As the return to the offices gains momentum, it looks like there will be a mix of office and home-based scenarios—aka hybrid workplaces. A Future Forum survey of 10,000 knowledge workers found that employees want flexibility. Some of the findings:
- 76 percent want flexibility on where they work.
- 93 percent want flexibility on when they work.
- 56 percent are willing to find more flexible job opportunities.
- Flexibility is second only to compensation in the factors leading people to change jobs.
Hybrid is Different than All-Remote
In 2020, the lockdowns that forced everyone to work from home changed work, and businesses rebounded with increased productivity. For example, Prialto's 2021 Executive Productivity Report found that 74 percent of executives said they were more productive working from home.
7 Productivity Tips for Hybrid Teams
But all-remote is much different from a hybrid workplace with some all-remote workers, some full-time in the office, and some going back and forth. There are new communication and productivity challenges. You may need to change how you use tools, processes, and best practices to collaborate. Here are some tips for maintaining hybrid team productivity.
1. Create a buddy system
Microsoft found that 56 percent of employees who met with an assigned coworker at least once every 90 days said their contact helped them to become more productive on the job. That percentage jumped to 73 percent for those who met two to three times with their teammate, 86 percent for those who spoke four to eight times, and 97 percent for those meeting more than eight times. You can see the trajectory. Make sure remote workers meet with office workers.
2. Set communication expectations
Way back when we were all in the office, collaboration like Zoom and Slack were used sparingly and without much guidance or clear expectations. When everyone went remote, these tools became the online equivalent of talking across a desk or over a cube wall or jumping into a conference room for a few minutes. Set guidelines for which tools to use for different purposes. For example:
- Use instant messaging when you want a response within 30 minutes.
- Use email if you need a response by the end of the day.
- Schedule a video call if your messaging takes more than three instant messages or emails.
"People use the same tools and commit to following the same processes," said Brian Kardon, CMO of InVision. "This can create an equal playing field for all employees and becomes an integral part of the culture that binds people together—despite the distance."
3. Check-in with your team members 2-3 times each day
Checking in a few times a day might sound like overkill, but it is vital because silence can be hard to interpret. Out of sight, out of mind is not a recipe for productivity. You might think you are empowering your employees by leaving them alone, and they may believe that you do not care. Check-ins are especially important for your direct reports. Always ask if they have everything they need or would like additional support.
4. Assume positive intent
Assuming positive intent gets easier with frequent one-on-one meetings. Like silence, written communication can also be challenging to interpret. It is easy to think someone is critical or resistant to something if you are not frequently in touch. You will find that everyone performs better in an environment of optimistic assumptions—it builds trust and psychological safety.
5. Give positive feedback
Recognition is one of the most potent drivers of workplace engagement, Gallup found, calling positive feedback a "low cost, high impact" practice.
- 90 percent of workers say they work harder when they receive positive recognition.
- Employees that receive one piece of praise per day are 30 percent more productive.
- Only one in three employees said they receive feedback.
Recognition is even more critical in a hybrid environment when some people will not hear the praise in the office.
6. Have daily "standup" team meetings
Getting the entire team together once a day for 5-15 minutes works productivity wonders. You should make sure everyone speaks briefly about their plans for the day, shares any blockers, and asks for help if needed. Daily meetings give your teammates a chance to help one another out and avoid unnecessary delays in projects. Standups work better when everyone is in front of a computer and has a personal screen. If some people are in a conference room and others are working from home, it can be challenging to hear each other, make eye contact, and pay attention.
7. Use data to measure performance
Teams are most productive when everyone has and tracks clear and measurable performance expectations. Using data takes performance out of the realms of opinion and speculation. Managers know that employees are reaching their goals regardless of their location. Examples of performance data include:
- Sales numbers for salespeople.
- Marketing qualified leads for marketers.
- Software pushes into a repository for engineers.
Objective performance measurement improves productivity and reduces stress for hybrid teams. Everyone can see whether people meet their goals.
The Importance of Culture
"When part of a team moves back to the office, and others stay remote, the experiences diverge," InVision's Kardon said. "Some meetings happen in an office; others happen virtually. Perks and benefits apply to one cohort but not another. Processes that should be followed by everyone are unevenly respected."
Treating employees differently based on their location or work structure can create two cultures. The risk is that the separate remote and on-site experiences become institutionalized, and the playing field is no longer level. "Over time, these differences tend to concretize, revealing the ultimate danger in partially remote workforces: the creation of essentially two different organizations."
Use these tips to improve productivity and strengthen culture at the same time.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.