Working Efficiently with Hybrid or Remote Teams

by | May 24, 2024 | Leadership Development, Nonprofit Leadership Development, Strategic Planning

 

There are so many benefits to embracing a hybrid or remote workplace.

It can make life easier for parents and people with disabilities. It can improve work-life balance, freeing up time from commuting to focus on health, family, or other personal priorities.

But hybrid or remote work can also challenge us in unexpected ways.

  • Most of us didn’t receive training on hybrid/remote team management.
  • You or your organization’s leadership might prefer in-person collaboration and feel forced to adapt to other people’s preferences.
  • You might discover you don’t trust or rely on other team members as much as you should when you don’t see them at their desks.
  • Remote and hybrid work can be especially isolating and challenging for extroverts, who get energized by social interactions.

What is a leader to do? Here are our top four tips based on our own and our clients’ experiences.

 

1) Embrace a Hybrid Mindset

For decades, hybrid and remote work has been seen as an “accommodation” for those who need it, whether for health, geography, family, or caregiving reasons.

But it’s time to put that image in the dustbin. Hybrid and remote work can benefit everyone—including you. Research shows that people feel more “productive, balanced, and loyal” to their organizations when they have greater flexibility in where, when, and how they work.

If you or members of your team are struggling to embrace a hybrid workplace, why not take a minute to list out which elements of hybrid or remote work you appreciate and benefit from?

 

2) Be Strategic About Tools for Hybrid Collaboration

One of the continuing challenges of hybrid collaboration isn’t the lack of tools—it’s that there are far too many! In a 2023 hybrid workplace survey, 64% of people felt their organization used too many communication platforms.

Our advice? Pick 1-2 platforms and stick with them.

For project management, we and many of our clients use Asana. Asana can enable seamless project management across different teams and initiatives. If you and your team fully embrace a tool like Asana, it can also minimize the need for emails and even meetings—saving precious time in everyone’s day.

There are also other project management tools out there, such as monday.com or Notion. The key is to pick one and invest the time to customize it to your needs.

For communications, picking one single platform can be a bit more complicated. We’ve seen plenty of organizations invest in a tool like Slack, while still using email, text messaging, and other chat platforms. Instead of going after whichever platform has the most bells and whistles, start by making a couple of lists:

  • How do you currently communicate with team members on issues with different urgency and complexity? Spell out each type of communication and the process you use. Ask your team members to do the same.
  • What are the pros and cons you’re experiencing with each type of communication? For example, if you tag someone in Asana and they don’t respond within two hours, do you then email and text anxiously?
  • What single change in how you communicate would save you the most time and energy? Keep in mind, this change might not even be about the tool you use. It might be how you are using tools. For example, maybe you need to set the expectation that people respond to tasks or questions in Asana within a certain time frame.

Once you know how you and your team members communicate best, you can start exploring whether products like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Chat, or others can help you improve your day-to-day work experience.

When rolling out any new tool to your team, remember that people often do better when they understand why a change is being made. Be sure to communicate how the tool was selected, how you envision using it, and how you hope it will improve your workplace. Even if people were involved in testing and using the tool, reminding them of the process and goals is still important.

 

3) Get Super Clear on Expectations

Team management and organizational success aren’t simply about “putting in the hours.” In most cases, the most important thing is meeting deliverables on time.

Instead of focusing on schedules, focus on being clear in communicating expectations. Explain what you expect your team to deliver and when. Include more details than you think people need!

For example, if you assign a staff member to write a needs assessment report for a new program, explain how long the report should be, what types of data sources you expect them to use, the audience the report will be used for, the structure and tone the text should have, and even the formatting you expect. Provide samples if possible.

Also, communicate your expectations both verbally and in writing. The differences in how people learn and understand information can be heightened in a remote or hybrid workplace.

 

4) Focus on Finding Ways to Meaningfully Connect

For many people, especially Gen Z, finding camaraderie and personal development in the workplace is especially important. People want to feel seen and valued.

In our experience, simply taking the time to get to know your team members—and actively listening—can go a long way. If you’re doing check-ins via phone or Zoom, resist the urge to multi-task. Give your team members your full attention.

When someone has exceeded expectations, give timely, positive feedback. This helps set the stage for the times when you need to deliver more constructive feedback.

Authenticity and transparency can also go a long way. Take the time to ask team members how they are doing—and share how you are doing in return. Get to know each other. Sometimes simply sharing that you’ve had a tough week can open the floodgates for empathy and connection.

Finding ways to connect more meaningfully can also help you pre-empt any innate bias you or others may have when it comes to promotions for remote vs. in-person team members.

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