There’s no question: work-from-home (WFH) is here to stay. Businesses of all sizes have discovered unexpected benefits of a remote or hybrid team since lockdown. Meanwhile, job seekers are seeking roles that allow them to enhance their careers from the comfort of their own homes.
With 71% of remote employees feeling happier about work-life balance than their in-house counterparts and 86% feeling more productive during work hours, organizations are hastily adapting to this new normal. However, facilitating a healthy and productive remote work environment has challenges of its own.
Management is critical amongst these, with skilled managers used to physically working alongside their teams suddenly faced with the physical – and often emotional – distance of remote work. While many of the principles that work in the office are still relevant, there’s a whole new bevy of skills to learn when dealing with remote team management or supporting a hybrid team.
Remote and WFH employees are more likely to experience confusion, frustration, and burnout than their in-house peers. In a 2021 study, 30% of men and 21% of women reported working an extra two or more hours every day when working remotely – yet only 11% of managers were concerned about employee burnout.
To counter these issues, managers must step away from the playbook and hone their communication skills and transparency. Read on to discover seven of the most common management mistakes made in hybrid work environments and how you can avoid them.
1. Failing to Define Expectations
WFH is a crash course in self-management. Your remote and hybrid teammates are more in charge of their calendars and workflows than ever before, and most are happy to rise to the challenge.
However, unclear goals and poorly-communicated expectations can leave employees feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under them. Imagine diligently planning out your workflow for the month, only to discover that your manager expects something different from you! Without a clear understanding of the conditions for winning, workers feel like they’re doomed to fail.
Increase motivation and reduce wasted work hours by transparently delivering your strategy to the whole team. Whether you’re outlining ecommerce marketing strategies or planning the rollout of a new app, explain your goals in the short, middle, and long terms. Set smaller tasks weekly, but ensure that employees can see how they add up toward a larger goal.
Be black and white about deadlines and deliverables while making sure your goals remain achievable. Encourage your remote workers to get in touch with you if they feel the goals you’ve set are impossible to reach so you can re-strategize in good time.
2. Problems with Scheduling
The rise in hybrid work has led to many businesses widening the net when dealing with the global location of new talent. That means you may be dealing with team members working across different time zones, and this calls for particular attention.
If you schedule meetings and meet-ups around your own 9-5 workday or that of most team members, those working in other time zones may feel marginalized or unimportant to proceedings. They face missing out on critical information or rearranging their home and social lives to fit your schedule. It can have a significant effect on motivation.
When organizing a business conference call, try to find a time slot within the 9-5 range of all the time zones where your team members work. If this is impossible, move the meeting times around so that at least three in four weekly meetings are easy for everyone to attend.
Make it clear that meetings outside of a typical 9-5 workday aren’t compulsory, but are recommended. Consider recording your video meetings so that anyone unable to attend can catch-up during their working hours.
3. Failing to Advocate
Managers of hybrid teams have extra challenges when managing both in-office workers and remote workers without showing preference or bias toward those most easily accessible.
Make sure hybrid workers understand they’re not an afterthought by actively advocating for them in the office. Celebrate the achievements of remote workers and promote their visibility within the team hierarchy. Organize hybrid events to help geographically distant team members network, collaborate, and feel appreciated.
Ensure that WFH team members get invites to attend higher-level meetings with clients and executives, even if they attend virtually, so that they feel heard and seen when it comes to strategy and business relationships. If in-person meetings are necessary, access a meeting space at a location that is workable for everyone involved. Many flexible office space providers offer meeting rooms by the hour that are set-up with systems like Zoom Rooms Video Conferencing for a collaborative work environment.
It also falls to you as a manager to understand and speak for the issues remote workers face when business decisions are being made. For example, if your in-office colleagues are drawing up a business continuity plan (BCP), it is your job to learn how server outages will affect remote workers and to ensure the plan caters to their needs.
4. Not Creating A Conversation Space
Let’s face it, water cooler chat matters. Many of us weren’t aware of this until we began WFH, but we soon felt the lack of a chance to catch up with colleagues and bounce ideas off teammates from different departments.
