Team building for hybrid & virtual teams
Establishing an organizational normal for hybrid or virtual teamwork is an excellent time to consider the values and culture the organization needs to be successful. It’s probably not a time for command and control leadership, but rather more collaborative and creative management. It’s a time to set well-considered expectations and ask for employee commitments that are rational, supportive, and healthy.
We have definitely seen a tipping point towards a deeper and more permanent integration of remote and hybrid work.
Organizations can’t ignore the trend toward more hybrid work and the effect it has on teams. Even though slowness in the economy and inflation are making workers more concerned with salary and security, work-life balance and flexible work arrangements are still highly valued. To support a hybrid work environment for teams, managers are tasked with more than just choosing collaborative technology. Managers must find new ways to build team culture and create new practices to make flexible work patterns sustainable and functional.
Managers, rather than C-suite leaders, are in the position to know what their employees and teams need. But they have to walk a tricky line, trying to align those needs with leadership priorities or demands. Managers need to be equipped with the time, resources, and training to maximize the potential of hybrid work.
Culture is no longer shaped or maintained by walking through an office, offering clarifications, praising current work activities, doing quick accountability checks, and getting updates on workers’ lives. It now has to be much more intentional and structured.
“Adapting to hybrid work has brought about complexities to leadership, communication, and culture—and as a result, flexibility, trust, and empowerment have become more important than ever.”
Managers can become stuck between the expectations of their leadership on one hand and the expectations of their employees on the other. Managers often need additional coaching and training and it’s not always available. They can be uncertain about their ability to influence change on their teams or about the resources they have available to them. Leadership needs to provide support to managers, and they can do this by making their expectations clear and achievable.
Managers need to offer that same clarity to their teams. Any gaps between worker preferences or styles and the manager’s or leadership’s expectations need to be addressed and resolved. Expectations need to be addressed around everything from promotion standards to how the team will celebrate birthdays. Clarity doesn’t necessarily mean certainty, but it does signal that these issues have been considered and there might be opportunities to reshape them in the future.
One-on-one conversations between manager and employees have become even more important. Managers can no longer assume that even a big announcement they shared with several people will make the rounds to everyone who needs to know and understand. Managers should avoid making check-ins look like checkups. These personal meetings provide opportunities to communicate on professional and personal levels, both of which can foster trust.
Many employees today are prioritizing their health and well-being. The manager can find ways to accommodate this priority or it can become a source of tension. There’s a new digital exhaustion felt by many that the manager can acknowledge and collaboratively find ways to combat it. Missteps will be made, and managers who help their teams see these as growth opportunities and who focus on finding new solutions will model a healthy growth mindset.
“The best leaders will create a culture that embraces flexibility and prioritizes employee wellbeing—understanding that this is a competitive advantage to build a thriving organization and drive long-term growth.”
As teams adapt to changing ways of working together, clarity is also needed around how, when, and where work is done. Teams are all different and they need to come to new agreements on how they will work together while meeting the expectations of their organizational leadership and managers.
When and why should employees come in to the office? Will managers or team leads need to come in more often? How will those off-site be kept in the loop and engaged?
Meetings have changed as more teams are hybrid or remote. There is a trend toward more frequent, but shorter meetings. Will this work for your team? What types of meetings does the team need? How often will the team revisit their need for meetings? What’s the team’s meeting etiquette?
How will the manager or the team prioritize time for members to connect in more personal and authentic ways? How will the team build the psychological safety needed for a team to engage in productive conflict and to hold one another accountable for assignments and displaying productive behaviors?
Is digital monitoring occurring? This can be a large source of tension, or micromanagement, and a trust issue. The issue of accountability is one the team should consider together.
Remote workers are justifiably concerned about their ability to have their work and achievements recognized as well as how they can advance in the organization. Managers should be initiating conversations on opportunities for learning, growth, and internal career transformation. They should be working with any learning and development (L&D) professionals to identify which skills are lacking on their teams and then to create or offer the type of learning their teams or the individuals on them need, which could lead to career advancement.
To do right by their remote and hybrid employee, managers must find new ways to build team culture and create new practices to make flexible work patterns sustainable and functional.
“Without a new approach, employee isolation and disconnection will continue to grow—regardless of whether people are back in the office. The post-pandemic transition provides the perfect opportunity to put the structures and rewards in place to facilitate a more connected workforce.”