The last two years have been times of transition – sometimes abrupt, as work-from-home orders came overnight. Others in a more measured way as teams slowly re-entered offices and shared workspaces, continuing to work from home or blending these in a hybrid way. Teams across the world are currently exploring and figuring out a version of this new world that maps to their own values, culture, and strategy. There is no blueprint for this transition to hybrid ways of working, although current research has positioned curiosity, empathy, and openness to experience as key traits to work effectively in a hybrid world (Chamorro-Premuzic & Akhtar, 2021).
In our work with teams across the UK, Europe, and Africa, Teamery has identified four levers to mindfully navigate the transition to a hybrid way of work.
‘Clearly contracting with the team on the rules of engagement and ways of working is the first key step. Clearly define, and ideally co-create your team’s hybrid blueprint,’ says Teamery’s Kirstie McFarlane. ‘Decide who will be working where and when. Define which activities and tasks need to be completed in-person, in office and at the same time. Place the organisation and team’s purpose - your ‘why’ - at the heart of this. Align around the wider organisational values and culture. Spend time clarifying the team’s goals, roles, understanding each team member’s needs and expectations, and the team’s deliverables. Revisit the team’s strengths and assets; be realistic about obstacles and risks. Contract clearly on the behaviours that will be rewarded and those that will be sanctioned.’
Whilst some tasks and activities might be completed asynchronously, working interdependently and collaboratively requires moments when the team is convened. Teamery’s Kerrin Miller builds ‘Being intentional around why, when and how the team meets is vital for effective hybrid work. Clear contracting helps this. A blueprint on when integration is needed and how best to convene the team to be deliberate on when and how to gather.’
This has a logistical and technical element, ensuring everyone in the team is clear on where to meet – which might be the information of physical meeting room, or it might be the link to the virtual room. The time needs to be clear and in a hybrid world it is essential to remember that there might be team members in different time zones, and so it is especially important that the team is clear whose ‘2pm’ we mean when we set a meeting for 2pm!
It is also really important to give some consideration to the setup of the room. Is the layout conducive to a discussion between those on a screen and those in the room? Will anyone be inadvertently excluded because of the way the room is set up? Has the technology been checked? If broadband links, screens, and connections are not working, those attending virtually will be excluded.
Adding to your team’s contract and way of convening, build points of connection socially. Teamery’s Karen Gubb continues - Once everyone is in the room (either physically or virtually), the human side of connection must receive attention. It is important to take the time to greet everyone, to check in with each person and acknowledge their presence. A team ritual works well at this point, and this can include each answering a question that the team agrees to or sharing something that has happened since the last meeting. The purpose of the ritual is to bring everyone into the room emotionally. At Teamery we believe that it is equally important to mark the end of a meeting in a comparable way. It is easy for people just to drop off a call or walk out of a room if everyone else’s attention is on a screen. If the team does not acknowledge the start and end of their time together, the edges of the team can start to feel porous and that can impact the sense of cohesion and belonging.’
Teamer’s Elaine Seale-McKend concludes that ‘keeping the team talking on how things are going, what’s working and what might be done better or differently ensures that there is a feedback loop, learning and growth on the transition to hybrid.’ Build regular, two-way communication points for the team. Give space for the team to run experiments as they navigate the transition to hybrid; and bring your curiosity, empathy, and openness to have authentic conversations. Do this obe-on-one as well as with the team collectively. You are building the path as you are walking it, and real dialogue is a way of iterating and optimising as you go.
Worth a read:
Chamorro-Premuzic, T & Akhtar, R (2021). 4 traits you need to thrive in a hybrid work environment. Harvard Business Review, August 03, 2021.