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Managing hybrid teams in a changing world

Kieran MacCourt, Business Development Manager, looks at what will change in the workplace after the pandemic, and how to manage hybrid teams.

Many people (understandably) saw the pandemic as a chance to reassess their work life. People changed roles, companies and even careers. Business leaders need to think about managing hybrid teams, while at the same time, providing the right support for employees who are struggling with blurred lines between home and work. Just as employees are adjusting to changes for their organisations, organisations too must adapt to changes in their employees. They’re not in the office full time anymore so business leaders need to look at the best practices for managing remote teams.

With some people making changes and some people spending more time than ever focused on the same job, managers need a new set of skills to deal with the ‘new normal’ of hybrid and remote teams. Although, it would be more accurate to talk about ‘new normalities’, given each person will have a different experience.

There will be a lot for managers to learn as we settle into the new workplaces and new routines but there are some things we can put in place now. After all, how to manage change in an organisation is something all business leaders need to be aware of, and prepared for.

1. Ensure skills keep pace with changing roles

Change often happens at a faster pace than our ability to acquire new skills. Add to this the changing roles and environment, and it’s clear managers need to adapt to prevent bigger problems from emerging further down the line.

This is understandably challenging right now but it’s important to set aside the time now to assess changing needs. Doing so demonstrates that you appreciate your team, and are investing in their future.

2. Manage staff mental health

Creating a healthy and supportive work environment is one of the greatest challenges of being a business leader. In the past, some businesses thought a beer fridge and pool table were enough to create a good workplace. It’s now clear this isn’t the case. The key to a healthy workplace is often much more subtle. Mental health, in particular, is a topic that isn’t discussed enough.

Issues like Zoom fatigue and burnout are becoming more prevalent, and therefore more openly discussed. At the same time, it’s becoming harder to deal with. The workplace is now spread across dining tables throughout the country, and contact with team members is over video call, so assessing mental health is harder than ever. This is an opportunity for managers to take the lead by giving employees permission to share their feelings without reproach.

3. Give people a break from Zoom

Anyone who has worked from home during the pandemic has probably had more video calls than they did in their entire career before it. This increase in “being on camera” and the more general blurring of work and home lives, has led to the rise of a new form of burnout: remote working fatigue.

Some large companies – like Nike and dating app Bumble – have given their teams an additional week off to give them a mental health break. For a lot of businesses, this just isn’t feasible. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternative preventative steps that can be taken. Before scheduling meetings, managers should sanity check, to ensure it is completely necessary, and send a clear agenda ahead of time to keep them efficient. Managers can also leave time between calls to give staff a break. This advice is just as important for hybrid meetings, where some people are in the room and some on video call.

In the office, people will spend time having a chat while making a cup of tea. This might not happen at home so remind your team that taking breaks is not only acceptable, but encouraged. They’re not unproductive moments, but time that is valuably spent.

As a leader in your business, it is understandably difficult to keep on top of everything, especially with team members spread out. While this isn’t a change anyone has had to manage before, it is still a change. There is still a lot of learning to do about the best way to navigate this but we can start by experimenting to create new ways of working.
The new normalities are something all managers will need to adjust to if they want to support themselves, their staff and their organisation. More than this, building a team that can adjust, adapt build new skills is more important now than ever before.

By working closely with organisations, Alliance Manchester Business School helps individuals and organisations solve real problems, predict future trends, and drive change in business and management. There are a variety of options to help businesses navigate change management, from public lectures to bespoke training courses. To explore these,  

Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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