Casual conversation contributes to a more relaxing and friendly workplace and organically lends itself to new, collaborative approaches. Remote workers have tried to recreate this sense of group problem-solving with stackflow forums such as Stack Overflow giving developers space to vent about common issues.
More than 1 in 4 remote workers cite isolation as an issue they face, making it the top challenge for remote workers in the US. By providing a dedicated digital space for your team to interact casually, you are not only promoting collaboration but also sending a clear message that you understand their basic human need to chat.
Start by choosing a VoIP provider that supports break-out rooms, live chat, and screen-sharing, so you can host casual media-driven conversations alongside your scheduled business meetings.
Consider creating channels on Discord and Slack where colleagues can share memes and chat about their weekend plans. When colleagues have a culture of casual banter, they feel much more comfortable asking one another for help or opinions on work matters.
5. Micromanaging Employees
Trust is key to a healthy distributed working environment. Many managers make the mistake of overcompensating for physical distance by being virtually hands-on, micromanaging every aspect of workers’ schedules, and demanding daily check-ins to monitor the workflow.
While this behavior may put your mind at ease, it can make employees feel uneasy and distrusted. Over time, this will eat away at motivation and damage your working relationship.
Instead, consider weekly stand-up style meetings, where workers can share their progress with the team and make any blockers known. This promotes an understanding of progress as a process and encourages workers to be transparent through choice rather than necessity.
Schedule monthly one-on-one reviews, where you can go through tasks completed over the last weeks and discuss whether or not these were delivered in a timely fashion. At this point, you can work with your teammates to devise a strategy for improving efficiency before the next review.
Giving your employees this freedom will increase the trust in your team and could also lead to innovation. For example, a remote fulfillment team member given an open brief could conceptualize an idea for packaging optimization that wouldn’t have occurred under a strict schedule.
6. Forgetting About Career Development
Remote workers have the same ultimate goal as any other employee: to increase their career prospects and earnings. However, many managers forget to actively address personal and career development, leaving remote workers feeling stagnant and unsupported.
Ensure your remote workers understand that their journey within your organization doesn’t begin and end with an electronic signature in word by explaining options for internal career progression up front. Discuss new employees’ career goals with them right away, and revisit these regularly.
Actively provide opportunities for training, whether meetings with you or suggestions of webinars and online courses that could help workers hone their skills. See if there is space in your company’s budget to financially support these courses.
Make sure you suggest remote workers for internal roles as frequently as you would in-office colleagues, emphasizing how they would be a good fit and ensuring the whole business knows that they’re here for the long-term.
7. Using The Wrong Technology
Successful remote teams rely on technology, so it’s crucial to be certain you’re setting your team up with the right tools for productivity. 38% of remote workers say that their employer has upgraded their video technology to allow for more hybrid collaboration – so don’t fall behind the curve!
Discuss team members’ needs and preferences with them, so you can choose the software solutions that work with their style and processes. Let your team agree on which tools they’d like to adopt, suggesting options such as Slack for live messaging and Google Drive for collaborative work and file sharing.
Pick a VoIP provider that makes your meetings meaningful, with options like screen sharing, multimedia chat, and an interactive whiteboard. If your remote team is customer-facing, invest in tools such as a caller ID provider to make their lives easier.
Offer standing desks, additional monitors, headsets, and cameras to help boost workflow, comfort, and communication. A good rule to go by is anything your in-office colleagues have access to should be provided to your WFH employees too!
Take Your Hybrid Team to the Next Level
The world of work is constantly evolving, and management styles need to evolve to meet new demands and challenges. By understanding these seven common blockers to successful hybrid work, you can cultivate a remote culture of collaboration and communication, getting the best from your employees.
Learn the different ways we can help you manage your hybrid work through our workspace solutions.
Guest Author Bio: Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered automated call center software for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace Lau also published articles for domains such as eWebinar and NewsBreak Original. Here is her LinkedIn.