Remote work can have a lot of benefits for employees and also for organizations. You can leverage time zones, lower overhead costs, and unique geographical access.
In a post-pandemic economy, distributed teams are more common than ever.
However, when managing a hybrid team of both remote and local workers, there are often issues that other team structures don’t have.
The first thing you need to understand is that local and remote employees have very different work conditions. Because of this, managing a hybrid team takes a special approach.
Therefore, in this post, we will explore the nature of hybrid teams and how to improve collaboration within them.
The 7 key strategies below will help you improve productivity, communication, and ultimately company success.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
What Is a Hybrid Team?
A traditional team has all employees in the same physical location, such as an office.
A remote team has everyone distributed in various locations, working remotely from their phones, laptops or desktop computers.
Hybrid teams are a mix of these two types of teams.
Some team members work in-house at your office, while others, the remote team members, can work from essentially anywhere, even other countries.
While the local team often has management staff overlooking them, the remote team is less supervised.
The Benefits of a Hybrid Team
There can be a lot of strategic advantages of having a hybrid team. You get the benefits of both the local office environment and remote work environment.
Here are some of the main upsides:
- Local: Having a local office means your employees feel more connected and engaged. They’ll have access to better amenities, and even food or snacks, and be able to socialize. Communication can also be faster between team members.
- Remote: Remote team members don’t have to commute hours every day to and from work. They also require less overhead if they are working from home.
As you can see, combining the two types of employee arrangements above can bring a number of benefits to your company and your workers.
It can increase profits, productivity, and employee happiness.
However, there are certainly challenges to consider as well.
How to Improve Collaboration in Hybrid Teams
So let’s talk about 7 tips to get the most out of your employees by improving collaboration in your hybrid team.
1. Manage Asynchronous Communication
Synchronous communication is when both the sender and receiver of the information are engaged in a live conversation. When you have our whole team right next to each other, this is easy to achieve.
However, things get more complicated when you have a flexible mix of remote and local workers.
When this is the case, you are going to have a lot of asynchronous communication.
This means that instead of getting responses and dialogues going instantly, there is some lag time.
Someone sends a message, it sits in an inbox for a while, and the receiver finally gets around to seeing it. Then, sometimes even after a full day, they send the response.
Of course, this kind of asynchronous cycle can go on for days, even weeks.
This means that your team’s operations are slowed down. If someone from sales needs to get information from operations, it will put everything on hold for your customers, slowing down your revenue.
Therefore, be sure to effective strategies for remote communication or define acceptable delays.
2. Set Clear Work Boundaries
When your office is also your home, it can get difficult to make a distinction between the professional and the private.
Thus, the remote workers on your hybrid team may have more challenges in that regard.
When working in an office, our brain tends to ignore private matters and focus on the tasks at hand, then “check out” after the workday is over.
However, walking over from your kitchen table to the living room doesn’t quite have that same effect.
Therefore, those working remotely tend to think a lot more about work, or even do work-related activities around the clock.
Not having set start and end times can be really draining for the remote worker. They might feel like they’re getting more done, but their focus levels will drop.
As such, they might not be bringing their best self to the work they’re doing, causing issues when collaborating with others.
If this is the case, encourage employees to work within set hours only and track their productivity.
3. Optimize Decision Making
When two team members who aren’t in the same room need to make a decision on something, the process can take a while.
However, great decision making is part of the DNA of successful companies. Therefore, you need a way to optimize your company’s decision making.
Peter Drucker, the great management executive, once spoke about two factors that are involved in great decision making.
The first is deciding exactly what the goals of your organization are.
After all, if you are comparing two decisions, you need a target in order to evaluate which one is better suited to your purpose.
The second part of great decision making is assigning one — and only one — person to make each decision.
This way, you don’t need to worry about arguments or confusion.
If two people are working together on a project, they know exactly who is responsible for delivering the result and making the decision.
4. Involve Everyone in the Culture
A key factor in great collaboration is your team feeling like they are on the same page. And having a great culture is a way to achieve this.
People build rapport with one another and eventually create team chemistry.
If you’ve ever experienced bad culture then you know how important a good one is. It is the ultimate recipe for happy team members who work effectively.
Build a culture of trust and companionship. Of course, this takes effort.
You may need to find ways to get everyone involved, even if some of your team is not in the office. No one should be forgotten about or undervalued.
Therefore, take some steps back every once in a while to have fun together.
Even occasional online games between team members can get everyone feeling like they belong in your company.
5. Improve Training
Having flexible, hybrid teams is a major asset in today’s world. It means that you’re already halfway to success by leveraging technology.
However, don’t make the mistake of missing out on the benefits of using technology for training as well.
Most of the time, an employee can only be as effective as their training.
Management needs to take responsibility for the resources that their hybrid team can use, while those in the office have direct access to managers and mentors.
Since access to mentors might not be a possibility for remote teams, consider recording your training and providing videos to those who work from home.
That way, they can be on the same page as their in-office counterparts.
6. Collaborate on Tasks Effectively
In your company, you have a range of different projects. These are crucial for delivering results for your audience or clients.
Each project can be broken down into tasks. However, you might reserve some tasks for your in-house team while others are delegated to those working remotely.
Having a way to effectively collaborate on these tasks is crucial. Each task needs to be completed, shared, and resolved.
Specialized mobile apps for your business are one way to handle this. It lets your hybrid team communicate back and forth quickly and from whenever they are to see what still needs to be done.
Even if someone makes a coffee run, they can receive alerts. This allows your team to respond to urgent requests or messages in real-time, which is key for better collaboration.
7. Take Security Seriously
There have been numerous high-profile security breaches in recent memory.
It has shown us that even large banks and corporations with millions of dollars in security budgets are vulnerable.
Therefore, small and medium businesses need to be on high alert.
Security is a lot like insurance. You want to have it, yet hope that you never need to use it actively.
By having security protocols in place, your team can relax and focus on their core competencies.
That being said, there are a few strategies for better security you should know.
The first is to have firewalls and antivirus software. These programs should be installed on all employee devices.
A lot of sensitive information is shared back and forth when working on projects.
Secondly, hold security meetings a few times each year to talk about your company’s policies with regards to information integrity to avoid any breaches.
Having a mix of local and remote team members can be a very beneficial structure for your business. You may even need to move to this type of arrangement due to modern realities due to the pandemic.
Regardless of your reasons for leveraging distributed and remote workers, there are some best practices you need to keep in mind.
Otherwise, you risk a loss of communications, slower workflows, and confusion.
In order to stay on top of your company’s tasks and keep everyone collaborating effectively, use the 7 tips above.
That way, your flexible team can enjoy all of the upsides without the downsides of remote collaboration.
Jill Phillips is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, who loves to share her insight on various topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog. Connect with Jill via Twitter @jillphlps.