“My remote teammates are working less than me.”
“Two of our employees never show up for our virtual lunch break chats.”
“I never know what the in-office team is working on.”
These are all common challenges a newly built hybrid team will face at some point.
In particular, fairness in collaboration is important to maintain the trust between your remote and in-office employees as well as to maintain a smooth project documentation and handover process.
To get you up to speed with the best practices that improve collaboration in hybrid workplaces, I’m going over 6 strategies that show immediate results. Each one of these is focused on helping managers solve a different collaboration issue.
1. Keep distractions away
Distractions are inevitable.
That’s the plain truth we can’t avoid.
There’s always one more chore that needs immediate attention or a quick errand someone has to run during work hours.
So ultimately what matters is:
- Building employer-employee trust and allowing your team to stay flexible as long as they can deliver work on time.
- Preventing distractions on one employee’s side from interrupting the work of others.
The most common [and also the most prone to disturbances] event when remote and in-office team members get to interact are meetings.
And these are surprisingly easy to manage.
A tool like Krisp helps managers tackle three common meeting challenges:
- It removes surrounding noises and cancels background voices from other people speaking in the room based on individual voice pitches.
- It shows you how long a person’s been talking during a meeting so you can monitor engagement levels and get quiet employees to speak up.
- It lets you track the time you spend in meetings so you can better distribute talking points in the future and avoid lengthy meetings.
2. Get your team on board with the new tech you’re picked
Nobody like to have a manager come in and bring more hybrid work tools to the board with no prior training.
So if you’re planning on having your team use new tools, first make sure they truly need it. Choosing an app should be a collaborative effort. Talk to your team members to see what they don’t like about the current solution, what needs they have, and if a new tool will turn into a burden.
After making a joint decision, prepare your training sequence.
In other words, plan how you’re going to introduce the new platform and decide who will handle training and potential questions employees will have. An intro demo meeting is a good place to start. Take this further by holding dedicated demos for each team. Take a project management tool for instance. Your marketers will use it differently from your devs or design team.
Extra tip: Run feedback surveys on a quarterly basis to get a feel of how happy your teams are with the new tech stack addition. You don’t want to change tools every year so make sure that the solutions you pick from the beginning are versatile. Going back to our project management app example. You don’t need a tool to contain all the features possible as long as that platform’s easy to integrate with the other apps in your data ecosystem.
3. Help your employees connect [even when they’re not part of the same team]
This issue is relatively effortless to handle as long as you commit to making healthy employee interactions a part of your culture.
Some inexpensive ideas for building a collaborative culture in the hybrid workplace:
- Embrace facilitating random connections between members of the same team or not
- Support new team members by assigning dedicated mentors
- Create an environment that fosters feedback and transparency
- Set up dedicated monthly or weekly times for employees to dedicate part of their schedule to building something with team members they don’t usually work with
- Allow your employees to share activities and take time for the usual office chit-chat remotely too
- Schedule cross-functional one-on-one calls or make these quarterly trips to the office for some solid bonding
If you’re running out of ideas, just ask your team!
Most problems that collaboration in a hybrid workplace could bring up can be solved by just giving your employees a voice. This is the most powerful method for making them feel valued and also ensuring that the changes you make are worthwhile. Managers retain the right to adjust the final strategies and tools based on general best practices.
4. Prioritize knowledge sharing
“Going back to the office also means I no longer need to track everything in an app, right?”
A common belief that many will stick to even when they don’t actively think of it.
Once employees are back in the office, they’re highly likely to forget about writing down all documentation. So their remote counterparts will no longer have all the resources and updates on a task’s progress.
That’s where you come in to state the obvious: “We need to make sure everything that happens on a project is documented.”
