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The increase in remote workers means more businesses are testing the waters. Flexible work arrangements are high in demand among the workforce and new applicants. So it's no surprise globally distributed teams are looking for new and innovative ways to work and stay connected. With technology continually developing, living in the digital age is the best time to go remote. However, the question of how hybrid teams will work together looms large for both employers and employees.
What is a hybrid team
A hybrid team is a partly distributed workforce comprised of flexible workers. It means they have the option to choose whether to work from an office, remotely or both. In most cases, it's the flexibility that appeals to employees, so having the option to work from home or the office and doing so, is how most remote workers start. Many companies now offer to work outside the office at least a few days per week, or parts of the day. This means many teams today can actually be considered 'hybrid'.
This innovative approach to the workforce is becoming increasingly popular within tech and companies doing online business, where talent can be hired around the world. Still, there's usually a base office, or headquarters, connected with a distributed team. Some companies are well known for their fully distributed teams; such as Zapier and Buffer, yet many of such companies are still rare to come across. Large corporates like Amazon and Google may be known for their fancy offices but have their fair share of hybrid teams as well. The future of work is remote, and everyone's following along in any way they can.
Hybrid teams are becoming more and more popular within this digital age. However, this means many challenges with such a newly formed work set up are cropping up when wanting to stick to remote values. It's often easier to have everyone meet in an office. In a distributed team, it's essential to make your remote workers still feel like part of the team. This means including them in brainstorming sessions, but also when sharing ideas and during everyday tasks.
Why you should consider hybrid teams
While there are many advantages of adding remote workers to your workforce, one of the most pressing is the increasing demand for flexibility by employees. A study by Catalyst shows that by 2025, Millennials will take up three-quarters of the global workforce. Additionally, a study by Inc shows that Gen-Z will surpass Millennials as the most populous generation. This means that in the upcoming years, they'll be laying their roots in the workforce as well. They are also the ones who value freedom and flexibility over an in-office, a traditional job, and the perks coming with it. Both generations grew up as digital natives and now highly depend on technology for their everyday lives. Moreover, the foresight of new, more advanced technology connecting our working lives plays into their hands. For these generations, it is intuitive to work remotely, and it isn't so baseless that working from home is shaping up to be the new "office".
Benefits of hybrid teams
Having the opportunity to hire globally means that employers get access to talent for specific roles that may not be available locally. Creating a global, diverse, and inclusive team is a goal that many companies hope to achieve. However, nearly 60 percent of all employers have open positions staying vacant for 12 weeks or longer. This is not surprising since the challenge of finding adequate and skilled workers has become increasingly more difficult. It's partly due to the lack of trained professionals and the rising cost of education in many developed countries.
The best of both worlds
A hybrid team means you get both office and remote employees. In the traditional sense, having an office is great for connecting and sharing ideas with ease. However, by adding remote employees, your team gets access to the rest of the globe. This is great for coming up with fresh and original ideas, creating diversity, and can be especially helpful if you have clients in different timezones.
Happy employees lead to increased loyalty. By allowing flexibility when it comes to working locations, employees can decide where they work best, eventually increasing productivity and happiness. Some may work best from a co-working space, while others prefer their couch at home, yet the work accomplished remains the same. This can also create a more loyal relationship between the employer and employee as the work is result-based on results rather than the number of hours worked. It also means team members can work at the time of the day when they're most productive as everyone's chronotype is different.
Overcoming the challenges of hybrid teams
Missing out on communication
In an office set up, it's so easy to speak to others. If you have a problem, you can walk up to your colleague and talk it through. Being a part of a hybrid team can make things a lot more complicated, mainly when the people are distributed across different time zones. That's why using remote-first apps such as Zoom, Slack, and G Suite is so important. Even on-site team members should stick to these tools when they connect and collaborate to ensure remote team members can stay in the loop. However, it's not always that straightforward. Occasionally you may miss some key details due to a bad connection, or some information is informally exchanged over a cup of coffee.
A good way to overcome this is by always recording meetings and chats. Whether that's recording a video chat or keeping all information within public Slack channels or written down in a project management tool (Notion, Asana, etc.). That way, if someone in a different time zone needs to catch up, they know where to look. Technology is now your "team office", so as a hybrid team, it's important to use it to stay connected consistently.
Having no rule book
Even with the recent increase of both remote and hybrid teams, there's no definite guide to lead the way. Especially for a distributed team where some colleagues are remote, and others aren't, there is no "one-size-fits-all solution". Managing a hybrid team means two different types of workers and so the same advantages won't work for both. Or will they? For each company, there will be a lot of trial and error at the start, but a cocktail Friday won't work as a successful team event for those who are remote.
A great solution for this is to find out what your team wants. More flexibility is high on everyone's list s,o offering office flexibility for those who aren't remote is a great start. Once again, the use of apps like Slack, Asana, and other virtual office apps are great for managing a remote team. The in-office workers should use them as well.
Creating the feeling of "two classes"
Even though you don't want to create "two classes" intentionally, some people may start to feel like "second class citizens". The reality is that in a typical office set-up people tend to bond with those around them and build a friendly out of-office culture on top. Therefore, having some workers remote and others connected in person can set the remote workers apart from the close bond of the in-office workers. This results in a feeling of isolation, especially during team meetings. On the other hand, if you give your remote employees more flexibility than the in-office ones, the latter could start to resent their remote colleagues for their "freedom".
A good way to get past this is by doing weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one chats with each other. These don't necessarily have to be about work, but about what's going on in everyone's lives. A great tool to encourage this in larger teams is the Slack app Donut, which randomly pairs two employees for a chat. If you're speaking to a remote worker who loves to travel, it's a great ice breaker! If another teammate once mentioned her kid or dog, use this time to learn more about them.
Finally, to ensure a sense of fairness, it is vital to state your remote work policies for all employees clearly. Having your in-house team wonder how often they can work from home, or when your remote employees have to be available are not good practices. Everyone should know precisely what is acceptable and what's not. Remote work comes with freedom and flexibility, but there should be guidelines and limitations to enable your team to work together productively.
Jess normally writes about best practices in and around remote work on Acework's blog. Acework brings together vetted remote talent with career opportunities at distributed companies, including hybrid teams. If you're looking for a new position or want to hire remote-ready talent for your team, reach out to them.