Hybrid work has become increasingly popular over the past few years.1 Currently, around 30% of companies employ a hybrid work model worldwide.2 The widespread adoption of a hybrid working model is due to its many benefits, including lower company overhead costs, access to global talent pools, and higher employee satisfaction.
While hybrid work has a lot to offer, it presents some unique challenges for managers—namely, ensuring team cohesion and fair treatment across their remote and in-person workforces. Fortunately, managers can overcome these challenges by employing the right tactics.
In this article, we’ll outline nine best practices for managing hybrid teams effectively. We’ll also suggest ways to streamline your hybrid company’s global compliance.
Tip #1: Specify Your Hybrid Work Schedule
To start, it’s important to set clear expectations regarding your hybrid work schedule. Hybrid work models can vary significantly from one company to the next.
Some common frameworks include:
- Structured schedules – Structured hybrid work schedules require employees to come into the office on set days of the week, such as Tuesdays and Thursdays or Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
- Flexible schedules – Flexible hybrid work schedules give employees more freedom over how they structure their schedules, often leaving office attendance up to their consideration.
- Alternating schedules – With an alternating schedule, employees spend one week working remotely and one week in the office.
- Half-day schedules – Half-day schedules allow employees to spend part of the day working in the office and part of the day at home.
- Split schedules – Some hybrid companies have one subset of employees that works remotely full-time, while the other subset works in the office.
The right hybrid work schedule will depend on your company’s priorities and employees’ preferences.
Tip #2: Clarify Your Hybrid Workplace Policies
Once you’ve set your preferred hybrid work schedule, it’s time to review your employee handbook. After adopting a hybrid model, you may want to add human resources policies specifying:
- How often employees are expected to work remotely vs. in-person
- How in-person attendance will be monitored
- How employees can maintain cybersecurity while working from home
- When remote employees should take their lunch breaks
- Whether or not virtual meeting attendance is required
By documenting your expectations, hybrid team members can conduct their workweeks accordingly.
Tip #3: Promote Consistent Communication
When your employees are dispersed across multiple locations, effective communication can be difficult. You can’t call everyone into the conference room for an impromptu team meeting or ask for casual project updates by the water cooler.
Fortunately, team leaders can prevent communication breakdowns by leveraging digital collaboration tools, such as video conferencing software, workplace instant messaging platforms, and cloud-based file-sharing systems.
These tools make it easy to:
- Host daily or weekly meetings with your entire team
- Announce new projects and important deadlines
- Send or request project status updates
- Schedule check-in meetings with individual employees
- Make yourself readily available to answer employees’ questions during work hours
- Collaborate on documents in real-time online
Tip #4: Facilitate Virtual Team-Building Activities
Communicating about work is necessary for team performance, but cultivating a sense of camaraderie among your employees is just as important. You can facilitate team-building and boost employee satisfaction by adding social activities to your weekly schedule.
Some options include:
- Virtual happy hours
- Morning coffee mingling sessions
- Lunchtime socials
By making social inclusion a core component of your company culture, you can enjoy the benefits of remote work for employers without sacrificing its sense of community.
Tip #5 Schedule Meeting-Free Time
While connecting with colleagues is crucial, so is giving employees dedicated time to focus on their work. That’s where “meeting-free” time blocks can be helpful.
Simply instruct your employees to avoid scheduling any conference calls during these times. Doing so can enhance their time management and boost their productivity.
Tip# 6: Re-Evaluate Your Performance Priorities
Tracking in-office employees’ hours is easy—you simply need to pay attention to when they arrive and leave the office. In contrast, monitoring remote workers’ hours is a little more difficult.
While you can use time-tracking software to keep tabs on your remote team’s activity, “hours worked” isn’t necessarily the most important metric to prioritize. Some more significant performance indicators include:
- Overall performance
- Average task completion time
- Average response time
- Employee engagement
- Employee retention
Meaningful improvements in these metrics will say more about your hybrid management’s efficacy than ensuring your employees clock in eight hours at their home office’s desks each day.
Tip #7: Overcome Unconscious Bias
One of the challenges of leading hybrid teams is treating everyone the same, no matter how much time they spend working remotely vs. in the office. Unfortunately, nearly everyone is susceptible to unconscious bias.
Unconscious biases are judgments people hold against others without being aware of them, such as assuming that men are more qualified than women with the same work experience.3
One form of unconscious bias that’s particularly common in a hybrid work environment is “proximity bias.” Proximity bias may cause team leaders to treat those who are physically closer to them more favorably than those who work remotely. They may also assume those who work remotely are less productive.
Proximity Bias: By the Numbers
Here are some notable statistics from a survey of over 800 supervisors4:
- 67% admitted that they think remote workers are more replaceable than those who work in the office.
- 42% said they occasionally forget about their remote workers when allocating tasks.
- 29% of remote workers report receiving fewer professional development opportunities.
While proximity bias can be quite pervasive, these prejudices are not backed by research—remote workers are 15% more productive, on average. As a result, overlooking remote team members can have a negative impact on your company’s bottom line.
How to Overcome Proximity Bias
Since proximity bias is unconscious, you can’t prevent it entirely. However, you can take proactive steps to override it, such as:
- Educating managers at your company about proximity bias.
- Displaying data that highlights remote workers’ high levels of productivity.
- Being mindful about acknowledging remote workers’ accomplishments during meetings.
- Meeting with remote workers regularly one-on-one to make sure they feel included.
- Allocating work fairly among all of your employees.
You can also ask your employees what they need to feel supported, heard, and valued.
For example, maybe your remote employees have trouble hearing during meetings due to side chatter from in-person attendees. You can solve this problem by prohibiting side chatter or having everyone attend virtually to standardize the experience.
Tip #8: Ensure Equal Access to Professional Development Opportunities
Based on the following research, professional development opportunities are highly valued by employees5:
- 92% say that well-planned training and development programs enhance their engagement.
- 76% want opportunities to expand their careers.
- 45% say they would stay at their company longer if it invested in their professional development.
Unfortunately, due to proximity bias, remote workers are often passed up for professional development opportunities more often than their full-time, in-office peers.
You can win over your talented hybrid workers’ long-term loyalty by improving their professional development prospects. Simply offer them access to online courses, webinars, and virtual “lunch and learn” mentoring sessions with executives. If you want to set your company apart, you can also use augmented reality (AR) to craft more immersive learning experiences.
Tip #9: Request Ongoing Feedback from Hybrid Employees
While you can take many steps to manage your hybrid team effectively, your success ultimately depends on your employees’ experience. If your workers are satisfied, engaged, and productive, they’ll produce high-quality work.
The easiest way to assess your employees’ experience is to ask them about it. You can do so by administering anonymous surveys, hosting one-on-one meetings virtually, and regularly reminding your hybrid employees that you’re open to their feedback.
You can improve your hybrid workplace strategy over time by creating an environment where your employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.
Tip #10: Outsource Your Legal Compliance
Remote work compliance should be a top consideration as you facilitate a hybrid workforce. Every country and region has different rules regarding:
- Employment contracts
- Onboarding requirements
- Minimum wage
- Working hours
- Overtime pay
- Payroll frequency
- Meal breaks
- Tax rates
- Insurance policies
- Termination protocols
If your remote team members reside in different locations, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with their laws and ensure you’re in compliance with them. Otherwise, you may open yourself up to litigation, fines, reputational damage, or even criminal charges.
Luckily, you don’t need to manage your legal compliance on your own. By outsourcing it to an experienced Professional Employer Organization (PEO), like Omnipresent, you can hire employees outside of your zip code without taking on undue compliance burdens.