’s poor performance. When workplaces went remote, expectations around communication increased dramatically. This heightened stress levels for already struggling managers. For this reason, managers have been eager to get back into the office with the expectation that they can resume their previous management style.
While many look to the manager as the one at fault, the employer yields blame too. They’re the ones who should be investing in their managers to ensure they’re prepared and equipped to effectively manage, regardless if they’re a new or tenured manager. Training isn’t a one-time event rather an ongoing one. However, companies are remaining frugal as they recover from the impact of COVID on their business or they still don’t see the value in investing in management development. This article is for managers who need support in leading their hybrid teams and don’t have the training or mentorship provided to them.
Here are four tips on how you can effectively lead your hybrid team.
Make Better Communication A Priority Rather Than An Afterthought
One of the biggest challenges in the workplace today, regardless of being remote or in-office, is communication. Ella Hao, chief marketing officer for Clooms, said, most managers struggle with either not communicating enough with team members or not communicating clearly. This leads to a lack of productivity and inefficiency due to people not having the knowledge they need to carry out tasks. The reality is, everyone communicates differently and not everyone is comfortable enough speaking up during a meeting or is able to organize their thoughts enough to do so. For example, introverts may hold back on providing input during group settings, but that doesn’t mean they’re disengaged.
Diane Lam, online team-building expert at Diane Lam Co. said, “whether they’re onsite, remote or something in between, when employees are working with the same tools, using them in the same way, talking about the work in the same language and following a team process, you will remove over 50% of the miscommunication or misunderstandings right off the bat.” Companies should establish dedicated Slack or communication channels to encourage and increase morale, cross-functional collaboration, employee engagement, and connections.
Some examples of Slack channels can be:
- Company Updates
- Wins (recognition, birthdays, anniversaries, appreciation, etc…)
- Fun and Games (trivia, polls, memes, etc…)
- Plant Parents
- Travel (where people are working from, what their favorite place is, etc…)
- Department-specific ones such as Marketing Team
Marcin Jablonski, chief commercial officer at LV Bet, said, “one common error that managers make is not updating their employees about changes in company policy or business goals. When you neglect to inform your remote workers of any new information, they might think things are status quo when in reality there have been some big shake-ups that need to be addressed.” Consequently, this leads to internal employees operating by current expectations while remote employees are working off outdated ones. Carlos Castelán, managing director at The Navio Group, stated, poor communication leads to role ambiguity which heightens stress and anxiety because of a lack of feedback. In turn, this leads to burnout and low employee engagement.
Ensure Everyone Is Visible And Included Regardless Of Location
Visibility is more than knowing what work is being done. It’s discussing wins, giving space for employees to share their insights, opinions and challenges, having check-ins, and making sure everyone is aligned and included in the work that needs to be completed. Philipp Zeiske, CEO of Zeitholz, said, “regardless of their work location, every employee deserves equal attention, support, and opportunities to meet their goals. Remote employees are more likely to feel disconnected in a hybrid work model so it’s going to take more effort from managers to help bridge this gap. However, if you start with a strong foundation and keep everyone on the same page, half your work is done right there.”
Rather than give in-office workers preferential treatment, managers should make sure tasks are delegated appropriately regardless of location. When team meetings or brainstorming sessions occur, all remote workers should be included. Their voices, ideas and opinions are vital to making decisions. By not doing so, remote workers feel left out and isolated from their team. It only takes one instance for remote workers to check out and disengage. Likewise, when hosting team or company-wide meetings over Google Meets or Zoom, make sure to acknowledge comments and questions that happen in the chat. Lastly, managers should set reoccurring team meetings as well as one-on-ones. If employees are scattered across time zones, it’s important to be mindful to not schedule meetings during times that they would interfere or disrupt their personal lives.
Lead With Understanding And Empathy
Empathy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Each individual is facing their own unique set of personal challenges as the pandemic lingers. Now more than ever, employees need to be supported by their managers. Even though they have the opportunity to work in the office, not all employees are comfortable doing so or their health makes them high risk. Moreover, some schools are shutting down again and shifting back to online learning thus requiring a parent to be home with them.
A pre-pandemic study by businesssolver found that 95% of employees believe flexible work hours and location are some of the best ways to show empathy. The study also revealed that “empathy isn’t just a feel-good employee engagement concern: it’s a key driver in what keeps employees engaged and loyal to their jobs, even when working longer hours.” Managers who lack empathy create environments where employees are disconnected and don’t share ideas, issues or challenges. It’s only when an employee has submitted their resignation that managers realize their employees are unhappy.
Leverage Their Natural Tendencies To Strengthen The Team
According to Gallup research, managers who help employees discover and develop their strengths lead to them being more engaged, perform better, less likely to leave — and boost the company’s bottom line.” Another Gallop report revealed that employees who have the opportunity to use their strengths and do what they do best are 57% less likely to experience burnout. Therefore, managers should take the time to get to know each of their employee's strengths and identify opportunities where they can leverage and develop them. Managers should also work together with their employees to co-create measurable goals.