Some say that hybrid work is the “worst of both worlds” but that’s not the case unless you get it wrong. If you want to get it right this article is for you. This is the complete guide for managers and employees who are looking to improve their hybrid work experience.
Being a good hybrid worker isn’t the same as just following a company mandate on how many days you work from home each week. Ideally, you can decide where you work from yourself, but even if you are working with mandated office days there’s more to hybrid than just going to the office one day and working from home the next. Whether you are new to hybrid work, or you’ve been at it for a while we want to help you get it right, so we’ve put together this guide to help you become a better hybrid worker or a better hybrid manager.
A hybrid team is any team where the location of work differs from employee to employee. This may be because the team is scattered across different office locations, because employees mix remote work and in-office work, or because some employees are working fully in the office while others are fully remote. The location is often the focus for hybrid teams, but there’s also a pretty good chance that hybrid teams work at different times as well. This is usually because employees are scattered across different time zones, but it could also be because one employee prefers to work early in the day while another prefers working at night.
Even before companies began reopening their offices the debate of remote versus in-office was raging. Some didn’t want to give up the newfound freedom. Others couldn’t wait to get back to the office. But trying to find out which model of work is better, is like asking what flavour of ice cream is the best, or if it’s okay to put pineapple on pizza. You are going to come up with different answers depending on who you ask. And that’s where hybrid work comes in. Some say that hybrid work is “the worst of both worlds” but that’s only true if hybrid work is implemented with a focus on everything that makes remote or in-office work difficult. If hybrid work is implemented with attention to the benefits, it can give both organization and employees, it can contain all the benefits of having both a physical and a remote workplace with none of the downsides. But let’s not get carried away talking about how organizations can benefit from hybrid work, let’s instead focus on how you can make hybrid work for YOU.
Working in a hybrid workplace is about so much more than splitting your workweek between being remote and working from the office. And while it’s true it does pose certain challenges when it comes to things like collaboration, it’s quite easy to overcome those challenges. Which is what we’ll help you do right here.
The most helpful thing you can do when working in a hybrid workplace is to be intentional about matching your tasks to your location. Being remote on days when you have a lot of tasks requiring focus and going to the office for longer meetings where colleagues are also present in the office is one way to do this. But this really depends on you and your situation. For some, the office provides a better environment for focus than the home office does.
Being able to fit your work into your private life is often mentioned as one of the big benefits when it comes to hybrid work, but there’s more to being part of a hybrid workplace than perfecting your own work-life balance. Or to say it in another way, there’s no huge benefit to working from home if your colleague needs you in the office, and there’s no reason to locate tasks in the office if they include colleagues who have a hard time making it to the office on that day. Being aware of the limitations and preferences of your colleagues is just as important as being aware of your own preferences when it comes to working in a hybrid workplace.
Hybrid work isn’t just about choosing where you work, it will often also include a measure of flexibility in when you work as well. But this can also pose a problem, as it can create an idea of constant availability. Working in a hybrid workplace, you need to be intentional with your breaks and your spare time. Don’t constantly check the communications channels or answer emails instantly if you already clocked out. And you need to respect the breaks and spare time of your colleagues too. Don’t expect instant response and use features like send later to schedule emails and messages to times when your colleagues are working. Your colleague may be off the clock even if you yourself are working.
One of the biggest issues when it comes to collaboration in a hybrid workplace is a lack of communication. If your colleagues don’t know when you are working or where you are working from, they will tend to get more annoyed at your absence than if they know that you aren’t responding because you are off the clock. This is why sharing your schedule, what you are working on, and where you plan to work from is so important. If your organization hasn’t implemented a solution to handle this, it might be a good idea to come up with a way to do this within your team. It could just be a Slack channel or a shared calendar but having a dedicated tool to handle desk booking and remote work scheduling makes this entire process a lot easier.
Getting to know your colleagues can be a lot harder when you’re working in a hybrid or remote workplace than if you go to the office regularly. This is in part because of the so-called water-cooler moments that were widely highlighted as one of the reasons a full return to the office was a good idea. The truth is, you don’t have to be in an office to get to know people, but you do have to talk to them about something other than work, to get to know them better. There are different ways to do this. Suggesting a meet-up with team members you don’t often see in person is a great idea and visiting colleagues who live in a different city or country than you can be a great experience. But even something as simple as setting up a quick video call, just to say good morning and talk about the weather can get you a long way.
