Supporting Teamwork and Collaboration in the Hybrid Work Era

This time of year there’s no shortage of experts pontificating on the trends and buzzwords you need to know for the new year. Some of those lists start to sound like echoes of each other, as they should if they’re identifying trends and buzzwords. Some of those topics are evergreen. For example, year after year teamwork and collaboration make the list. 

Some of those topics are newer to the list, influenced by changes in technology and shifts in culture; for example, managing hybrid workplaces has become a hot topic in the post-pandemic workplace. And sometimes those topics mesh in a way that creates new workplace challenges to sort out. Challenges such as, how do you foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration in a hybrid workplace? That’s a topic that’s worth taking the time to explore.

Defining Hybrid Workplace

Remote work was ubiquitous throughout 2020 when the pandemic closed offices and launched mass adoption of the work-at-home model. As lockdown restrictions eased, the circa 2019 and earlier work environment didn’t necessarily return with it. 

For some, work at home became the new norm. Others, of course, are back to the traditional corporate office setting. Some organizations have pulled their entire workforce back full-time. Others, however, run the full gamut. Some staff members are remote. Some are full-time in office and some split their time between the two. Welcome to the hybrid workplace. 

Strong Communication

Good communication skills are valuable no matter what work environment you’re in. They are essential when you’re managing a hybrid team. Make use of online platforms that help team members touch base in a more natural, informal setting like Microsoft Teams or Slack. 

Make use of video calls so everyone can be visually present in a meeting and not just a voice that occasionally pops on the line. Of course, find the healthy balance between keeping your team connected and inundating them with missives that begin to hamper productivity. 

Social Chatter 

You may not be looking to socialize outside of work with your colleagues, but there is a camaraderie that builds when you spend the bulk of your weekdays on projects with someone. Keeping it all business hampers collaboration. Create spaces for non-work banter. Go ahead and dedicate a channel on your communication platform for more social topics. Start your one-on-one meetings with team members checking in on them, not just their work progress.

Get on the Same Page

With hybrid teams, it’s even more important than ever to clearly establish goals and objectives – for your company, your department, and your joint projects. Clearly document and communicate expected milestones and timelines. Be clear about who is responsible for completing what components of the project. Set your expectations as a leader, too. Do you expect your staff to be working during specific hours? Do you expect to see them in person in the office on certain days of the week for team meetings? 

Give (and Receive) Feedback

Working in a vacuum is always difficult. Working remotely can amplify the challenge. Make a concerted effort to provide your team with regular feedback. Go beyond the quick “good job” or “thanks” when project elements are handed off. Let them know how their work is impacting the bottom line. 

Share success stories. If you see areas of personal and professional growth, tell them. If you see areas where they can stretch and improve, tell them that too. Don’t forget to invite input from your team too. Ask them to share their own insights and reflections. Solicit their feedback on how things are progressing, where they might benefit from changes, and what they see working for the team (or not working).

Trust Your Team

Yes, communication is important. Clearly established goals are important. Feedback is important. So, however, is independence. There’s a fine line between taking steps to engage and connect your team, and micromanaging your team or creating distractions that limit productivity. 

Trust your team to do the work you’ve hired them to do. Trust them to operate in the parameters you’ve clearly communicated, to hit the deadlines and targets you’ve agreed upon. Give them the space to flourish and thrive in this hybrid space.