For hybrid teams, effective knowledge sharing is a costless process that has dozens of benefits, such as:
- Preventing delayed or missed deadlines due to poor communication
- Keeping all resources and project history in one place
- Making it easier for new team members to adapt to a project and continue where work was left off
- Highlighting potential details, data points, or strategies you’d miss in the absence of a shared knowledge hub
- Speeding up productivity as individuals are no longer aimlessly asking and waiting around for the insights they need
So how do you get started with improving knowledge sharing?
Encourage knowledge sharing in multiple formats. Sure, keeping everything tidy in Notion is one guaranteed way of not letting anything pass through the cracks. But it’s not fun. So employees aren’t motivated to eagerly participate in knowledge sharing.
Dig into the common personality types on your team and turn those traits and channels they’d enjoy using. From classic file directories to dedicated Slack channels, recorded calls, and Loom video folders. Reserve time for regular retrospective meetings with 5-10 extra minutes for people to share and contribute knowledge.
Idea in practice: Organize workshops on a weekly or monthly basis by calling up experts to teach your team skills ranging from design for everyone to leadership or getting started with managing projects.
5. Set clear KPIs and OKRs
Goal setting is more important than ever with hybrid workplace collaboration because it’s that one core thing that aligns all employees.
But first, a quick distinction between Key Performance Indicators [KPIs] and Objectives and Key Results [OKRs]:
- KPIs – Measurable data points/numbers that highlight if a strategy is effective or stalling. Example: Reaching $6,000 in sales in each of the next two quarters.
- OKRs – A framework that involves setting goals and key results for each business objective. Example: Attract new clients by increasing PPC advertising spend to $2,000/month.
Evaluating progress on these OKRs shouldn’t be merely a secondary priority. That’s why you need to pair them with KPIs that allow you to see if you’re meeting the company’s performance goals.
As general guidance, focus strictly on the objectives you’re able to attain. Unreasonable or too many targets will only cause more chaos in a hybrid team. Facilitate new creative challenges by setting realistic due dates for fun experiments and following up with them regularly.
6. Work on spreading the trust
Remember my very first point on building employer-employee trust even when distractions are bound to happen?
This whole issue of trust deserves its own strategy in your agenda.
After the pandemic, employees have received more power and leverage when it
comes to creating change within their organization. In fact, they’re now the ones setting expectations and raising the bar. The same Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report has also found out that 6 in 10 employees are now choosing employers based on their values and beliefs.
So if you’re wondering where you can get started with trust building:
It’s through employer branding.
Simply put, how you present your company and team culture to the public. Aside from that, how you handle your recruitment and interviewing process allows you to showcase your company’s values and measure for culture fit.
This is your first chance to establish trust. Even before day one at work.
Employees that trust their employer also tend to be more motivated to take action when change is needed. This idea gives you the chance to test out your current trust levels. Are your employees taking issues to a management team they trust or are they publicly complaining because there’s just no one in the company to listen to them?
Let that sink in a bit.
Prioritize fixing trust issues within your current team. Once you’re able to hold transparent conversations with your employees and meet their expectations, a healthy team culture is much easier to find and promote. Plus, you’re setting yourself up for amazing talent retention stats.
Making sense of collaboration in hybrid workplace
I often talk about how important it is for employees to be happy at work. This is the principle that should guide your hybrid work communication plan as well: How do I make sure every individual on my team is happy?
Most often, keeping employees content in a hybrid team is a matter of:
- Staying true to your values and promises
- Providing not only the right resources for them to collaborate, but also the opportunities for connections to happen [even if virtual ones are the only option]
- Treating every employee fairly and facing them with the same conditions, regardless of whether they work from home or the office
- Being honest about the company’s performance and future changes or new expectations
- Letting every person voice their opinion [anonymously, when otherwise difficult]
- Facilitating career growth opportunities by prioritizing the individual, not the company
- Clearly outlining all hybrid collaboration best practices so employees don’t have to face unprepared management orders
Back to you now!
What are your plans to improve collaboration in your hybrid workplace over the next 3 months? What about the objectives you want to hit by the end of the year? Skim through this list again to organize your priorities.