Hybrid teams: How to structure teamwork

Kerstin Boll
Communication and interaction skills

Do you want to lead a hybrid team and maintain its sense of teamwork? It is less difficult than it sounds! Here is what you should be on the lookout for.

'I think I have to go back to the office,` Paul sighs over lunch. 'The meeting today was bad. It just doesn't work like this.'

With the arrival of the pandemic, he moved to the home office - and then simply stayed there, much to the delight of his wife. This makes it much easier to take care of their son, and he can also save himself the 120 km he used to travel every day by car.

Everything seems fine. However, a number of his colleagues have now returned to the office. This means that the cards for collaboration have been reshuffled. The team is no longer a virtual only team – it has transformed into a hybrid team, with some on site in the office, and others connected remotely.

Technology - The least of your problems

Just like before the pandemic, the team is now meeting in the conference room. Paul and some other colleagues are connected virtually.

The technology works reasonably well, with the hurdles of the first Corona phase having been overcome. The sound can sometimes be a bit of a problem, when his colleagues forget to stay close enough to the microphone, for example. As soon as they go out of range, Paul can hardly understand them.

What is most severely lacking, however, are structures and rules. The colleagues on site obviously coordinate before and after the meetings, and Paul finds himself excluded from this. There are information notes on whiteboards in the office that he cannot access, and he finds it difficult to join in the conversation during the meetings.

Is returning to the office the only solution? Paul really doesn't want to do that. He is now considering changing jobs.

Back to the office full time? I’d rather change jobs!

Hybrid and purely virtual teams differ in many ways. In hybrid teams, some employees work in the office, others in remote or home offices. Some are permanently on site, others on certain days of the week. Others drop in irregularly.

In 2020, the share of employees working from home or remotely increased from 10 to 42 per cent. Many people sincerely appreciate this option, with around 30 per cent of those in favour of flexible working models saying they would be prepared to look for another job if they were forced to return to the office full-time.

Paul's wish is therefore fully in line with the current trend.

Designing team meetings for hybrid teams

In team meetings, it becomes immediately clear how well hybrid teams are organised. As a leader, you have the power to create a positive situation.

First and foremost, the team members all need efficient hardware, along with an introduction to office software and continual IT support.

It is usually easier to lead and moderate a pure video call rather than a hybrid one. This allows everyone to be on equal ground with the same conditions during the meeting.

It is also important to establish a standardised way of communication all information: How have the discussions progressed since the last meeting?

Taking minutes during a meeting is common practice, but make sure that the minutes after the official meeting end are also included.

Of course, your team needs to agree on a common filing system that everyone has access to.

Rules for hybrid teams

Standardisation is the way to go: hybrid teams are the new norm and collaboration can be organised in a goal-oriented way. However, the team needs binding agreements and rules in order to function. These include:

  • Working hours

  • Reachability and response times

  • Standardised technical equipment

  • Agreements on communication channels and media

  • Filing and folder structure

  • Documentation

  • Time tracking

You should be prepared to define all of the above, in collaboration with both your team and the company's guidelines.

Rules tend to take on a life of their own over time. At some point, everyone gets used to them and no one asks what they mean. That's why you should always check whether everything is in order or where there may be problems.

The manager as role model

As a leader, you are well aware that everyone is looking to you for guidance. Therefore, be sure to:

  • Keep to the agreements you have made yourself.

  • Remain up to date technically.

  • Work remotely on some days.

  • Organise your availability.

  • Keep to the agreed working and break times.

  • The most important thing is to keep the conversation going, while remaining results-oriented, approachable and appreciative.

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