The Challenges of Leading a Hybrid Team

January 18, 2022
hybrid team
The advantages of a hybrid team work environment are undeniable, including happier employees. For many companies, though, it’s a novel concept that comes with significant challenges, including how to manage a hybrid team.

Managing teams who are only in the office half the time requires new workflows, communication protocols, and management practices. It also demands new digital tools that help maintain a cohesive company culture and make collaboration a seamless affair. Enterprise knowledge management software is one solution that can make hybrid work management much easier to implement.

What Is a Hybrid Team?

A hybrid working environment is a flexible arrangement that lets employees work from home, in the office, or both. Once unique to distributed teams, it’s now, a year-and-a-half post-pandemic lockdowns, an approach that appears likely to become the norm.

How to manage hybrid teams is so challenging because every team member is contending with vastly different circumstances. Management must find a way to treat everyone fairly while ensuring in-house employees are in sync with the remote workforce. What is the right level of flexibility, given needs are so diverse and constantly in flux? How do employees and management alike unlearn old practices and embrace new systems?

So many factors have the potential to throw up obstacles and pitfalls that can make it difficult for remote and on-premises employees to stay productive and communicative. Let’s look at just a few of these challenges and talk about ways you can meet them head-on.

Hybrid Working Challenges

One newly emerging challenge is how employers will evaluate the effectiveness of their hybrid work model as the world slowly but surely moves beyond COVID-19. Relying on the same metrics as during the pandemic won’t work because:

  • Businesses were forced to adapt quickly, with little time to shift mindsets or upskill employees.
  • As schools reopen, many workers won’t face the same childcare issues they did during the pandemic.
  • There’s a huge difference between being forced to work from home and adopting a location-independent remote work model.

Today, organizations must focus on figuring out how a hybrid structure fits into their larger goals and strategic future and finding a way to keep everyone happy and engaged.

Challenge: How to maintain a cohesive company culture

What tools, techniques, and tactics can management use to maintain a cohesive company culture when employees are spread near and far? Good communication and collaboration are difficult in any work environment; distributed teams can make it doubly challenging to build a unified workforce. For instance, employees who must or choose to work full-time in the office will naturally have a connection with each other that’s different from their remote counterparts, who often report feeling isolated.

To avoid having communication break down to the point where people are less productive and engaged, organizations can try:

  • Developing goal-oriented communication protocols that reflect the company’s values.
  • Equipping employees with a consistent digital experience no matter where they’re working from.
  • Making continual, open communication a priority using digital communication channels that encourage cross-functional collaboration, increase morale, and foster deeper connections.
  • Proactively listening to employees where and whenever possible. Performance metrics, feedback, surveys, one-on-one chats, and other data can provide insight into what teams need to better perform their tasks and feel heard.

Challenge: How to promote fruitful collaboration with remote teams

Collaboration is often cited as one of the greatest challenges associated with remote work. Fortunately, the tools and methods you use to maintain a company culture apply here, too. By improving communication and standardizing business processes, you can facilitate collaboration and ensure productivity remains high.

Solutions include:

  • Documenting business processes to ensure employees understand expectations.
  • Investing in task or project management software that helps simplify workflows, reduce friction, and lower error rates.
  • Scheduling regular online meetings and social time, which can vastly improve the dynamics between geographically separated teams.

Challenge: Managing distributed teams

It’s easier for managers to oversee an employee’s activity when they’re in the office, but even there, you can’t monitor anyone’s work every second of the day. There’s no need to think you must micromanage remote workers in order for them to remain productive. Instead, focus on:

  • Holding employees accountable for results rather than the time they spend working on a task or project.
  • Using the same management strategies and maintaining the same standards for all employees, regardless of location.
  • Setting consistent and predictable times for check-ins and meetings, so people in and out of the office feel part of the same team.

Challenge: Overcoming digital complexity

During the pandemic, many organizations invested in state-of-the-art digital tools and software so employees could maintain their productivity levels and provide customers with the support they needed. Some, concerned about diminishing returns, may have gone somewhat overboard.

It’s important to remember that the more digital tools you adopt, the more employees must learn, and the more complicated their workflows become. Solving this digital dilemma is relatively simple: invest only in the digital technology that makes sense for your employees and business. While automation tools are generally of enormous benefit to most companies, not everyone needs to rush into the newest tech offerings. Because while new technology is exciting, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you or your people.

Before investing in digital solutions:

  • First, identify your core goals and needs.
  • Consider the end-user, be it employees or customers.
  • Determine if you can leverage specific tools to improve employee productivity and your bottom line.

Hybrid Work Management

Organizations wondering how to support hybrid work need look no further than investing in enterprise knowledge management, which provides the flexibility and productivity benefits of remote work with the social opportunities of working on-site. KMS Lighthouse’s cloud-based knowledge management system helps businesses digitally evolve, supporting their transition to a hybrid work environment in a seamless and stress-free way.