Companies today know that hybrid work and letting employees choose where to work is the key to employee satisfaction and productivity. In fact, more than a third of employees feel so strongly about hybrid/remote work that they said they’d quit on the spot if the ability to work from home was taken away - and 62% said they’d take a pay cut of 10% or more.
Yet, over the past four years, only a third of companies have upgraded their video conferencing technology to meet the needs of their hybrid workforce. This post explores what a hybrid team is and how to best manage and support them.
Hybrid teams combine working from home with working in-person from the office or a shared coworking space. Hybrid companies can create workplace policies where employees are expected to come to the office a few days a week and work from home on other days. Or, hybrid companies can use a more flexible model and let employees choose where they want to work, whether it’s in the office, entirely from home, or a combination of the two. There are two types of hybrid teams: structured and unstructured.
A structured hybrid team is a team where the organization mandates which days employees have to be in the office. For example, three days in-office and two days remote during a work week is a common structured hybrid team schedule. The advantage of a structured hybrid team is that employees know exactly when teammates are going to be in the office, which gives them consistent time to work together and build social capital.
Unlike a structured hybrid team, unstructured hybrid teams don’t mandate which days employees need to be in the office. Instead, they leave office time up to the discretion of the individual employee. This allows employees greater flexibility (which we know employees value) but it does make it more difficult for teammates to consistently get face time with each other.
Early this year, 50% of office-based workers are back at the office, and many economists and workplace experts expect that offices are unlikely to reach full capacity. Some companies have already right-sized their workplaces to adjust for their new lower capacity needs. Others have switched to operating out of collaborative, bookable coworking spaces, and some have even gone fully remote.
Employees are most productive when they can choose where to work, opting for the working situation that best aligns with their life circumstances and working style. Some employees want social interactions while others want to work independently. Some are distracted by the din of the office, while others listen to coffee shop sounds while working from home because they can’t stand the silence. New parents and elder caregivers might appreciate the flexibility of working from home, while Gen Z employees appreciate the in-person socialization and mentorship that comes from office work.
Employee sentiment has shifted towards remote and hybrid work. In 2023, 66% of employees said they are working in the office full-time, however only 22% of them actually want to be.
Many companies already have the tools in place for a transition to a hybrid work model. Over half of the Fortune 500 companies use Zoom to conduct business and tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, and Slack have developed features for hybrid teams to work seamlessly, independent of location.
When putting together a strategy to move your business to a hybrid work model, use this quick checklist to develop a transition plan:
While the specifics of individual team dynamics are going to be unique for each team, there are some persistent qualities that every successful hybrid organization has. These qualities include:
A truly successful hybrid team needs to have employees who spend the majority of their time in the office. These employees are the primary connection to the office for their remote counterparts. On-site managers need to make sure their organization is investing and utilizing hybrid technology to ensure that remote employees have everything they need to easily collaborate with anyone in the office.
The employees who turn a typical in-person team into a hybrid team are the ones who spend the majority of their time working remotely. Remote employees need to embrace hybrid technology like video conferencing and messaging software to connect with their in-office colleagues in natural and effective ways.
The truth is that some people are better at working remotely than others. In fact, there are five specific qualities that hiring managers should keep in mind when they are hiring for remote roles.
It’s important to have a manager dedicated to helping your hybrid team succeed. Hybrid teams face unique challenges, like asynchronous work schedules, proximity bias, and separation from company culture and connection. A hybrid manager can work closely with in-office and remote employees to stay ahead of these common challenges and make sure employees have the tools they need to succeed wherever they choose to work. Just like hybrid work is a skill that can be learned and improved upon, so can hybrid management.
Managing a hybrid team is more complex than managing a fully onsite team — or a fully remote team, for that matter. Hybrid work is characterized by a need for flexibility and adaptability—but with smart video conferencing tech, targeted benefits packages, and a culture of transparency and communication, every employee on your team will be able to thrive.
Here’s how to run a successful hybrid team:
An onsite gym and a parking stipend won’t do much for remote employees, so build distinct benefits packages that materially improve the quality of life for both onsite and remote employees.
For example, provide a universal fitness stipend for employees to use on gyms or classes, and provide a home office stipend for remote employees to improve their workspaces. Also, ensure that remote employees have healthcare coverage that connects them to the best providers in their state of residence if it’s different from where the office HQ is.
And when it comes to perks like company swag, don’t forget to mail out swag to primarily remote employees.
49% of remote workers feel that managers see them as less hard-working than their in-person peers. Counter that fear by building promotion tracks with clear milestones and responsibilities for every employee, whether they’re primarily in the office or remote.
Strengthen team bonds with regular, casual hybrid meetings that let people get to know one another and plan in-person gatherings on a quarterly basis.
Remote employees report having a harder time communicating in hybrid meetings due to poor video conferencing technology. When was the last time you took a look at your hybrid team’s tech stack? Get feedback from your team and rethink your meeting space technology.
Communication is the key to successful hybrid teams. Make it easy for your team to meet whether that’s a quick video call, an instant message between employees in different time zones, a company-wide employee town hall, or a board meeting across different office locations.
Build a proactive, transparent, communicative team culture. Hybrid and remote teams need to place a stronger emphasis on clear communication and collaboration, and it starts from leadership. Valuing autonomy and trusting your employees to get their work done is the foundation of successful hybrid work.
Make sure all employees feel valued, and that their contributions to the team are being noticed and appreciated. Plan 1:1 meetings on a weekly or biweekly cadence where managers can just chat with direct reports, whether it’s in-person or on a video call, to go over priorities, wins, and areas of improvement.
It’s also important to set team norms around communication: what should be sent as an email? What kind of conversations are better over video calls? And which ones can be casual Slacks? Plus, determine a team-wide time expectation on returning emails and Slacks—for example, an hour or two for urgent issues, and half a workday for non-urgent messages.
And if your team does work that can be done asynchronously, learn about the nuances of asynchronous work and how hybrid teams can benefit from this approach.
Leading a hybrid team requires a new understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Remote and hybrid work contributes to more accessibility in the workplace, but to be an inclusive leader, you have to understand how to give every one of your team members their own individualized support.
Seek out support from DEI consultants and specialists to help develop an equitable hybrid work environment—they may uncover gaps in your workplace environment and access that you didn’t see.
One of the most important steps in creating a productive and equitable hybrid work environment is taking inclusivity into account for all meetings. Make sure that all employees feel seen and heard. Upgrade your virtual meeting technology to a system built specifically for hybrid meetings.
Owl Labs products were built for hybrid teams, and our suite of hybrid collaboration tools are designed to make every meeting participant feel included and connected, whether they’re calling in from home or sitting in a meeting room in the office.