More teams are working in hybrid ways than ever before. That creates opportunities and challenges, none more obvious than for people joining a hybrid team right now.
The COVID pandemic has certainly impacted some teams more than others. We work with clients who have kept their team intact for the last 20 months with productivity high. They’ve managed to maintain relationships that existed before the need to work from home, even if it’s not the same as it was. Other teams have gone through major changes in both the way they work and the makeup of the team.
Remote onboarding is difficult, but not impossible
Onboarding new teammates into remote work situations has proven to be difficult, but certainly not impossible. Webcams, tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, and a lot of intentional relationship-building have allowed thousands of new hires to integrate with their teammates.
If you can overcome the barriers to building relationships when you never see each other, why should it be that different when you see your teammates in person (at least some of them, at least part of the time)?
Using what we’ve learned to help the transition to a hybrid team
It turns out that hybrid teams suffer the same basic problems as remote teams, along with some complicating factors. A little planning can help you overcome them, though. As the newbie, it’s ultimately up to you to make it work.
- People are in the office one day, gone the next. This can make planning meetings, brainstorming sessions, and even casual conversations harder to schedule and anticipate. At least when everyone’s remote you can make a pretty good guess where they are. Make sure you check shared calendars and pay attention to status updates so you can plan your interactions with teammates.
- If you are beginning your time with the team in the office, make a point of reaching out to those who work remotely most of the time. A lot of people forget about using their webcam when they’re in the office, but you want the richest possible communication with all your teammates. Get used to putting faces to names, and help break down barriers between the people in the office and those who are remote.
- Make a point of learning your teammates’ strengths and expertise as soon as you can. Often the newbie is assigned a mentor, or someone to follow. That’s great, but it’s easy to over-rely on that relationship for answers, plus you only wind up meeting the people that person brings into your circle. Ask about your teammates. Who is the expert on what? Then use that as a reason to reach out and begin building your internal network.
- Be visible to your teammates by actively participating in meetings and online discussions. Contribute where you can, don’t be afraid to ask questions when you need to. People won’t mean to leave you out, but they will if they forget you’re out there, or don’t know enough yet to be a contributing member of the team.
- Make good use of your time in the office. Network with other departments, meet people in the lunch room, find out how your company really works. That way, when you’re not in the office there will be no reason not to go directly to people with questions.
- Ask, “who else should we talk to?” One of the most common challenges with hybrid teams is that people have a proximity bias—they tend to talk to, ask questions of, and collaborate with those physically close to them. All hybrid teammates should ask if there are others that can be brought into the work, but as the new person it can be intimidating. You’re doing the team a favor. Don’t be shy about asking. One of the most common mistakes teams make is forming cliques, especially the “home team” versus the “remote people.” You’re going to be either at one point or another. Get used to being a bridge between the two groups.
- Go to the office more than you’d like to. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, why go in at all if you can work from home? Truth is, especially early on in your tenure you will learn so much more and find yourself brought into conversations, projects, and brainstorming much faster. Once you’re established, you can choose when you work where. Early, more frequent access to your manager will speed up your learning curve.
The faster you create trusting relationships with your teammates, regardless of their location, the sooner you’ll be doing the meaningful, fun and productive work you were hired to do. If enough people do this, the unique challenges of a hybrid workplace will cease to be such a big deal.
Onboarding is an important skill for any remote or hybrid team leader. Check out these courses that will help you develop all the tools you need to be successful.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, offers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.