The hybrid workplace is continuously changing as talent is now more inclined to apply to fully-remote roles.
This poses new demands for managers who need to speed up the way they build a lasting culture while they continue handling classic communication and work structure challenges.
But these hybrid workplace challenges are not exactly new.
They’re tidbits you might have experienced in a remote or in-office setting and now need to adapt to as some employees are choosing to stay home while others are dropping by the office.
Nevertheless, there’s 6 challenges your hybrid team is likely to encounter at some point. Here’s how to overcome them and prevent similar pains from reappearing.
1. Keeping communication in one place
The biggest team and productivity killer is miscommunication. The root cause is a simple one: Team members not sharing everything in one common place or not giving the right instructions. The results range from simple “Sorry, I’ll fix this ASAP” messages to delayed deadlines and lost funding or clients because you couldn’t ship something on time.
You can fix all of these time delays, bugs, or team conflicts by setting up a central company hub. Specifically, you’ll want a platform for knowledge sharing and decision making. Pick either a project management software with a complete set of feature for your team’s needs or a dedicated knowledge management tool.
But there’s another facet to ensuring both your remote and on-site team have access to timely and accurate information. The policies you’ve set from the very beginning. Here’s some ideas to consider:
- How often managers should sync with their teams
- If meetings or their notes are recorded for absent team members to review when they get back from their day off
- If you want to replace daily stand-up meetings with a quick Slack check-in
- What your company’s communication goals are and how you track these
Another big factor that goes into messing up communication in the hybrid workplace is distractions. Whether it’s background noises during meetings or your friends’ texting you during work hours, these play a big part in lowering overall productivity.
While a phone is easy to put away, to get rid of background noises you’ll need a solution like Krisp. The app eliminates unwanted background sounds and extra voices from other people in the room on both ends of a conversation. This way, your employees can rest assured they’ve got a professional meeting set-up, complete with virtual backgrounds and echo cancelation. No matter where they are.
2. Facilitating social connections [and ensuring no one is left behind]
31% of employees leave their job within the first six months. And it’s not because of money. The biggest problems include poor leadership and team culture.
In my own experience working with both fully-remote companies and hybrid ones, I’ve noticed one common pattern: The companies with a high employee turnover rate didn’t invest in culture. To be exact, they didn’t build connections between their employees. So it was all about work and more work.
Social connection at work help teams bond over something that’s of value to them besides their work. Truth is that outside of the office, connections need to be scheduled. Otherwise, they just don’t happen naturally like they would in a regular office setting.
I remember at some point I was the only one working remotely while the rest of the team was working from the office. Opportunities to really connect were non-existent so I often felt isolated. This left me struggling to create such social interactions for myself. Worked for a while, but ultimately, you want these initiatives to come from the leadership.
There’s dozens of activities to consider if you want your hybrid team to stay connected:
- Having mandatory coffee chats for each team and switching teams around every now and then
- Connecting random employees, regardless of the team they belong to, for a virtual
- Regularly holding in-person [or not] events where all employees can meet up
- Making team building activities a weekly [not quarterly or yearly] habit
- Creating social groups [can be just channels in Slack] but making sure everyone is part of at least one or two of these
- Getting anonymous feedback from your team to see what else needs improvement
3. Re-building team culture from the ground up
You’ve probably been working remotely for the past years so there’s already new rules [written or not] your team probably got used to. But switching to hybrid mode means you’ll need to adapt these to the new norm.
Team building events will no longer always be online. Everyone will expect a lot more flexibility. Teams still need to stay accountable and have a shared purpose. The topic of fairness will often be brought up so you need to work on maintaining equity. You’ll need new ways to manage conflicts across both the physical and the virtual realms.
And the list goes on.
The best solution is to finally start working on a Company Handbook and sticking to its best practices.
On one end, there’s the basics you need to cover, like:
- How communication works
- How you manage projects and tasks
- What resources managers can use
- How a project handoff happens
- How you do meetings
Then come the aspects you’d be tempted to forget about:
- How the team socializes
- How employees should share their appreciation for other colleagues
- What missions and values the team shares
You can only re-build and reinforce a strong hybrid culture by taking ALL of the above into account and making sure everyone is aware of their role within the team and their contribution to that shared vision.
