While working from home has become a necessity and has forever changed what companies understand about flexible work arrangements, it’s popularity will recede. Additionally, remote work is now better understood to be a viable way to organize a workforce that’s not driven purely by geography. And this means that company executives need to know how teams will work together in the future. The drivers shaping a hybrid workforce, one where a large percentage of the workforce is remote, and another part are co-located in offices, are dynamic. The implications will change how the company is organized and run.
The Influences Shaping How Hybrid Teams Work Together
Working remotely is not new. Companies have had telecommute policies for decades. However, this early arrangement centered on control and often was plagued with mistrust of employees—initial management worries centered on doubts that remote employees were working. Fast forward, today there is enough research showing that remote employees tend to work longer hours and are more productive.
Emerging from COVID-19, hybrid teams are the evolution from what remote work was once understood to be. To help distributed teams perform at their peak in this new reality, companies and their leaders need to understand the influences on a distributed workforce’s performance. By doing so, they can change the company.
Clarity in company and role purpose. While vision and mission are go-to levers that shape goals and business decisions, they tend to leave the workforce wondering, “How do I fit into this picture.” Company purpose focuses on the motivating influence of why the company exists. The company doesn’t exist to make a profit. That’s an outcome. Instead, a company’s purpose is an inspiring call that helps employees see their purpose within the organization.
Adjusted performance management systems. From pay to recognition to praise, how a distributed workforce receives accolades and compensation for hard work now must include a team component. Solely rewarding individual accomplishments reinforces siloes. Instead, the performance management system must also include a team performance component: praise, recognition, and pay.
Flexible company structure. Traditional hierarchies are slow and create unnecessary bureaucracies that hinder progress. General Stanley McChrystal added to the military’s traditional structure. Instead of relying solely on a command-and-control model, McChrystal’s dynamic design gave officers an additional way to achieve successful missions. A particular mission and its purpose shaped the new structure. It was a temporary structure. Since teams no longer have the luxury of spontaneously gathering for a project, the company needs to give them the flexibility to adapt how they plan, implement, monitor, and complete tasks and projects successfully.
Create workflows and processes for hybrid teams. As the cliché goes, what got you here won’t get you to the next level. Distributed teams are here to stay. So, how a team can get work done needs to adjust for remote realities. Large enterprise companies will always struggle with information siloes. Therefore, they must be judicious in dismantling or rebuilding workflows and processes that impede progress. In their place, workflows and processes must accelerate progress. One quick way to do this is to limit the number of meetings and give teams more time to focus on their part.
Reskill the workforce. One study finds that 62% of remote workers are more empathetic towards their teammates. Why? They’ve seen them in their home environments and how they are managing homeschooling kids, working in small apartments, and working through any wellbeing struggles—loneliness, work from home guilt, or feeling overwhelmed. Empathy, however, is but just one skill important for a distributed workforce. Foundational skills like listening, giving and receiving constructive feedback (and not taking it personally) are but a few skills or the future of teamwork. I’ve written about these skills in a recent post.
About the Author
Shawn is our Director of Organizational Behavior and Workplace Trends. His second book, Work Tribes is out now along with his first book, The Optimistic Workplace.