Virtual Teams

Hybrid working – how hard can it be?

We are having a lot of conversations at the moment around hybrid teams and running workshops around the world for people new to this way of working.

One observation that often comes up early in the discussion is that ”we already know how to work face to face, and now we have 12 months experience in working remotely, how hard can it be to put the two together?”

It’s a fair question, but it’s always more difficult to manage something that has two modes, than something that has one. It increases complexity, choices and options and raises challenges when the two meet .

As an example, most of us know how to run face to face meetings and many have now learned how to run virtual meetings (we will ignore for the moment whether these meetings were well run, relevant and engaging).

Now imagine a hybrid meeting where some people can get together in a room and others are joining remotely. Anyone who has experienced this will know the almost impossible task of keeping the remote people engaged and listened to. How are we going to run our hybrid meetings to overcome this challenge, or should we retain all of our meetings as virtual because this tends to level the playing feld?

This is just one very practical hybrid team discussion and decision that teams need to make.

Another is to develop the pattern of work that suits your particular hybrid team. This will depend on any corporate constraints and policies, the nature of the work you are doing, the personal preferences of your team members, and the interfaces you have with other internal and external groups and individuals.

Many organisations are giving high levels of autonomy to their teams to work this out for themselves but this risks creating chaos if we don’t have a consistent picture of who will use office facilities or be available at which times.

Many organisations are announcing limitations in office occupancy. It seems quite common for companies to envisage only 60% of the previous desk capacity being available in future and expecting people to work from home a couple of days per week. So at a superficial level the maths makes sense.

However when you work it out, you won’t have many people wanting to use the office and  commute on a Monday or Friday, so you risk having 100% of the people wanting to use the office Tuesday to Thursday . If only 60% of desks are available on those days, the maths doesn’t work.

We are working with senior leadership teams to define some of these broad guidelines and to understand their appetite for flexibility in ways of working and how they will model the behaviours and culture they want to encourage in the hybrid organisation

We also working with leaders and intact teams to work through these issues to develop the “best of both” working pattern for their particular circumstances

Either way, people need time to get their heads around these issues, to talk about their experiences over the last 12 months and what they want to incorporate into a new way of working.

In some geographies it is still a little early for hybrid teams to really take off, but in London and New York for example we are probably only a few weeks away from people coming back into the office. If your team is in this situation, now is the time to work on some of these issues

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