If there’s one thing we’re all certain about is that our “new normal” isn’t going to look a lot like our “old, pre-COVID-19 normal.” At least it won’t for quite some time. The modes of work and life that we navigated back in February 2020 are done and gone. As states start to open up and businesses begin to welcome staff back into the office, leaders need to be prepared to manage under a new set of circumstances.
Some of the change will be rooted in the physical shift office life is going to take. We’ll be more spread out. We may have face masks for those moments when we’re more likely to be in closer quarters. Hot desking may be on hiatus as organizations move to reduce the number of high-touch and shared surfaces. That’s not the change I’m talking about though. Whether it’s about managing occupancy levels in your office or giving your team space to return to the workplace at a time when they feel safe and comfortable doing so, there will be a time where you may be managing a blended team and that, my friends, can take a little get used to.
What is a Blended Team?
Before we dig into this, let’s first define what we’re talking about. A blended team consists of both in-house and remote staff. Sure, some may be part-time and some are full. Some could be on payroll and others are contract. For our purposes, though, we’re going to be focused on the “Here” and “There” aspect of this dichotomy.
Do you expect your team to be at the computer and available by phone at specific hours? Are you planning for weekly virtual meetings? Do you want to encourage in-person attendance of monthly team gatherings? Are there tasks that need to be handled in the office that a remote member usually does, and if so, will you be shifting responsibilities among your team based on who is working where? First figure out the logistics of how this will all work and then be clear and concise with your team about your expectations.
Make Tech Work for You
Technology allows us to close the virtual gap between “all here” and “all spread out a bit of everywhere.” Those same tools that you’ve been putting to use these last three months ought to be part of your business arsenal in this hybrid phase too (and beyond!). Use online collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Workplace to keep your team connected. These platforms make it easy for quick (online) dialogue and task coordination. Virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and Skype should still be used for meetings where everyone isn’t physically present. Keep your mobile phone near you and text when you have a quick, not-overly complex question. Keep the lines of communication open and well-used.
Don’t Overlook the Water Cooler
Cohesive teams are rarely “all business, all the time.” They pepper in camaraderie and casual talk throughout their days. Don’t overlook the value of social chatter in building a strong team. Create channels dedicated to random chatter on Slack (or whatever platform you’re using). As team leader, you may need to encourage dialogue at first. Jump in the thread and ask about everyone’s weekend plans. Wish team members a happy birthday. Ask if anyone has any suggestions of what you can binge watch on Netflix now that you’ve finished your 15th run through “The Office.”
Focus on Results
Your team is busy and anyone who sees your in-person crew at work knows it. It can be harder to assess what’s going on with the home crew. Or is it? Don’t get caught up in equating visible effort with a job well done. Focus on the results. As long as everyone is meeting their deadlines and your organization is getting results, go with it. Focusing on results instead of perceived effort will help you and your team, no matter where their day-to-day desks sit.