Leading a team has always been riddled with challenges that a leader is forced to overcome in order to get the most from each person. With the work environment leading the way for hybrid teams, leaders have even more obstacles to overcome with some of their team remote while others are in-person. Interpersonal teamwork is hard enough but when the remote/in-person factor is added into the equation, leaders find themselves navigating landmines at every turn.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to manage a hybrid workforce efficiently. We’ll look at some of the steps that hybrid team leaders can take to prevent future problems.

One of the biggest issues with leading a team is to temper expectations and avoid the siloed thinking that naturally accompanies a hybrid team structure. As the leader, your job is to create a “teamwork” mentality rather than allowing team members to focus solely on their individual productivity. When individuals care more about their personal productivity, it leads to a slow path of team disintegration. Because employees don’t naturally see everyone, issues inevitably arise that fracture a team.

Here’s how to disarm the landmines before they explode.

Hold regular meetings to ensure teams are on the same page

Holding regular meetings is especially true if your hybrid teams are adopting an independent approach, with some employees in-person while others are remote. When your teams are able to freely balance their own work style approach, your support helps to clarify their responsibilities and accountabilities.

Video meetings can be the default and held regularly to ensure everyone is on the same page. Most importantly, they give hybrid teams a chance to interact virtually and in-person with each other, as these opportunities may not naturally arise. It’s important to be aware of the dynamics for those in the office and those remote who may feel “left out” from in-person water cooler conversations.

Communication is everything

Maintaining effective communication is essential to leading a hybrid work team. Teams even struggle with communication in-person, so imagine the challenge presented when you add distance to the equation with some employees in person and others remote!

Lack of communication is equivalent to a minesweeper aimlessly walking through a mine field without any tools. Eventually, something’s going to explode.

Hybrid team leaders must create an effective method of communicating so that everyone on the team stays in the loop. It’s a challenging enough undertaking in-person but when working remotely/and in-person, it’s downright overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are some ways to ensure your hybrid team’s communication is effective:

  • Have a detailed process in place for regular status checks. Weekly meetings are a great place to start but having a way for team members to post regular status updates that are visible to both those in-person and remote creates a strong system for communication.
  • Hybrid teams must have the right tools to disarm potential problems before they explode. Group messaging tools are a great choice.
  • Ensure team members are strong at communicating. Consider a short training course that focuses on teaching efficient communication practices.
  • Be aware of “backchannel” communication that either those remote don’t experience (i.e., hallway conversations) or those in-person don’t experience (e.g., text or private instant messaging channels).

Don’t let your in-person vs. remote teams start competing against each other

Teams competing against each other is a trap that we see many hybrid teams fall into. A natural segregation is between those who are in-person vs. those who are remote. A team is only as strong as its members. No one person should feel as if they have to compete, as it creates unnecessary stress.

Friendly competition does work at times but when the interactions are amongst “insider” vs. “outsider” groups, office politics arise. Team members will become less likely to help each other, which can cause any project to struggle.

The key is to be aware of any perceived “proximity bias” as a leader, if you’re inadvertently favoring those in your sight. Instead, carefully ensure your communication to those remote is the same as those in-office, continually try to remove obstacles and break down silos, and foster a collaborative work environment where team members can come together by creating a communication network that encourages collaboration rather than competition.

Don’t let overhead costs explode

When leading a hybrid team, overhead costs are not as straightforward as with in-person teams. Mitigate the remote employee’s costs carefully to avoid both expense issues and in-person employees feeling slighted.

When planning a hybrid team, it’s important that you outline all the details up-front and communicate them to the team. Will you reimburse remote employees for the time they are using their own internet and electricity? It is important to be transparent and ensure an equitable formula also exists for those employees in the office.

Once you have laid out each detail, create a budget based on those expenses, discuss it with the team, and share your objective formulas.

Diffuse different time zones so schedules don’t clash

Without guidance, hybrid teams may incur challenges with meeting scheduling, with preferred work times being amplified. For example, remote employees may prefer to start work early, using the time for their commute to begin their day. Others may prefer to start later and work later. Meanwhile, in-office employees may feel abject to the fact that their day includes their commute and the fact that they may not trust that their peers are working.

When leading a hybrid team that is distributed in different geographical locations, time zones further become a factor. Challenges lie in deciding on fair meeting times, work schedules, and communication means.

The best method is to create schedules based on each person’s unique time zone and make sure their colleagues are aware of this. There will be a point where schedules intersect so use these windows to set up meetings and open communication.

Here’s an example:

  • West Coast Employee Schedule: 9 am PST to 5 pm PST
  • East Coast Employee Schedule: 9 am EST to 5 pm EST

Using this example, these schedules would intersect from 12 pm EST to 5 pm EST. That’s a five-hour window for meetings and communication between teams.

Set up processes to ensure team members do not work too much

When working from home, some team members might have trouble stepping away from work without clear work/home guidelines that are amplified with the need to “prove” they are working to their in-person colleagues.

To support them, suggest schedules and communicate boundaries. Pay attention to deviations from their schedule when remote team members log on and off for the day as equally as you would notice those working late in the office outside their typical hours.

Disarm these landmines once and for all

In today’s environment, organizations are forced to adopt a hybrid work approach, despite the complexities it brings. Leading these teams requires you to adopt a unique leadership style that effectively promotes this work environment.

Now that you’re armed with the skills required to lead a hybrid team, it’s time to tackle each hidden landmine that’s just beneath the surface. The result will be a more seamless organization that can circumvent upcoming issues.