Managing hybrid and remote teams were thrust upon managers in early 2020. For some, it became a way to care for their employees while for others it became a constant struggle. As it turns out, successfully managing teams in a hybrid workplace is very different from managing teams when everyone is in the office every day. This is likely why some management teams have pushed for a hard return to the office, while those who successfully adapted to management in remote and hybrid workplaces have seen less reason to try and force employees to return to a pre-2020 way of working. But how do you successfully lead a remote or hybrid team? Here we’ll give you five tips for managing a hybrid or remote team.
When you work in the office reaching out to a colleague, a team member or your manager is often as easy as saying their name. But when you’re remote, that may be a bit harder – especially for introverted employees. At the same time, when you don’t see your employees regularly (if ever), it’s extremely important to make sure they feel heard. The easiest way to make sure that your employees are heard, and feel like they have access to you as a manager, is to schedule regular check-ins. It doesn’t even have to be a call or a meeting on the calendar. A quick message can go a long way. Simply ask questions like “do you need anything from me?” or “is there anything you need to talk about?”
For teams that are fully in-office or teams that are fully remote being inclusive is a lot easier, as all employees are in the same situation. But for hybrid teams creating an environment that includes everyone can be a real challenge. Especially because being a hybrid team doesn’t necessarily mean that every employee mixes working from the office and remote to the same extent. You might have one employee who’s always in the office, two who are always remote, and three more who mix and match. So, how do you make sure everyone is included? Start out by making sure that everyone has equal access to meetings. You can do this by making every meeting digital even if you assume that everyone will be present in the office on the day of the meeting. This avoids situations where an employee who is remote, for whatever reason, is excluded from participating or needs to ask for the meeting to turn digital. But activities aren’t the only place you need to focus if you want to make your hybrid team more inclusive. You need to consider it when you’re hiring as well. It can be tempting to recruit team members who follow the same hybrid pattern as the rest of your team. But this is rarely successful. Even if a team member starts out mixing working from the office and from home, lives change, and they may end up being more remote or more in-office than previously. Because of this, it’s a good idea to make sure you maintain a good balance between remote and in-office employees. Being the only fully remote employee on an otherwise hybrid or in-office team is a quick way to start feeling excluded.
In the ideal hybrid environment, everyone is remote on the same days, and everyone is in the office on the same days, as this will give you the best of both worlds. There are a couple of issues with this, however. First, it’s extremely unlikely to happen consistently, unless you start mandating office days and secondly, it would remove a lot of the opportunities to capitalize on some of the benefits of going hybrid in the first place. Because of that, you need to create a system that allows for flexibility and supports changes in planning.
Company cultures used to be defined by the office, and especially things like team building have previously required a physical presence, but that’s not the best option if your team is hybrid. As a hybrid team, there’s often a bigger need for structured team building events, because the passive team building of being in the same office at the same time isn’t there. On top of that, you also need to reconsider team building to suit your team. If you have people who are fully remote on your team, there’s a chance that they won’t be able to meet up for team building, which means you need to come up with digital solutions for building a cohesive team.
Leading by example isn’t a new concept, but it’s still extremely important when it comes to hybrid teams, and you need to set the standard in almost any hybrid work initiative you take. For instance, you need to make sure that you are not confining your own activities to a single environment. If you want your team members to mix working from the office and working from home, you need to do that yourself as well. Otherwise, you may end up setting a standard of one day at home four days in the office, even if that isn’t your intention, simply because your team members begin to mimic your behaviour.
The landscape of hybrid work looks very different today than it did when companies first started going hybrid. Companies are slowly beginning to realize that you can’t just copy each other and expect great things. And because of that hybrid work has changed, and it will keep changing. Every year the makeup of your workforce changes, and even if it doesn’t the daily lives of your employees will, as they have kids, grow older, move to a new house or to a different part of the country. What works in your organization this year, may not work next year. This means that as managers and employees we need to adapt to a changing work environment. And that seems to be the future of hybrid work. It is going to change, and we need to be ready for it.