Adjusting to a hybrid workplace while trying to keep team morale intact can seem like a tall order. Expect there to be a learning curve for your entire team as you get to understand your employees’ needs and expectations. If you’re looking to make the transition as smooth as possible, here are some common hybrid team management mistakes to keep an eye out for.
Mistake #1: Not Clarifying Team Expectations
One of the most common oversights in a hybrid office is failing to clarify the new norms upfront. Establish clear and consistent expectations with your team from the get-go, then convey these expectations in writing, so there’s no room for ambiguity.
If your company allows your team the flexibility to create your own schedule, work with your team to develop a set of reasonable and realistic expectations that everyone is able to get behind. Aim for flexibility whenever possible — for example, make it easy for your team to switch in-office days for the week if something comes up such as a doctor appointment. Finally, post your expectations in a central, easily accessible place so everyone can refer back to these anytime they want.
Mistake #2: Not Making Communication a Priority
Hybrid working often means that employees are scattered across various locations or time zones. Without a clearly defined communication strategy, disconnection or fragmentation can occur. The solution is to make overcommunication a policy. Here are some ideas for taking your communication to the next level with your team:
- Make everyone’s schedules clearly visible to the whole team with a virtual scheduling tool.
- Coordinate with team members to find the right communications tech stack for your team’s unique needs.
- Create a communications policy that explicitly states which medium to use for which specific function (for example, Zoom for meetings, Asana for project feedback, Slack for quick collaboration, etc.).
- Invite employee feedback on a continual basis.
Mistake #3: Not Working to Combat Proximity Bias
In a hybrid office setting, it’s important to watch out for proximity bias — the unconscious favoring of in-office associates over their remote counterparts. Avoid this tendency with the following tips:
- Use clearly defined, measurable performance indicators for evaluating all team members.
- Evenly distribute career advancement opportunities, such as the chance to deliver a presentation to senior leadership, among both in-office and at-home employees.
- Connect with each of your team members on a regular basis in one-on-one meetings to make sure everyone feels heard and valued. Try to hold these meetings on-site for everyone if possible.
- Loop in the whole team when making key decisions or sharing critical information.
For more ideas on how to combat this pernicious influence, check out our article, Here’s How to Overcome Proximity Bias in the Hybrid Workplace.
Mistake #4: Monitoring Attendance Out of a Place of Distrust
While it makes sense to have visibility into whether employees are at home or in the office for collaboration purposes, a disconcerting new trend is now on the rise — monitoring office attendance from a place of distrust. But employers that use attendance as a way to judge whether or not their employees are "actually working" have completely missed the point. Employees have fought hard over the past two years to overcome the “butts in seat” mentality of the pre-COVID workplace by successfully demonstrating that we can work from home without a dip in productivity.
Such a mentality behind an attendance system can only have a negative impact on company culture. “[S]ome workers, having experienced the flexibility of remote work and empowered by a tight labor market, have bristled at being monitored as they make the transition back to the office,” Emma Goldberg and Lauren Hirsch write for The New York Times. “They feel pressured to go in when they know their supervisors are collecting attendance data, even as rising Covid-19 levels cause concern.”
People managers are also uncomfortable in such an environment. Goldberg and Hirsch continue: “Many managers are just as put off by the prospect of having to take attendance. ‘I’m a busy person, too, and the thought of being a monitor like we’re in junior high again is horrible,’ said Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, a nutrition organization in Boston with a staff of 10.”
When organizations adopt a stance of distrust toward their own employees, the office symbolizes control rather than what it should stand for: collaboration. While taking attendance can be highly valuable for improving the workplace, it shouldn’t come at the cost of destroying morale.
#5 Not Monitoring Attendance As a Source of Data
On the other hand, you don’t want to go entirely without attendance tracking. In the article mentioned above, Goldberg and Hirsch point out the advantage of tracking general attendance patterns rather than individual data:
“DocuSign, for example, which … has more than 7,000 employees, evaluates information on desk and conference room reservations, as well as entry badge swipes, to see which days and hours teams are using the workplace. But the company does not examine what specific staffers are doing, said Joan Burke, the company’s head of human resources. ‘We are not taking attendance,’ Ms. Burke said in an email. ‘Our employees have proven they can be successful working from anywhere.’”
Such data can be invaluable to companies looking to organically boost office attendance or who want to enhance amenities for on-site employees. Additionally, when using actual data trends regarding when employees are in and out of the office, managers can help set norms and guidelines that employees will be more willing to adopt. For example, with Scoop’s attendance guidelines, employees can see expectations easily when they set their work location for the day, and managers can view their direct reports’ attendance and customize on-site attendance guidelines accordingly.
Effective Hybrid Team Management Is Achievable
Hybrid working may be the new normal, but just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s easy. By avoiding these hybrid team management mistakes above, you can set your team up for success during this transition.
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