How Leaders Can Build Connection Across Hybrid and Remote Teams

Some striking trends are uncovered when you look into hybrid and remote work. Namely, more and more industry leaders are using it, and more and more employees prefer having at least a hybrid (if not fully remote) work option. In fact, one report found:

 

  • Hybrid workforce models are embraced by 63% of high-revenue growth companies.
  • 69% of companies with negative or no growth reject the concept of hybrid workforces and prefer all onsite or all remote employees.  
  • Workers prefer a hybrid model 83% of the time.

 

It’s hard to argue with those numbers. But even with productivity and employee satisfaction as strong benefits of remote work, leading a hybrid or remote team has its own unique challenges. Here’s how we recommend leaders and executive teams meet those challenges head on. 

 

Get Clear On What’s Difficult

When you’ve got a talented team, you want to remove all barriers to their success. For hybrid and remote teams, it may not be as obvious what those barriers are. A good first step is to gather feedback. For our example, we’ll use the SWOT model to solicit feedback around four key areas: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Questions to address each of those categories could include: 

 

Strengths: 

  • What are you most excited about when it comes to remote/hybrid work?
  • How does this work model play to your strengths?
Weaknesses:

  • What barriers or challenges does remote/hybrid work create for you?
  • What’s missing from your work routine or setup in a hybrid/remote environment?
Opportunities:

  • What skills can we help you develop to succeed as part of a hybrid/remote team?
  • What tools and tips should we consider as we try to improve our team’s sense of connection?
Threats:

  • Have you noticed a decline in team performance since starting remote work?
  • Is there anything concerning you about the future when it comes to remote work/your team/your projects, etc.?

 

Prioritize Authentic Communication

It may seem like remote workers already have convenient communication at their fingertips. Especially when considering the plethora of project management tools at our disposal. But if we’re not careful, those tools can become a substitute for authentic communication and connection, and a poor substitute at that. According to one Forbes report:

 

Virtual communication — or a lack thereof — is another major concern with hybrid teams. It is all too easy for remote workers to feel isolated and cut off from the rest of the team due to a lack of communication. After all, they don’t have the option of stopping you in the hall or going into your office when they have questions.

 

If you need to use Slack or other team communication tools, give people creative freedom to how their channels are set up. Channels for small talk, memes, pet photos, and other lighthearted topics are simple ways to maintain a personal connection from the other side of the screen. And it’s important not to “set it and forget it” when it comes to team communication. To avoid that trap:

 

  • Maintain regular check-ins face-to-face or via video. 
  • Encourage and model empathy and transparency. 
  • Commit to keeping people in the loop.
  • Keep the option open for in-person meetings and events.
  • Remember important dates and celebrate milestones— even from afar.

 

Don’t Look Over Their Shoulder

One of the biggest frustrations for hybrid/remote teams is feeling micromanaged. There’s a misconception among many leaders that people who work remotely might be slacking off, or getting less done. As a result, some remote teams are subject to levels of micromanaging that never would have happened in the office, like software that periodically takes screenshots to make sure people are constantly working, or time tracking down to the minute. 

 

People know when they’re not trusted, and that dynamic isn’t sustainable. If you’re seeing high turnover in spite of hiring talented people and paying them well, it’s possible they don’t feel trusted to do the work they were hired to do. 

 

Here’s what you can do instead:

 

  1. Set Clear Expectations: When everyone understands how crucial their work and their skills are to meeting company goals, a leader’s focus can shift from “What are you doing?” to “How can I help you get this done?”
  2. Be Outcome-Driven: Is work getting done well and in a timely fashion? If so, you don’t need to know the ins and outs of day-to-day task management.
  3. Empower People with Planning: Train your teams to plan for hangups, challenges, and other worst-case scenarios. When they build strategies for addressing setbacks, things are less likely to grind to a halt if they don’t go as planned. 
  4. Avoid Blame: If something goes wrong, do your best to frame it in terms of learning and professional growth rather than shame, blame, and guilt. When people see you’re confident they’ll do better going forward, they feel much more confident they can and will effectively learn from their oversights and mistakes.

 

Dream Big Together

Yes, remote/hybrid teams have their challenges, but the high degree of flexibility in remote work allows for lower stress, greater innovation, and a more fluid approach to progress. As you plan for the future, do your best to avoid tunnel vision on the drawbacks of remote work and allow yourself to think creatively with your team:

 

  • What can you accomplish without the confines of a traditional office?
  • How do remote options improve the quality of services for your clients and customers?
  • How can your team innovate together to maintain tight communication and give yourselves a competitive edge?

 

Ready to lead your hybrid or remote team to success?

Let’s partner together! You and your people deserve to conquer the challenges of remote and hybrid work while unlocking its full potential. Learn more about building collaborative teams that excel with our team development services and solutions.

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