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Managing hybrid teams – How HRDs can upskill managers

Hybrid working is the new normal and only 13% of FTSE 250 firms expect a full return to the office (IWG). As a result, HR Directors (HRDs) must upskill managers who are managing hybrid teams to ensure great employee experience, regardless of location.

Since 2019, use of alternative working practices has exploded. The global pandemic forced thousands of managers to move from traditional ‘I can’t manage what I can’t see’ arguments to recognising the benefits of flexible working. So, now they’re onboard. But HR teams face a new challenge – enabling those managers to work effectively with their hybrid teams. It won’t be easy.

Our guide focuses on four key issues HRDs will need to tackle as managing hybrid teams becomes the norm:

  1. Presenteeism and proximity bias
  2. Supporting wellbeing from a distance
  3. Creating effective employee experiences everywhere
  4. Burnout at home and at work

Presenteeism and proximity bias: Warning! Promotion problems ahead

Productivity issues linked to presenteeism are not new. For decades employees have attended work when they’re unwell (HBR), whether for cultural or financial reasons. But that dedication and commitment has often been rewarded. Promotion and bonuses at the expense of good health.

In addition, the hybrid world has created proximity bias. Put the two together and it’s a potential discrimination nightmare. In a recent LinkedIn study, it was reported 44% of employees believe “working from home may negatively impact their career” (Forbes). Additionally, 47% think managers are more likely to favour office workers.

Hybrid-focused solutions to poor promotions practices

Presenteeism and proximity bias won’t solve themselves. You understand your diversity stats - the risk is obvious. So avoiding ‘out of sight, out of mind’ management demands positive interventions:

  1. Bias training, including proximity bias. Make managers aware of the problem. Tackle it head on and re-frame their thinking. Above all, avoid proximity-based promotions. (Top tip: Set the tone. Don’t run this as a mandatory on-site session).
  2. Review promotion processes. Closest equals best is no longer acceptable. Create a framework to challenge decision making. EY, for example, have implemented PTR (personal Preference, long-held Tradition or genuine Requirement).
  3. Provide fantastic systems to connect your teams. Build relationships regardless of location. Encourage weekly check-ins. Celebrate successes. Get a culture of recognition and reward that ignores physical boundaries.

Supporting wellbeing: why managing hybrid teams is harder

The advent of hybrid has worked brilliantly for some people (CIPD):

  • Shorter/non-existent commutes
  • Autonomy in workday planning
  • Greater flexibility for health activities
  • Improved sense of work-life balance

For others, the opposite has been true. Working from home on the whole has resulted in isolation, depression and blurred boundaries as two worlds merge. As a result, understanding employees' wellbeing is essential. And managers must be responsive to any changes.

Technology has enabled organisations to connect. But gone are the water-cooler moments asking: “you doing ok?” HRDs must find ways to re-create those connections and provide a culture that genuinely cares.

Four steps to wellbeing wizardry

  1. Give managers nudges (HBR). Remind them to ask questions and check team members are ok
  2. Video or vide-no? Visibility shouldn’t mean video on. Some people hate it. Why not consider making video optional?
  3. Awareness of non-verbal cues. Most communication isn’t speech. Help managers understand what they’re seeing, even if nothing's being said.
  4. Encourage openness at all levels. Everyone has off days. Create trust in your culture and as a result people will feel able to share. Make it ok not to be ok.

Create effective Employee Experience when managing hybrid teams: go beyond engagement

Employees want connections with organisations like never before. Think personal development and growth snuggled in social and environmental responsibility.

Hybrid has created a world of opportunities. The Great Resignation has forced a change. Employees want “trust, social cohesion, and purpose” (McKinsey). They want amazing Employee Experience (EX).

Josh Bersin explains it’s a long-term evolution. But HRDs everywhere must give managers the tools for success – and only tech has the answer.

Creating great EXpectations…everywhere

Great EX is about great tech. Gone are the days of clunky. It's all about seamless integration into your culture, your processes, and your employees’ lives.

So, whether you’re choosing software for project, meeting or performance management:

  • Pick easy-to-use systems that work in harmony
  • Teach managers how to use them effectively
  • Give managers an EX they can copy easily with their hybrid teams

The Burnout epidemic (at home and at work)

Since 2019, flexible working has benefited many. But long term uncertainty creates anxiety. 49% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms (McKinsey) and women, especially mothers, have been hit hardest.

Balancing work and home is tough enough normally. But the result of makeshift offices at kitchen tables and parents home-schooling at the same time? Consequently employees have been torn. Children need attention but work needs to be done. Despite hours being flexible, our workdays have extended. So, bedroom lights off, laptop lights on.

Preventing burnout when managing hybrid teams

Burnout was inevitable for some during lockdown. Home and work pressures merged. Evidently isolation and depression kicked in hard. But now we’re in the realms of foreseeable stress. Warning signs can be seen, ongoing concerns monitored.

As more managers are faced with managing hybrid teams, it’s your responsibility as HRD to:

  • Set the tone: provide regular recognition across the business, regardless of location
  • Use the tech: lead by example and get senior management in good habits others can follow
  • Check in weekly: offer support to your team and senior management, even you now sit with them less
  • Be inclusive: think hard about company culture and use this opportunity to stand back and make changes where you need to.

Your ultimate aim is to create a fantastic EX. Bring people together through purpose, not proximity and provide them with tech that works.

Managing remote, flexi or hybrid teams? Grab a copy of our latest best practice guide: Employee Engagement in a Remote Working World. Download your copy here 👇