Hybrid working has grown to be a viable work model in modern workplaces. Given the flexibility of place and many more advantages, many companies have embraced a hybrid working model to build an inclusive workplace that enhances business productivity. Corporate giants such as Google and Microsoft announced that hybrid working will be their new mode of operation.
Though the hybrid work model has many benefits, how it is implemented may differ from business to business. For example, some organizations follow a model where some employees work onsite and a few others work from home all the time, whereas others follow a partial hybrid model where all employees work remotely for a few days of the week.
Team collaboration has been one of the many challenges that companies have encountered in a hybrid work model. To keep up with the times, businesses need to shun old ways of working and re-invent themselves so their teams to effectively collaborate over different locations and time zones.
5 Best Practices for Team Collaboration in a Hybrid Workplace
These are some of the tried and tested team collaboration practices for any type of hybrid working team:
Invest in the right technology, equipment, and employee training
The role of technology in a hybrid workplace is manifold.
Hybrid teams are a mix of employees joining in from different locations. Workplace technologies must be accommodative to the varying needs of both remote and onsite employees. While there is a myriad of tools to cater to a range of virtual team collaboration needs, using multiple apps can make employees stressed and create unnecessary confusion.
Hence, it is important to have a centralized communication and collaboration technology for hybrid teams. Choosing the right technology is pivotal for effective team communication and accelerating productivity
In hybrid workplaces, technology plays a crucial role in reducing managerial responsibilities. Managers are entrusted with the task of handling onsite as well as remote employees. Leveraging technology for employee monitoring and work management helps managers to monitor team performance from any location without having to micro-manage.
At the same time, offering equitable access to resources for remote employees helps them integrate into the team. Remote employees, just like their in-office counterparts must be equipped with all the tools needed for a seamless remote working experience.
No tool is properly utilized unless its uses are known to the user. While a project management tool like Asana can enhance employee productivity, employees must possess ample technical knowledge to use it effectively. Employee training is one of the best practices for hybrid teams to improve team collaboration. It ensures that all team members are on the same page.
Implement an ‘asynchronous first, virtual meetings only when necessary’ policy
The notion that virtual meetings imply ‘team collaboration’ has not worked. Companies, at the start of the pandemic, went on a virtual meeting spree to improve team efficiency in a remote setting. Back-to-back virtual meetings kept employees glued to the screen, causing burnout and stress. The meeting fatigue created a gradual disinterest in participating in virtual meetings and impacted team collaboration.
Team meetings are inevitable when it comes to team collaboration. Online meetings allow teams to communicate in real-time, closely replicating an office meeting setup. However, in an online meeting, it is difficult to observe non-verbal cues. The constant camera gaze makes employees feel overly conscious of their physical attributes and behavior. Research proves continuous online meetings affect employee engagement and deprive them of the time to focus on the ‘real’ work.
One of the best practices for team collaboration for hybrid teams is to have planned interactions. In the traditional workplace, meetings and interactions –both formal and informal could be conducted spontaneously with minimal preparation and within short notice.
However, with a distributed workforce, interactions are effective only if they are scheduled and planned meticulously. Since a hybrid team collaboration is virtual in nature, it requires proper planning of activities to drive active employee engagement
Likewise, in a hybrid working model, opting for virtual meetings as the first option may be an ineffective way to collaborate. Instead using asynchronous communication as the standard corporate communication method may be better. The use of emails, instant messaging apps like Slack and virtual brainstorming tools like Trello makes asynchronous collaboration interactive, inclusive and easier for managers to drive discussion. Online meetings must only be an extension of such asynchronous discussions.
Here are some ways in which many high performing teams use asynchronous communication tools in a hybrid workplace:
- For brainstorming to bring out the employee creativity regardless of their location
- Giving space for even the quietest person in a meeting to give their input Implementing an async-first approach to collaborating with teams in a hybrid workplace can also be beneficial when working across different time zones. Using async-communication, hybrid teams can collaborate more inclusively, providing an equal opportunity for all employees regardless of their location.
Set standard work protocol, goals, and expectations
Transparency is fundamental in hybrid team communication. Managers must set realistic team goals and delegate tasks efficiently. Clear communication is vital to aligning employees to the team’s collaboration strategy.
Depending on the model of the hybrid team – whether it’s a team that has a few full-time employees working remotely or a team that follows a rotational shift, managers must be empathetic and open to improvements to ensure workflow is smooth.
Being clear and concise about tasks and workflow is important for a seamless team collaboration experience. Every employee in a hybrid team must be acutely aware of their roles and responsibilities.
Regular review and feedback for improvement of employee performance and work processes
The hybrid working system is still a fairly new concept. Work policies have to be constantly tweaked based on employee performance and team feedback. Team leaders must make it a point to review the existing work policies regularly and make necessary updates. In a newly formed hybrid team, paying heed to employee feedback can help improve the quality of team collaboration.
It is also important to have a periodic evaluation of each employee’s performance to provide suggestions for improvement. Depending on the size and nature of the team, managers must choose an appraisal method to assess the performance of the team.
Create opportunities for team bonding and human connection
Conversations are no longer serendipitous in a hybrid working environment. The lack of workplace interactions has had a negative impact on the way teams work. Employees are deprived of the chance to socialize and network naturally when are away from the physical office environment. Frankly, remote employees are the most affected of the lot. Working away from other team members has created a mental distance. This lack of connection can be detrimental when teams need to collaborate on a project.
Much like a fully remote working setup, team collaboration in a hybrid team can also suffer if employees within a team do not feel a sense of belonging to the team. Bringing teams together with fun-filled virtual team-building activities is a proven way of nurturing bonds.
Owing to technology, there are many virtual team building assistants such as Miro that can help in developing interpersonal bonds in a hybrid team. Team leaders are responsible for establishing a foundation of trust and loyalty in the team, and team-building activities play a significant part in the process of connecting a distributed workforce.
Unlike traditional offices, a successful hybrid team collaboration is the result of conscious coordination between the management, and onsite and remote employees. Managers must be proactive in creating an environment of trust, equality, and inclusiveness.
However, this cannot be achieved overnight. It requires a strong understanding of employee requirements, and an empathetic approach to make reforms when necessary. Team collaboration in hybrid workplaces requires a well-thought strategy to be effective and less cumbersome.