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The Risks of Managing Hybrid Teams (and what to do about them...)

Organizations are working hard to support employee preferences while balancing business objectives and aligning company values and vision – by offering full time work from home, part-time work from home, and in many cases, hybrid work. It’s not easy, it’s a big commitment, and also a tremendous step forward in terms of improving employee satisfaction and talent pools.

For those organizations inviting employees to work both in office and at home, there are some serious considerations that need to be thought through, and some obligations that need to be made. Without them, managing mixed teams could quickly turn to chaos.

#1: Managing Mixed Teams is Higher Effort. It’s important to accept the fact that managing both on site and remote employees is significantly higher effort for supervisors. We’ve spent the last 18 months training and honing skills on managing and supporting people using digital platforms exclusively. When we add back in additional time for in-person interactions, extended discussions, and disruptions that often accompany office-based work, there’s going to be time management problems and added stress.

#2 Considering Reducing Team Sizes for Managing Hybrid Teams. Yes, we can expect that the addition of in-person interactions (on top of the digital support we have grown accustomed to) is going to stretch our supervisors thin. They are either going to have to agree to working longer hours, or the company takes the decision to reduce team sizes slightly. Somewhere in between a 10-20% reduction would be the sweet spot to effectively manage hybrid teams.

#3: Seriously Invest in your In-person Meeting Technology to Accommodate Both Groups.
There are two sound options for running great mixed meetings (i.e. some people in office and some remote):
a. Everyone takes the meetings from their individual computers, leveling the playing field for all
b. The company makes a serious investment in office meeting room technology, so that everyone feels like they are pretty much in one room. Big screens, equipment packages like Poly solutions for Microsoft Teams are a good place to start.

#4 Stay Committed to Digital-first Channels for Making Decisions and Communicating Them. With mixed teams (just as with 100% remote teams) digital channels are the go-to spots for all company updates, important announcements, meetings and exchanges. Your employees know where to go to connect – you’ve taken the last 18 months to get that right. In-person interactions in a hybrid environment are the bonus, but not the core platform for gathering and connecting. Stay disciplined here.

#5 Make Digital Social Engagement the Priority. By now your company has established some regular and routine social gathering options for your employees that take place on digital channels. You probably have some that are purely social (i.e. watch parties, movie nights, cooking groups, book clubs). You may have some volunteer activities that begin or are fully conducted on line, and you may have some activities that are a mix of both business and personal. While leveraging office space for in-person interactions is a fantastic idea (even inviting family members for on-site celebrations and festivities), don’t let your digital social activities take a back seat.

#6 Make the Leap to Gamification. Gamification is not new in the contact center environment or enterprise environment. But given the large populations of employees who are now distributed and hybrid, and the work involved to run a host of ongoing activities that promote fun, connection and performance, automation moves from something that makes sense to something that is required. Terrific team and individual competitions and promotions can be launched within minutes, in additional to center wide or company wide activities. Employees can recognize each other's callout moments.  If you are patching together manual recognition and semi-automated programs, you are wasting a lot of valuable time, and could be setting yourself up for a lot of confusion when some on site recognition bubbles up.  There are more vendors now to choose from, and costs to deploy have dropped to reasonable levels.  Some reasonably-priced vendors include AmplifAI, Centrical, Snowfly, and Achievers. Gamification is the insurance policy that every single person in the organization is being reached with all of your social and performance-based contests and promotions.