With many organizations re-opening their office spaces to allow for social distancing, more and more managers find themselves now leading hybrid teams with some staff members on-site, some remote and others rotating between both options.
While most leaders have had at least a few months of experience managing remote employees, our latest state of the workforce can introduce a number of different challenges and opportunities as teams seek to work together effectively and maintain strong working relationships.
How can you help your staff create positive connections with one another as we navigate yet another change in our work environments?
Below are seven tips you can apply to build rapport and camaraderie with your hybrid team:
Invest in tools and technology that support virtual problem solving
When working through a problem, on-site employees may get together for a discussion, sketch out their thoughts on a white board or dig deep into analysis. While these actions can benefit individuals in the room, it’s hard for remote team members to contribute effectively.
As the team leader, consider what tools and technologies could better support your hybrid team’s processes. There is no shortage of digital options (here are some ideas  to get started), so have a conversation with your staff to understand their needs, test out a few tools and identify the programs you can use to support collaboration and make your processes more efficient.
Respect your team members’ time
Part of the allure of remote work is the control that employees have over their schedules. While your company likely has standard hours of operation, you can still find ways to honor team members’ time. If you work with employees in different time zones, have clear conversations around start and end times for their workday. You can also foster camaraderie by asking the whole team to periodically adopt an earlier start time or extend their day to accommodate remote staff.
If nothing else, be mindful about time zones and work-life needs – such as childcare – when planning work activities. You may also find it helpful to share calendars or set up notifications on Slack, so team members can let each other know when they’ll be away from their computers for an extended time.
Make connection a focal point of team meetings
When employees understand one another on a personal level, productivity increases – and it makes work a lot more fun. Ensure your team meetings include video so you can see one another’s faces and take a few minutes to socialize by using easy icebreakers that help teammates get to know each another.
At Emergenetics, we often kick-off meetings with a quick round robin check-in. It’s usually something light and fun like what’s your spirit animal or share your favorite vacation to help our staff build stronger relationships. You may also encourage team members to arrive a few minutes early to your virtual meetings when possible to allow for informal connections.
In addition to team meetings, I recommend that managers check in regularly with remote and on-site staff. Host regular one-on-ones to stay connected with each employee no matter their location.
Invest in your team’s potential with learning and development
You’re more likely to engage and retain employees when they have opportunities to continually learn new things and advance their careers . Be a champion of professional development and encourage staff to build new skills. When employees ask to attend a professional development program, do your very best to honor that request, and proactively seek out learning and development opportunities for individuals and the whole group.
If you’d like some ideas on workshops to support your hybrid teams, Emergenetics® International can help. Click here to learn more about our virtual programs  that can help your staff build skill, strengthen collaboration and support connection.
It’s easy for on-site team members to start up a conversation and talk through a project on-the-spot. As a manager, when you overhear a conversation in the workspace that a remote team member should be part of, ask your team to get on the phone and include all parties in the conversation, so everyone can stay in-the-loop.
Engage your staff using a variety of communication tools like video conferences, phone calls, email or platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams to provide regular updates and keep colleagues connected. I also encourage managers to use their one-on-one meetings to reinforce information and make sure all teammates are looped into what has gone on inside and outside of the office.
Build consensus on team norms
As the Emergenetics Profile reveals, we all have different working styles. In hybrid teams, it can be easy to adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to work, which can lead to misalignment as some individuals may charge ahead with work, leaving their remote (or on-site) colleagues behind.
Team norms make a difference for all groups, and they are especially useful to help hybrid teams build consensus around how they want to collaborate, operate and move projects forward. As the team leader, take time to have a conversation around norms and periodically revisit the commitments you have made to ensure they still support your team’s needs.
Set boundaries and create opportunities spontaneity
Related to team norms and honoring one another’s time, I recommend that managers set some clear boundaries around things like dedicated working hours where there are no scheduled meetings for the group, regular team gatherings that are not to be missed if at all possible and off hours where staff are truly left alone unless there is a real emergency.
It’s also engaging to try to create some of the spontaneity you see in the office with remote team members. If you’re on-site, it’s normal to reach out to teammates when you’re going to grab a coffee. With a hybrid team, consider sending an invitation to colleagues for a video call as you enjoy your hot (or iced) beverage. Managers should set the example and proactively seek out opportunities for unplanned gatherings. While it may feel a bit manufactured to you, it can go a long way in establishing connections between colleagues.
Teams work better when they have strong relationships. As you lead hybrid groups, support remote employees and reintegrate staff into the office, your role as a manager is essential to your team’s success. Leading by example and placing a priority on connection, you can foster positive working relationships across your team and ultimately drive greater productivity, results and engagement.
For more tips for managers, download our latest guide  designed to support remote work, or fill out the form below to connect with an Emergenetics team member today.