Hybrid teams have become the new normal across the workforce. Following the pandemic, many of us have gone from working in the office every day to being allowed to work from home one or more days per week. We’ve seen the positives—more flexibility for teams and employees—and we’ve also seen the negatives, as team connections steadily fray. It’s all too easy for in-office employees to feel more connected with the team, while employees working from home may lose out on those connections.
For organizations struggling with hybrid work, you may notice certain problem spots forming over time. It’s common for the “haves and have-nots” to appear in clusters, where those working traditionally in the office—or team members who have worked together for a long time—might receive more attention and recognition compared to those working remotely or those new to the team. New team members may notice these clusters and grow concerned. Alternatively, existing members may be experiencing burnout and drift away from their existing groups. Any member of these “have-not” groups may feel it’s difficult to break the cycle, leading to a loss of engagement and motivation. This clustering effect can begin to harm company relationships as a whole and hinder performance.
So how can leaders create a unified experience for their hybrid teams? How can we keep our connections strong for everyone—not just those working in the office?
Clarify Your Organization’s Goals and How They Align with Your Mission
Keeping any team aligned around an organization’s goals is critical to success. For hybrid teams, it’s even more important for everyone to stay on the same page. When your employees and teams understand your organization’s goals—whether that’s creating the best food products or providing excellent services to other businesses—everyone can see how they fit into the grand scheme of things. This gives everyone a clear sense of direction and allows your teams to imagine what true wins look like.
It’s also crucial to clarify how these goals align with your company’s mission. When your hybrid teams are separated, with some people in the office and some working remotely, they need connective tissue to keep them together. Your organization’s mission is that connective tissue. Whether your mission is to make the world a more sustainable place or to reach underserved audiences in your market, make sure to articulate these ideas to your teams. No matter where in the world your teammates are, they’ll feel a shared sense of responsibility to achieve the company’s mission, encouraging their best work.
Allow Employees to Work and Contribute Based on Their Preferences
There’s a whole industry out there devoted to analyzing personalities and work styles and how to blend the two in the workplace. It’s true that once we understand someone’s personality, we can better appreciate their style of contributing at work.
But depending on your team, old adages around introverts and extroverts might not always prove true. Introverts may actually be more receptive to teamwork via text-based apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Extroverts may find themselves periodically exhausted by in-person brainstorming and watercooler talk. Therefore, it’s important to learn how each of your teammates prefers working and to craft your hybrid team norms and operating procedures around their strengths.
Accommodating schedules and offering flexibility will also go a long way with your teams. An employee shouldn’t have to feel ashamed about working from home due to outside responsibilities. When your teams feel supported by you, they’ll recognize how much you value their work and contributions. They’ll feel more willing to bring their best selves to work—whether that’s in-person or via their company laptop.
Work on One-on-One Connections, with More Check-ins and Praise
Take the time to connect with your teams and employees on a personal level. Schedule those 1:1 check-ins (registration required) with everyone once per week or every couple of weeks. And during these check-ins, ask your employees how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can do to better support them. This simple act shows your teammates that you care and that you’re invested in their personal achievements. They’ll see that you value them as people, not just for their productivity. This will pay dividends as your teams develop more appreciation toward you as their leader and to the organization as a whole.
Finally, observe these changes with quantifiable measurements, whether that’s with proven performance management tools or via your own internal observations. During team meetings and standups, do a quick pulse check to gauge how things are going. Once you can spot a noticeable improvement—whether that’s reaching more goals or an overall improvement in your team’s morale—you’ll know you’re on the right track. Offering praise is a great way to keep the momentum going.
Managing a hybrid team comes with different challenges, but you don’t have to let these challenges defeat you. Take the necessary steps to ensure your hybrid teams stay connected across any distance. As you rise to the occasion, you’ll reap the rewards, reaching greater success with an unbreakable team.
Originally posted to the Forbes Human Resources Council blog here.