4. Finding talent
Let’s face it. Everyone got a taste of the flexibility remote work offers so very few are willing to go back to working from the office. 97% of people would like to keep working remotely at least some of the time.
In fact, there’s now a much higher demand for remote jobs than actual remote opportunities. So most companies are staying open. They want to hire the best talent after all. Remote or not.
The worst mistake companies could make right now is to only advertise their roles as hybrid ones. This automatically removes you from the feed of anyone looking for a remote role. Even from someone open to working from the office for one day a week or a week/month.
But job categorization is difficult to bypass. Trick number one to “fool” the system is to list your job opening on both remote and on-site job directories. For a platform like LinkedIn, you can have multiple listings. One for the hybrid opportunity and a separate one for the remote role.
Did you know companies list their jobs for multiple locations [i.e. cities, countries] to ensure a wider reach? Take a similar approach but be transparent about your hybrid work policies.
Plus, remember there’s always room to upskill your current team members and improve your staff retention rates in the process. It also pays to be open to junior-level professionals. There’s fewer remote and hybrid roles out there for people at this stage of their career. [Note: This will require some extra policies for training and mentoring new employees.] 😉
5. Setting performance evaluation standards
Among the challenges of hybrid work models comes the following question:
Where and how do I get reliable data on my team’s performance?
Your first thoughts will likely lead you to search for one solution to give you all the performance analytics in one go.
In reality, your projects are managed separately from where your team’s wellbeing is monitored. And your software development team uses completely different tools from your marketers. Nothing’s ever in a single app even when both remote and in-office employees share solutions.
Take a step-by-step approach to tracking and measuring performance in a hybrid team setting. One channel/problem at a time. Next are some common challenges you’ll find in the hybrid workplace:
Checking in on the team’s pulse: Send anonymous pulse surveys on a regular basis to get an idea of how each employee is feeling and what challenges they’re facing but aren’t ready to talk about.
For lengthy meetings: Monitor engagement levels during your calls and review the amount of time you spent in meetings with Krisp.
For the dreaded task of tracking OKRs: Use a tool like Hyperontext, Mirro, or Fellow to set the right OKRs and see how you’re progressing.
Seeing if your team’s wasting time: Experiment with time tracking tools to find out if certain tasks are blocking your team. You might want to assign more people to an activity or reorganize your time estimates if milestones are repeatedly missed or postponed.
Remember that teams in a hybrid workplace might require more frequent check-ins and reporting to ensure alignment and prevent any tasks or goals from falling through the cracks.
6. Facing the omnipresent productivity challenge
Finally fixed all productivity issues for your remote team?
Great! Time to take those learnings and adapt them to the new hybrid reality.
In a hybrid team environment, employees could find themselves lost in communication [see point 1 above], missing meetings, or simply not trusting the work a colleague is doing. All of this is highly a matter of individual preferences.
Staying open to flexible working arrangements is likely to boost productivity and employee satisfaction. But each person will have different productivity drivers, depending on their role and day-to-day duties.
I’ve taken a couple of common team roles and had a look at what drives optimal productivity for each:
- Team leads: These individuals do best when they’re given all the tools they need to properly coordinate team members. Schedule regular feedback sharing sessions, help them get everyone in their team to share their thoughts during meetings, and create coaching opportunities.
- Marketing specialists/managers: This role is highly dependent on every individual’s duties. A content manager might prefer a quiet work environment to focus on deep work such as writing or content ideation. A partnership manager, on the other hand, will feel more productive either coming into the office to hold meetings or even going to a partner’s headquarters.
- Product owners: Teamwork is key here. So if your product documentation and tasks are scattered or separated from the engineering tasks, you’re in for a huge mess. Instead, stick to classic methodologies and frameworks. Have regular sprint meetings and organize fun brainstorming sessions that involve multiple team types.
Next steps to handle these challenges of the hybrid workplace
Regardless of the challenges you’ll face, remember to outline your boundaries and make them a part of your culture. Is it ok for certain team members to never show up in person? Who’s in charge of monitoring employee engagement and making sure no one is left behind? Are there any blockers your employees are staying quiet about?
Most of the challenges above could be hidden at the moment. So run anonymous employee surveys to get their true thoughts. Pair this with regular performance analysis. Look at missed milestones, progress that’s slower than expected, and unjustified behavior like employee absenteeism from both work duties and the fun team chats.