Hybrid working has become a permanent fixture in a wide variety of global organisations. This shift brings benefits but also real challenges for managers. How do you effectively lead dispersed teams as part of hybrid work? What elements of management are worth paying attention to in this new hybrid context?
Building on the lessons from the pandemic and the global experiment in home-working that it signalled, many organisations have now opted for a mixed work model. Employees spend some of their time in the office and some at home. Most commonly, this takes the form of a 2:3 day split, tailored to both the needs of the employee and the organisation's expectations. This means that many teams are now entirely or partially dispersed, rarely finding themselves in the same place at the same time. According to Harvard Business School research that questioned 1,500 people who worked remotely between March 2020 and March 2021, 18% of respondents wanted to return to the office full time, and 61% for a maximum of 2-3 times a week. On the other hand, 27% wanted to switch to full-time remote working. These results suggest that hybrid work does not cause a decrease in efficiency or deterioration in team relationships; on the contrary, most employees who are given this freedom experienced a significant improvement in their wellbeing and productivity.
For managers, adjusting to hybrid working may not be so clear-cut. New skills, new forms of management, and even organisational change may be necessary to adapt. But organisations and their leaders must accept that the traditional model of 9-5 in the office is unlikely ever to come back. To insist on this is to lose valuable employees who prioritise a human approach to perform their duties.
Here are the four critical criteria that managers and leaders need to achieve for successful hybrid working:
1. Open, transparent communication. Hybrid working means that many employees will work in different spaces across different times, but this must not affect the quality of their communication. The whole organisation must be treated equally in this respect, with information and clarity provided to all, regardless of how each individual chooses to work. A lack of communication fosters distrust towards the organisation and its management.
2. Human leadership. Hybrid working requires a leader who supports their employees, cares about their development, creates an inclusive work environment, and affords their people the freedom, opportunity, and independence to do their work in the way that suits them best.
3. Common goals. A lack of established goals – both at the level of the mission, vision, and strategy of an organisation and in the case of individual departments or teams – means that no part of the company will feel responsible for its actions. Clear goals enable people to focus on the activities through which they will achieve specific, measurable impacts in pursuing these objectives. A good tool for setting goals is the SMART method.
4. Noticing areas that need improvement. An organisation is defined by the people who create and operate it, which means that only changes in attitude will bring about organisational transformation. This is important in hybrid team management because dynamic market changes and volatility require teams to react faster to internal and external factors, which is only made possible by mixed teams who work successfully together and have good management.
Hybrid working can yield manifold benefits and opportunities, but it is not without difficulties, posing challenges for communication, management, hierarchy, culture, and strategy. Impact work with clients to transform the performance of remote, virtual and hybrid teams. We meet teams and collaborate to create unique learning experiences, both virtual and blended, that will accelerate productivity and build unique team-working cultures.