It is not always possible to completely switch to remote working, if only because of the need for physical meetings with the customer or the lack of access to technology and systems at home. In such situations a hybrid model is a good solution. It is based on the fact that some of the company’s employees work from the office and some of them completely or partly remotely. Such a model often turns out to be better suited not only to business needs, but also to the needs of employees – especially those who find themselves in the office reality much better.
However, working with a hybrid team brings with it completely different challenges than traditional remote working. It is not a homogenous team, as in the case of 100% remote work or stationary work in the office. In such a model we must always remember about the needs and problems of the two groups, combine their interests and make sure that they do not become separate organisms. After all, all employees are part of one company and act in common interest.
The challenges of working in a hybrid team
Lack of communication
Imagine this situation: you send an email to the whole company about important changes in the project you are working on. You make sure that the mail goes to every person in the company and nobody feels left out. A few minutes after the email is sent, your colleague on the desk next to you asks you a question about the content of your message. After a while, more people from the open space join the conversation. As a result, a discussion opens, during which you come to important and valuable conclusions. Only that remote employees, for obvious reasons, couldn’t participate in it and during the work on this project they will naturally be in a worse position than people who took part in the conversation. Therefore, it will be necessary to devote more time to introducing them to the topic and presenting new findings.
Such things are and will happen in hybrid teams. Even the best communication strategy in the company will not prevent the office employees from exchanging messages during lunch break or in the queue to the machine. That is why it is important to train employees to document all live meetings and conversations that may be relevant to the work of the whole team. It is good to adopt the rule that what is not communicated by e-mail or other means to all employees concerned is only an informal conversation and is not binding in any way.
Alienation of remote employees
Remote employees may feel alienated in the hybrid team. They do not see the stationary team on a daily basis, so their contact is often limited to e-mails and business meetings. It may also happen that the opinions of people working remotely will be taken into account only in the second place, because the team does not know these people so well, so they prefer to trust the person they have live contact with every day. Among remote employees this will cause frustration and make it difficult to build a sense of belonging to the company. That’s why it is so important that cooperation in a hybrid team is based on team integration, with a strong emphasis on getting to know each other and the remote employees. The company should take care of integrative initiatives that will take place online, such as a themed day on Slack, play between teams or informal Zoom meetings. Besides, it is important to remember that no online integration can replace a live meeting. So it is worth making sure that once in a while all employees have the opportunity to meet “in real life”.
In hybrid teams, all meetings are held partly remotely and partly stationary. At first glance, everything sounds very simple, after all a laptop with a camera is enough. But let’s imagine that we are a remote employee, who sees only one or two people from the office on the screen of his computer, because that’s all that fits into the frame of the webcam. Moreover, he can only hear well the voice of people who sit closest to the computer, and if there is any dialogue between people sitting there, he can actually hear only noise and single words. Is it possible to fully participate in the meeting and be a full participant in such conditions?
The company’s duty is to ensure that technology does not discriminate against any employee. Therefore, we have to take care of such technical solutions that will make everyone can be a full participant of the meeting. It is not something worth saving on, so let’s create a video room in the office or think about other solutions that are best suited to the company. It is important to consult with all people who will use the solution and make a decision based on their real needs.
The challenge for managers
For managers, managing a hybrid team is doubly difficult, especially if they are not properly prepared for it. First, they have to face their own vision and opinion about remote working. If they haven’t dealt with it so far, they may have a stereotypical image of a remote employee sitting in his pajamas at the computer and setting up his laundry, cooking dinner and doing other non-work related things. Such a picture will certainly not help to build trust in the remote employee. Therefore, it is necessary to show managers how remote work really looks like and to train them in the field of task settlement and employee control. Thanks to this we will avoid a situation in which remote employees are 3 times more often controlled than office workers. The key to success is trust and the same standards for both groups – remote and stationary.
Furthermore, managers have to struggle every day to reconcile the interests of all their subordinates and take care of the relationship between them. It is largely up to them to ensure that those working from home do not feel alienated and are full team members. Therefore, leaders must have the knowledge and resources to help them manage their team relationships.
Less opportunities for development
Remote employees in hybrid teams are out of sight most of the time and their hard work is not as visible as those in the office. They can thus be overlooked when talking about promotion or other development opportunities. In higher structures of the company, among managers or the board of directors there may also be resistance to entrusting a more responsible position to a person who is not seen in the office every day, which further reduces the chances of remote employees to develop in the company.
What is more, the opinion of remote employees may have much less power. As a result, such employees may feel that they have much less influence on changes in the company and shaping their work position. As a result, we can expect that such a person will be more willing to move to another company if only they are offered more responsibility. After all, he will not see any prospects for further development in our company.
That is why it is so important to make all employees, especially decision-makers, aware of the fact that under no circumstances should they be divided into those working remotely and on-site, but should only make decisions based on performance and competence.
Creating hybrid units in a company will be a good solution in many cases. Remote working provides us with a number of business benefits, above all, we gain access to qualified employees who do not live near our company headquarters. We can also meet the expectations of candidates, who more and more often expect the possibility of remote working and work more effectively in this mode. However, we must remember that a hybrid team is different from both a stationary team and a fully remote team. The key to success is equal treatment of all employees at every stage of decision making related to the company and taking into account the interests of remote and office workers.
We hope that you already know how well cooperation with a hybrid team should look like. We also recommend checking our entry, where we present the benefits of remote working