Individuals in the world of work have three main areas of concern when it comes to being part of a hybrid team: Team Dynamics / Performance, Career Development / Progression, and Wellbeing.

The “Great Work Experiment”

Amid the global pandemic in 2020, we moved into the first phase of the ‘great work experiment’ when droves of office workers relocated to their homes to work. With restrictions beginning to ease, we are now moving into phase 2 of this great experiment with the advent of hybrid working.  

LinkedIn is currently awash with posts from ‘experts’ predicting how this is going to play out and advising leaders on how to lead in this new era.   I certainly don’t profess to have all the answers and to be honest I don’t believe anyone truly has. For my part, I’ve immersed myself in the academic literature around remote and flexible work and have connected the dots regarding some of the opportunities and consequences of this new way of working.  I have also talked at length with stakeholders across a range of businesses and industries about their concerns and how they are responding to them.  What is coming through loud and clear for me is that there is no universal ‘one-size’ fits all solution – organisational and individual context is key, and experimentation is going to be vital. There is certainly much to learn in the months ahead.

But what is also becoming apparent, are some over-arching themes when it comes to concerns and / or perceived risks associated with hybrid teams that leaders are currently grappling with.   In our recent World of Work Seminar on Hybrid Management, participants were asked to share their key concerns, which can be categorised into three main areas:

  • Team Dynamics / Performance – resulting from lower levels of trust, conflict and a propensity for in-group / out-group formation
  • Career Development / Progression – resulting from different levels of exposure to key projects, challenges associated with building developmental networks and varying levels of visibility for different individuals within the organisation
  • Wellbeing Concerns – due to mental health challenges going undetected and / or being exacerbated by more isolated working, as well as the potential for burnout associated with the intensification of work resulting from a disproportionate or poor allocation of work tasks

With this in mind, we used the opportunity at our Hybrid Management Workshop to generate some ideas and share good practice in countering some of these concerns, so in the interests of sharing the learning, here are our top ten tips in terms of practical steps leaders and managers can take to address some of the potential pitfalls of hybrid working.

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Team Dynamics Performance

  • Keep inclusivity front of mind for all – by raising awareness and transparency within your organisation of the potential threats to fairness caused by proximity bias and other unconscious biases that can lead to in-group / out-group formation
  • Adapt your office layout – making it more of a collaborative working space and consider introducing ‘anchor days’ as collaborative working days for entire teams to come into the office and work together
  • Introduce office rotation days – to avoid the same people coming into the office on the same days every week, to encourage greater collaboration amongst different individuals and different teams

Career Development / Progression

  • Better on-boarding for newbies – provide new recruits with photographic organisation charts so it’s easier for them to figure out who is who, encourage ‘cameras on’ when video calling and ensure that the needs of new members of the team are front of mind
  • Change the narrative around networking – acknowledge the benefits of having a strong developmental network and view them as opportunities for reciprocal support, encourage the formation of inter-company interest groups using internal communication tools such as Slack or Yammer to share interests and ideas e.g. book club

Wellbeing Concerns

  • Ask how others are feeling – create informal opportunities in both virtual and face to face meetings to check-in with how people are feeling, and pick up on what is not being said as well as what is being said
  • Remember it’s ok not to feel ok – give permission within your team for everyone to experience their full range of emotions and recognise that some days it is ok to feel a bit “meh”
  • Ask what support is needed – be mindful that those who need support might not always feel comfortable in asking for help it, so ask the question – but recognise your own limits in providing support and knowing when to signpost to seeking help from wellbeing professionals. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the key themes that is coming through in all these top tips is the need for great communication at work, this really is the glue that holds organisations together.  So, as we move into this new way of working, I would actively encourage everyone, not just the manager or team leader, to make it their responsibility to nurture conversations that go beyond the to-do list, to be curious, open-minded and compassionate to yourself and others.

I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what unfolds over the coming months and seeing how organisations can use this opportunity to work differently in a way that maximises the potential of all.

About The Author

Joanne Gray, is an Independent Practitioner with a special interest in leadership development and motivation. She is currently undertaking her Professional Doctorate in Organisational Psychology at Birkbeck University, you can find out more by visiting her website.

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