Hybrid team engagement requires method. Evolve your working habits and relationships and build a playbook specific to your challenges.
April 20, 2022
The shift to the hybrid teams is one of the defining management challenges in the 2020s. Traditional wisdom like ‘out of sight is out of mind’ no longer helps. The inverse is also true – showing dedication by logging punishing hours at your desk is no longer enough. The mix to hybrid work is changing how managers and employees think about their work.
The hybrid work concept is born out of a compromise between two competing visions of the modern workplace. In one corner, there are remote work evangelists like Atlassian, Drift, Okta and other companies that have enthusiastically embraced remote work as their default. In the other corner, there are workplace traditionalists who see significant value in working together in-person.
In theory, hybrid work is supposed to offer something for everybody: a few days of remote work and a few days of in-office work. The practical realities look a lot different.
Put yourself in the shoes of a project manager working toward an upcoming deadline. They might grab a few people and set up shop in a conference room for a focused session. If they have some bad luck, they might be in a room with limited connectivity that makes it difficult to connect with remote staff.
It’s not just urgent project deadlines or trying to organize hybrid events either.
Like it or not, the speed of work and collaboration is quietly governed by the depth of trust in the team. When some or all of your team are remote sometimes, you end up having deeper interactions with people in the office compared to remote staff. As a result, trust doesn’t develop evenly and productivity will start to slow down.
If you’ve been struggling with hybrid team engagement, you’re not alone. It’s a new way of working. Our older social skills and work habits aren’t a natural fit. Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies you can adopt to drive engagement higher.
There is no one size fits all approach to driving up hybrid engagement. Several factors influence the difficulty of remote work like your history with remote work, the level of technology investment and management skills.
To evolve your working habits and relationships, you need to build a playbook specific to your challenges. View each of the following ideas as inspiration to help you develop your playbook.
Many organizations shifted suddenly and dramatically to a high level of remote work a few years ago. Fortunately, that era of crisis induced flexibility is now in the rear view mirror. Now, the first strategy is to set the right tone from the top.
To set the right tone from the top, the words and actions of managers and executives need to send a consistent, positive message for their hybrid teams. Act as a role model yourself by reaching out to remote and on-premise employees for special opportunities. Further, share your struggles and solutions with making hybrid work effective so that your staff know it is okay to admit struggles.
Updating our communication habits and preferences to thrive in a hybrid workplace is a vitally important strategy. Start by encouraging asynchronous communication (i.e. encouraging people to reply to messages on their time) rather than relying on video meetings as the default option for hybrid teams.
Further, you may need to revise your professional communication expectations for the hybrid world. For example, some companies encourage informal dress and communication for internal meetings. On the other hand, video meetings with customers and clients are a different story – dressing up and presenting a more professional image in those settings may be worthwhile.
Take a hard look at the communication tools you use with your hybrid teams. You’re probably used to relying on email, phone calls, messaging apps and video calls. What about your larger meetings like all-hands meetings?
Running an event with dozens or hundreds of people can easily get disorganized and unruly. In a hybrid office, you might have some people raising their hand to ask questions while remote staff use messaging. Your speakers might end up favoring in-person questions – a tendency which can hurt remote staff engagement.
One solution to these challenges is to use Arena Live Chat in your hybrid events. It has support for polls and Q&As so you can easily gather feedback from employees. The best part? You can review the chat log after the meeting to identify broader concerns in your employees and nip engagement problems in the bud.
Participating in formal meetings, collaborating on documents and responding to messages all matter. Yet these forms of engagement are not enough for the hybrid workplace. People are social creatures – even introverts enjoy interacting with others on occasion.
To help your team come together as one, it is important to give employees regular opportunities to connect informally. As a starting point, check out our guide to online events for employee engagement. Holding social events is a great way to laugh and come together.
In addition, look for smaller ways to encourage connection like virtual coffee chats or even giving people 5-10 minutes during team meetings to share personal news.
The old way of thinking about boundaries at work and at home have been fading for years. Many, if not all, professional employees have a work phone that allows them to stay connected to the office even while on vacation. Left unmanaged, work responsibilities in a hybrid work environment can bleed into every evening and weekend.
The solution to these challenges is to encourage employees to set boundaries around the work schedules. To avoid the temptation to check work messages constantly, consider powering down and disconnecting work devices once you finish your work day.
By the way, your boundaries may need to look different depending on whether you are working remotely or in the office.
Sometimes, a shift in perspective can unlock new potential in hybrid teams. Put on the hat of an event producer seeking to create an inspiring live event. Done right, live events create memories and bring people together. Even if you only create a few live hybrid events for your teams this year, it could make all the difference in getting your staff on the same page.
To help you plan your next live event faster, download a free copy of our ebook on improving live events. You’ll discover how to organize live events on your own platform so your employees can stay focused.