Overcoming challenges of Hybrid Teams

Overcoming challenges of Hybrid Teams

DESCRIPTION

The health crisis of the years 2020-2022 was a catalyst for the transformation of working methods: forced to adopt a 100% remote mode for a time, then a mixed face-to-face and remote mode. Companies were able to draw important lessons from this experience (unprecedented for some of them). Studies show that teams are as productive in these configurations as in face-to-face work and that the hybrid mode is favoured by the majority of employees.

This stressful experience has removed many of the beliefs about remote working to the extent that in August 2020, 90% of managers indicated that they were ready to adopt hybrid working on a long-term basis, indicating that their company had been as productive since its introduction.

More and more, the hybrid mode is becoming a standard operating mode. In addition to the productivity gains experienced by some companies, it responds to a desire on the part of employees to telework more frequently and also opens the door to new opportunities: recruiting talent "where they are", reducing costs and the environmental footprint.

A hybrid team is a mixed organisation: not all managers and employees are co-located. Several hybrid team configurations are possible:

  • The whole team is remote (teleworking at home, in a co-working space, etc.);
  • Part of the team is co-located and some people are split individually in several locations;
  • All team members alternate between face-to-face and remote work.

It should be noted that, whatever the organisational model of a team, the expected role of the manager remains unchanged: to recruit and integrate, to share objectives, to organise, to steer the activity, to evaluate and accompany.

The management and monitoring of team performance are particularly affected by this paradigm shift: indeed, the manager can no longer have clear visibility at all times on the activity of his or her teams; the usual levers for measuring the performance of employees are no longer relevant in this context. In this organisational model, performance is necessarily linked to objectives and results: it is therefore appropriate to develop FAST (Frequently Discussed, Ambitious, Specific and Transparent) objectives rather than SMART objectives.

Hybrid configurations require the manager to find a new way of fulfilling his role and managing his team.

In addition to the problems and challenges of remote management, inherent to these team configurations, it must also face new challenges, specific to this mixed situation. Indeed, unlike the 100% remote or 100% face-to-face configuration, a new variable emerges: that of choice.

  • At the first level, there is the company's choice: what organisational framework will it fit into (weekly duration of telework, etc.)?
  • Then there is the manager's choice: how should these rules be applied to the team, taking care to ensure fairness, the preservation of team spirit, etc.?
  • Finally, the preferences of the employees within the imposed framework are added to the equation, which they can choose according to their ability to manage the distance.

These choices have impacts :

1. Distance can lead to inequality of treatment within a hybrid team: those present in the office are "close" to the manager, have access to all resources (screen, printer, support from those present...). They are also "visible" to other employees, managers, etc.

Furthermore, employees who have no choice but to be in the workplace because of the nature of their profession (workers, maintenance, production plants, physical shops, etc.) will inevitably be treated differently, so that a new subject of "diversity and inclusion" could emerge in their regard.

2. Both modalities, face-to-face and remote, have their own advantages (collaboration time vs. substantive work) and it is advisable for the manager to take full advantage of the benefits of each modality, in particular by avoiding "distorting" them by trying to reproduce for the hybrid team a classic scheme, designed for a co-located or "full remote" team.

3. The alternation between face-to-face and distance learning can also have an impact on the feeling of belonging to a team. Indeed, as the team rarely (if ever) meets in its entirety, new dynamics emerge: sub-systems are set up (bands, sub-teams, etc.). The employee feels more a part of the sub-system than of the team as a whole.

4. One of the tendencies observed among managers of newly hybrid teams is to reinforce, or even multiply, their control actions. This approach, which is not very effective, can be counter-productive: the resulting overload on employees (over-solicitation, exacerbated reporting) can lead to exhaustion and, at the very least, to a loss of efficiency or concentration.

These impacts raise specific issues for the manager in the hybrid situation, to name a few:

  • How to maintain team cohesion and a uniform feeling of belonging among employees?
  • How can we ensure uniform sharing of information among members of a hybrid team?
  • What managerial approaches should be adopted for effective hybrid management?
  • How can a results-oriented culture be established in the long term to effectively manage hybrid teams?