Sixty-nine percent of companies intend to involve some sort of “hybrid” in their workforce location plans for the fall of 2021 and into 2022. Yet, these setups are uncharted territory for many teams. Finding what works for your organization will involve experimentation. But, you can learn from those who have done this before. We reached out to experienced hybrid teams to ask about the practices they’ve established to ensure their teams are inclusive and productive.
We specifically wanted to focus on how teams overcome challenges that can make hybrid work harder, such as:
- In-office vs remote workforce inequities
- Remote employees left out of decision-making
- Unprepared leaders
- Executives out of touch with workplace realities
Here are some routines from a wide range of teams worth considering as you experiment with your own setups.
Advice from Hybrid Team Leaders
“At Loom, our very own asynchronous video messaging tool is foundational to how we communicate, collaborate, and build culture in a hybrid environment. For example, many teams record asynchronous standups with Loom and thread their videos in Slack so everyone can see what their teammates are up to even if their schedules or projects don’t overlap. We’ve seen this boost inter- and cross-team connection and keep everyone on the same page even in a fast-paced environment. We’ve also found fun ways to build culture remotely with Loom, like creating asynchronous music videos and our spoof of MTV Cribs called LooMTV Cribs in which Loommates gave tours of their home workspaces.”
—Karina Parikh, Hybrid Experience at Loom
+1 from the Workplaceless team. We use and advocate for Loom with our clients regularly.
“In a hybrid environment, if the leader is in-person then naturally the other folks in-person have more opportunities to spend time, get in on conversations, and make decisions. So as leaders, making sure that you’re really intentional about asking everyone ‘how was your weekend?’ on Slack . . . regardless of time zone, regardless of location, [so they] can equally share what went on in their weekend, how they’re feeling, what they learned this week—whatever the questions may be. When you’re offering opportunities—‘would anyone like to take on this project, or is anyone interested in this event?’— . . . at 9am Eastern Time and half your team is on the west coast, that’s not equitable. You haven’t asked it in a way that gives everybody the same opportunity.”
—Meaghan Williams, Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager of HubSpot
“If one person is remote, everyone is remote. Everyone joins from Zoom no matter if they are beside each other in the office or 500 miles away. We also keep goals public and accessible online so that nothing get lost on a physical sticky note at the office. MURAL, Figma, Whimsical, Quip, and Trello are all used for this.
We have a catered Crew lunch at our Birmingham office every Friday. Obviously our remote crew members are not able to join so, to be inclusive, we add $10 to their paychecks every week as if we are buying them lunch.”
—Trent Kocurek, CEO and Co-founder of Airship
“One way we help facilitate a productive workplace is doing internal team building activities that include all team members (which means running virtual or hybrid events). For example, we did an internal trivia event for Black History Month and a similar one for Pride Month where all employees could participate, and at the end we made donations to important causes on behalf of our team. These internal events help promote internal harmony, boost morale and create connections between our people.”
—Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding
“We implemented a daily stand-up meeting about 15 minutes long in which members update the rest of the team about what they are working on and what they have lined up next. This way, everyone on the team knows who’s working on what even as they collaborate remotely. This approach has been particularly helpful in creating a culture of psychological safety as employees can voice their concerns and share their accomplishments and failures without fear of retribution, leading to strong team cohesion where no one feels marginalized.”
—Ben Lamarche, General Manager of Lock Search Group
We welcome a daily connection point, especially to address remote worker inclusion, and we also encourage teams to consider trying or shifting to an asynchronous approach. Chase Warrington from Doist shares an example of how to do this in our healthy remote habits blog article. At Workplaceless, we use a #daily_standup Slack channel. Every morning each member of the team, in their own time zone, shares their top three priorities, plus any blocks. Team members circle back to support.
“Every business with a hybrid model strives to avoid on-site favoritism. When we realize this negatively affects employee engagement, we prioritize searching for inclusive work habits. To do this, we use tools from Bias Interrupters, which has long years of experience and academic capabilities in increasing diversity.
Through their Sample Survey, we were able to gather input from employees and examine our main problems. The result of this was a decision to formalize the task assignment system (by using Airtable) to make sure remote workers are not overlooked. Additionally, we implemented a Donut app for our Slack communicator. It’s a tool for arranging virtual watercooler meetings, like virtual coffee. It is our goal to include remote workers in our work society as well.”
—Tomek Mlodzki, CEO of Photo AiD
“Habits from mixed groups that make them functional include creating a set of communication guidelines. Organizational effectiveness is based on good communication. Communication in hybrid teams involves intention and balance. Hybrid teams also understand the differences between asynchronous and synchronous communication patterns and put them into practice. Create and distribute a communication charter that is in sync. Communication Charters establish defined communication routes and boundaries, facilitating collaboration and completing more work.”
—Teo Vanyo, CEO of Stealth Agents
+1 from the Workplaceless team on the importance of creating and aligning on a Communication Charter. Our team can help guide you through the creation in our Building a Communication Charter workshop.
“Flexible benefits are built into successful hybrid teams. Gifts appropriate for in-office employees may not be suitable for remote employees, but considering benefits with flexible alternatives can open doors. Make sure you’re aware of the perks mandated by each country or state where you work. Create a portfolio of incremental flexible benefit alternatives that employees can use with a set stipend amount. Replicate the office arrangements you provide your in-office employees with stipends to co-working locations or work-from-home options. Consider the natural benefits that occur in the workplace. When your office team members go out to lunch, pay for your remote employees’ lunches, or better yet, arrange for food delivery.”
—Dan Barcelon, Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Non-Athlete Fitness
“I always favor crawl before you run. . . . you start small, but when it’s time to scale don’t be afraid to actually adopt some new processes that help you work ultimately more efficiently even though there’s a learning curve that may seem like it’s slowing you down for a bit.”
—Mark Tippin, Director, Strategic Next Practices at MURAL
“Continue to learn and adapt: In my opinion, we will never truly master a hybrid work environment or any work environment for that matter. The hybrid work strategy is never completed, and as such, should be revisited and adapted as we learn more about the impacts of the pandemic and the various work environments it has created out of necessity.”
—Ann Walton, Vice President, People & Operations at Voices
In researching for this article, we also received submissions from hybrid teams that shared habits that are not optimal or sustainable for the long-term. Some hybrid leaders shared that they “ensure office and remote employees are treated equally in performance reviews,” but they haven’t made any adjustments to policies or structures to ensure this is the case. Additionally, many teams emphasized an overreliance on daily synchronous meetings as the only way in which people stay informed. As leaders envision a future where hybrid teams are effective, yet not burnt out, it will involve some serious reflection as to whether the habits and behaviors they’ve established are contributing to overload.
For further preparation, our Guide to Hybrid Teams summarizes years of experience working with hybrid teams to help your team understand the dynamics of hybrid teams, the importance of effective leadership, and the critical elements of remote-first and async practices that make hybrid work successful.