The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many businesses that had little to no experience with distributed teams into remote work-from-home experiments. Many employers are pleased with the results and making plans to allow for more remote workers in the future. But for some businesses, the shift to working from home during the pandemic was more challenging as employees and managers struggled to adapt to the new realities of remote work.
As stay-at-home orders are lifted, many businesses will be faced with difficult decisions about how to resume onsite operations. Some employees will want to return—and others may feel uncomfortable going into the office until a vaccine is produced. Additionally, health experts recommend a phased reopening and staggered schedules for workers, meaning that some employees will continue working from home.
It’s critical for leaders and managers to hold a “working from home relaunch” to ensure all team members are on the same page as businesses transition to working with distributed teams. To ensure success, managers must strive to understand how team members have been affected, address concerns, and reestablish norms and expectations.
Learn why it’s important to reboot your team as businesses adapt to new realities including hybrid teams where some employees return to the office while others continue to work from home. Find out how to strengthen essential leadership skills to engage employees and ensure they have what they need to achieve clear and specific team goals.
Understand the challenges of remote work
Remote work is different from the traditional structure in several ways. When asked about the biggest struggle with working remotely in a recent survey, 22% said they faced difficulty unplugging after work, 19% experienced loneliness or isolation, and 17% struggled with collaboration and communication. On top of these issues that a pre-pandemic remote worker would face, think about the added stress and pressure that COVID-19 has on workers. That’s why it’s important for business leaders to be aware of these challenges and do what they can to engage employees, improve communication, and ensure workers feel good about being part of your team.
Five leadership skills for managing partially remote teams
According to recent SHRM research, 71% of employers are finding it difficult to adapt to telework as a way of doing business. Business leaders need to be aware of how working from home can affect team camaraderie—especially when dealing with a mix of remote and onsite employees. It’s also important for managers to take steps to reduce stress for remote workers, especially since 37% believe that working remotely can lead to reduced visibility.
Here are five best practices for managing mixed remote/onsite teams to ensure team cohesion and success.
1. Breathe some life into your meetings.
When conducting meetings with both onsite and remote workers, also known as a hybrid meeting, it’s important to be organized and have an agenda. Video conferencing is highly preferred over the speakerphone mode because it provides a visual reminder of remote workers and allows people to observe non-verbal cues in communication. SHRM recommends adapting your online meeting length to create short virtual huddles rather than marathon board meetings.
While conducting business is obviously important when it comes to your meetings, it’s also vital to make time for small talk to build rapport among your team members. Try starting your virtual meeting with an icebreaker for remote teams to create personal connections between coworkers and create common ground for future conversations.
2. Improve employee communications.
With communication, consistency is king. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set standards for communication so both onsite and remote employees hear news at the same time. Set expectations as well as ground rules for check-in frequency. Develop a formal strategy that minimizes the barriers in exchanging and sharing project information by establishing methods for both asynchronous and synchronous information. Don’t overlook the importance of maintaining one-on-one meetings with employees to ensure you know how things are going.
3. Strengthen team cohesion and build rapport.
With a mixed onsite and remote team, it’s important to be more intentional about connecting with one another now that chance meetings by the physical water cooler are out. To build camaraderie among team members, host some creative remote gatherings as part of a regular team check-in schedule. Here are some unique ideas to spark team spirit:
Play a team trivia game that includes both personal- and project-related questions.
Establish an online space for fun stuff. For example, a Slack channel for memes or gifs.
Set up a team photo challenge like “Muggy Monday” where team members can share unique photos of their first mug of coffee or tea for the work week.
Host a virtual coffee break or virtual team lunch where you can relax and chat as you would if sharing an in-person lunch with colleagues.
4. Provide feedback and be supportive of employees.
In previous blogs, we’ve discussed how it’s always important to treat employees with respect; that goes for providing feedback and discussing progress while adapting to new realities. It’s essential to have a system in place that automates performance reviews and makes this process consistent whether employees are working at home or onsite. Conduct frequent check-ins or conversations so employees don’t feel intimidated by the feedback. Also be sure to explain how you will be there to help them improve—whether it’s coaching, mentoring, or providing resources to set up a better home workspace.
5. Celebrate employee successes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present new and unique challenges, it’s also a great time to step up your employee recognition efforts across the entire team. Workers who need to remain remote due to health
or family-related concerns may be worried that the boss appreciates onsite workers more—and onsite workers may feel more vulnerable and taken for granted. That’s why it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of both individuals and teams across your business. It can be as simple as setting up an online recognition platform that allows employees to post words of encouragement or appreciation for coworkers.
Strengthen your people processes
Help hybrid teams achieve peak performance with help from Asure’s team of certified HR professionals. Our fully outsourced HR service is built for growing companies that don’t have an in-house HR team and instead want to focus time and money on the core business. Our HR experts can deliver the tools and resources needed to support the entire employee lifecycle, at a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house HR team.