Managing Hybrid-Work Teams: How to Lead Both In and Out of the Office

Managing Hybrid-Work Teams: How to Lead Both In and Out of the Office

Hybrid work arrangements are becoming the norm. In fact, an Accenture report revealed that 83% of workers they surveyed preferred a hybrid work arrangement. Hybrid work offers the best of both worlds. It allows employees to choose between working from home or in the office as they see fit. For example, a worker may work from home throughout the week and come in when needed to collaborate or check-in with a co-worker or client.

This arrangement has become even more of a reality for most workplaces since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, while this can be a great benefit for workers — particularly regarding work-life balance — it can be a challenging thing to contend with if you're a project manager trying to keep everyone on the same page.

You have the task of ensuring projects meet client expectations while meeting deadlines and coming in under budget even if your team members are in or out of the office.

How can you effectively do this if the work location of your team members changes? If you are trying to manage the possible rockiness of a hybrid work schedule, here are some helpful tips:

Have a Hybrid or Remote Work Policy

It can be tempting to embrace work flexibility without having a plan or a policy. However, having a set of parameters for location-independent work can help you and all your team members stay on the same page. For example, you may determine that Wednesdays are the best day for meetings due to scheduling. As a result, you may want all team members to be present — whether virtually or physically — for either all or part of the day.

Nevertheless, if you don't make this a policy, ensuring everyone makes this a priority can be daunting. Therefore, sit down with leadership and see if there is a policy you all can adhere to that outlines things like the days individuals can work from home and how everyone will communicate with one another if they have to work at a distance. The Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM has an excellent telecommuting policy template to get started with.

Communicate expectations

Once you've outlined a hybrid or remote work policy, it's critical that you emphasize the importance of communication. For example, let's say that you or your company have a flexible hybrid or remote work arrangement. Per the policy, you allow colleagues to come into the office to work when they please, but there is an expectation that everyone is there to collaborate with a client on a specific day.

It's important to communicate to team members when they need to be in the office and ensure they have enough lead time to prepare their workflow. Everyone may have different expectations of when they plan to work in and away from the office. Therefore, make clear and regular communication a priority to prevent any misunderstandings.

Choose the Right Tools

If a hybrid work arrangement is going to work, you have to invest in the right tools to facilitate both in-office and at-home work arrangements. If your colleagues are working in and out of the office, it's crucial that you invest in a virtual cloud file solution that all colleagues can access to work on project documents.

To facilitate streamlined conversations, you need to have a way for colleagues to interact with one another, so programs like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom can help your team members to speak with one another no matter where they are.

Additionally, software tools like Asana or Trello allow you to assign and explain tasks. Technology is not a cure-all when it comes to hybrid and remote work. However, it can solidify your policy and help you accommodate employees wherever they are. And a recent survey by Gartner revealed how essential the right tools are to successful collaboration. According to the survey, nearly 80% of workers are using collaboration tools for work.

Take Advantage of Shared Calendars

We live in a time now where you can see what your team members have planned for the next day, week, and even month. A shared calendar makes it easy to schedule time with your colleagues, as well as indicate where you will be.

For example, Google Calendar allows users to block off time for meetings while indicating where they will be working from throughout the week. Also, its integration with Slack makes it possible to ensure your work status on the communication platform changes depending on the time blocked off on your calendar.

Make Sure Everyone is as Involved As They Want to Be

Just because a colleague may not be in the office that day doesn't mean they may not want to be a part of that quick office conversation you're having. If a discussion starts, think about who else would benefit or be impacted by the information and make a point to involve those people.

This can look like scheduling a video call with a colleague who may be out of the office or transferring an in-office conversation to Slack so that colleagues who are not in the office can be involved. Much of the process around keeping everyone in the loop consists of shifting to a mindset that ensures everyone who wants to be involved in a conversation can.

Give Employees Enough Notice About Meetings and Catch Ups

Make sure you're giving your colleagues some lead time when setting up meetings or general face-to-face catch-ups. Also, start to think about what you want to accomplish with your in-person meetups. For example, suppose quite a few colleagues have reached out with questions about a task or a part of a project.

In that case, you may want to dedicate the next meeting to answering these inquiries and allowing individuals to ask even more questions as there may be other colleagues with the same concerns. On the other hand, you might want to schedule a collaboration session if some work needs to happen in person.

Embrace One-on-One Meetings

Regardless of the location of your teams, you want to ensure they have access to you. Because of the limitations of remote work, you may not spontaneously run into team members like you used to. Therefore, it's important that you schedule times for your team members to speak with you directly.

A great way to do this is by scheduling one-on-one meetings. These are short meetings that you consistently have with each team member. This process allows you to answer any individual questions that are specific to their work situation and mimic the in-office interactions you would have if they were in the office.

Be Empathetic and Understanding

We are living in constantly evolving times. From public health concerns due to COVID-19 to working parents lacking childcare , there are many obstacles that you're team members might be facing. So, it helps to always lead with empathy and compassion. If a team member is late to a meeting, a personal family matter could have held them up.

Additionally, if a co-worker decides to stay at home and work instead of coming to the office, they may still have anxiety about getting ill because of the virus.

Offering leeway and assuming that your colleagues are trying to manage their lives while staying up on their work shows your team members that you care, and it creates an environment where everyone can be patient with each other.

Final Thoughts

A hybrid remote work arrangement can work. However, it takes strategy, forethought, compassion, and excellent policy. Considering how the current state of work is consistently changing, remote work and hybrid work may become the norm. The more effective your approach to these arrangements, the easier it will be to keep your team on track.


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