Managing a hybrid team presents particular challenges.
Hybrid working means anything other than everyone working all the time in the employer’s workplace. Because teams aren’t all in one place, managing a hybrid team requires different skills and processes. Using appropriate tech, training and communication will help enormously.
What is a hybrid team?
A hybrid team is a team that operates on a mix of office based working and remote working from home, often at different times and days so not all team members are in the office on the same day.
The exact hybrid arrangements will vary between employers, but sometimes everyone will be required to be in the office on a particular day, or to spend a minimum number of days in the office each week. Other businesses will give autonomy to employees about when and where they work, and embrace totally “async” working.
What is a hybrid workspace?
A hybrid workspace refers to the business model that an employer operates – having their team work both from the office and/or from remote workspaces, on a flexible basis, using hybrid processes and technology to communicate, share and work together.
What does hybrid working mean in the UK?
Hybrid working means a flexible working arrangement that combines working from the employer’s workplace, from the employee’s home, or indeed any other location.
Hybrid working arrangements exploded in popularity having been forced upon many workers by the pandemic. Many people have found that working on a hybrid basis actually suited them, enabling them to improve their work/life balance, spend more quality time with their families, whilst still getting their work done. Employers, who may not have been driving hybrid working arrangements themselves, found hybrid could work for them, as well as being a tool to attract and retain good staff who now insist on some level of flexibility.
Hybrid working arrangements will usually use technology and hybrid working processes to ensure that asynchronous teams work in a cohesive way with good communications and sharing of resources and information.
How do you manage in a hybrid work environment?
Good communication is essential, as is use of appropriate technology – and training your teams in both. Because your team isn’t always in the same physical space, you need to find another way to ensure that “learning by osmosis” still happens, especially for more junior team members.
Businesses should invest in tech to facilitate their hybrid working practices. Training should be given on new hybrid ways to collaborate and work together as a team. Communication should be ingrained in everyone’s practices. Managers should clearly communicate expectations, boundaries and parameters that they expect their team to work to. There should be a way to monitor productivity – not to micro manage (which has its own issues) but to build and maintain mutual trust and evidence any problems.
Trust is another essential. Don’t leave niggles until an annual appraisal. If there’s an issue, or questions over someone’s productivity, deal with it promptly, within the business’s processes.
Policies and processes should be updated and expanded to operate on both a hybrid/remote and in person basis. This will include ensuring that policies and procedures in the staff handbook like disciplinary, performance management and grievance procedures work for the hybrid working environment. Returning to trust, if managers find they can’t trust a team member to work as required, the processes need to be able to deal with hybrid working arrangements and include relevant sanctions, or provision for appropriate monitoring of productivity (not necessarily by using technology/activity monitoring, by the way).
Communication is key to a successful hybrid working.
What do you need to manage a hybrid team?
You need things like:
- Communication, communication, communication
- Appropriate tools, such as technology
- Robust policies and processes that fit your business’s ways of working
- Clear expectations for conduct, management and contact with customers/suppliers/third parties
- Reporting and appraisal systems
- Regular informal catch ups
How do you manage productivity in a hybrid working environment?
You could use AI tools and things like keystroke monitoring or mouse movement monitoring, but there are legal and practical issues with these. Exercise caution and get advice before using them.
As above, upskilling the workforce and managers in the things they need to be good at is really essential. More communication is a good thing in a hybrid working environment. More frequent communications, booking time for more frequent catch ups and “how’s it going” chats, and ensuring that everyone is given plenty of notice of deadlines, meetings, and internal information updates, are all good tips.
As part of the process of regular catch ups, ensure that you check in on wellbeing. Look for any early warning signs of burnout or stress, or any changes that could be made to deal with niggles before they become a grievance or disciplinary issues. It can be hard to monitor conduct and productivity when you’re not physically in the same workspace. However, given that bullying and harassment haven’t decreased in light of greater hybrid working, it’s important to ensure you can keep track of any developing issues and provide a safe space for staff to share any worries.
Measure performance by production and output rather than the times at which the individual is at their desk. Alter appraisals, goals and objectives if appropriate.
Take care to ensure equality of treatment between office and remote workers. Discrimination is always a risk if you treat some staff differently to others. With many hybrid/remote workers being women with childcare responsibilities, this is an area of risk – don’t ignore home workers in favour of younger, office based staff without caring responsibilities. Also ensure that you are inclusive generally, and have processes in place to ensure equality of opportunity across the range of hybrid working options you provide.
Does hybrid working need to be in the contract?
Hybrid working arrangements don’t need to be set out in the contract, especially if they are a temporary measure.
However, there should at least be a clear hybrid working policy that does cover off expectations, rights, parameters and requirements for hybrid working, that staff and management can refer to in case of issues or questions.
Should hybrid working be in a contract?
It’s best practice though to have a contract of employment that accurately sets out working patterns, expectations for both parties, especially for permanent flexible/hybrid arrangements. So, it’s usually better for things to be made clear in the contract, even if it’s not a “must.”
Trial periods could be used. Details like required training should be in the contract. Protection could be built in with a right for employers to change arrangements that aren’t working or are being abused (whether in the contract itself and/or in a performance or disciplinary procedure).
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