The passing months have definitely shown us that remote working is not a “fad,” and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere — anytime soon. In fact, a recent study shows that 1 in 4 Americans will be working remotely through 2021 — and beyond. Other research predicts that by 2021, we’ll see an even greater jump in these numbers.
But, the bottom line is that, for many, working remotely just makes sense. Large global companies have seen their productivity increase when a large portion of their workforce is completing their daily tasks from home. Now, of course, there are some companies that just can’t get around having their employees come into the office, but not on a daily basis.
This prompted the creation of the hybrid workplace, and it can’t be more exciting!
The good news is that, as a company, you can set it up however you want. You can have some employees come in on certain days, or have everyone in on Monday and Friday. You can ask for team members to work in the office two to three days a week, or whatever number works for your business. Basically, you can create your own hybrid workplace model. How cool is that?
Now, to be successful, there are definitely a few things that you’ll need to know — and most of these bits of helpful information revolve around digital communication, productivity and similar areas. So, let’s see what type of tips 25 professionals, who are already well-versed in the hybrid workplace, can offer!
1. Managers Must Stay Connected With Their Teams
“This really is a balancing act as managers need to make sure that they stay connected with employees, without going all big brother and making staff feel like they’re being checked up on all the time,” says Milosz Milkowski of mDevelopers. “Since the pandemic, I’ve introduced extra communication tools in my business such as Whatsapp and Slack in order to give us lots of informal ways of keeping in touch. This has really helped me to keep tabs on what everybody is doing without being overbearing.”
We have plenty of tools at our disposal these days and really need to be learning to use them effectively.
2. Build an Arsenal of Tools
It really is all about the tech these days — particularly for remote and hybrid teams. Dima Suponau of 1-800 Live Person Phone Number agrees.
“I have a number of digital tools in my arsenal which help me and my team stay connected and productive. I use Monday work automation software to deal with simple, repetitive tasks and to free up my staff for more complex activities. I use Slack to keep my employees connected on both professional and personal levels. I use Zoom for team meetings and catch-ups. Whatever format your workplace takes, getting on board with some great tools can really help you to keep things efficient and focused.”
3. Host Frequent Meetings
A great way to ensure productivity and engagement in a hybrid workplace is to host frequent meetings. This can mean weekly team meetings, small group working sessions, company-wide meetings, or even virtual happy hours.
Sanem Ahearn of Colorescience says, “Face-to-face communication is important, especially as new hires join your team that you may have never met in person. These meetings will help employees feel comfortable communicating with their coworkers, and management. We have all quickly adapted to remote working while collaborating as a team. Although some have gone back into the office space, that isn’t a reality for everyone!”
This is why meetings need to be more than just a meeting.
Alyscia Sutch of AquaFire Marketing adds, “The next time you have a Zoom or Skype call, carve out a few extra minutes to play catch up, since water cooler talks are a thing of the past. It’s important that everyone in the office or working remotely feels connected on a personal and a business level. Once everyone has had a chance to share and is feeling positive, they will be more likely to participate in the meeting and be productive!”
4. Leverage Collaborative Comment Sections in Apps
Another great way to communicate more efficiently and effectively in a hybrid work environment is to leverage collaborative comment sections in apps. Just about every business app worth its salt today has some sort of collaboration function where users can comment directly on deliverables, workflows or other pieces of various business functions.
John Ross of Test Prep Insight says, “Tools like Hubspot, Airtable, Asana, G-Suite and countless others use this sort of tech. By leveraging this functionality and collaborating with team members directly in the app, rather than outside of it, you can increase productivity by leaps and bounds. For example, if you’re working on a project with team members with all of your status items housed in Airtable, don’t send a separate email to all team members with your thoughts on a certain aspect of the project. Drop your thoughts directly into Airtable as a comment on that piece. This consolidates communications and important info all in one place, and it improves efficiency and doesn’t clog up team members’ inboxes or Slack channels.”
5. Try Resource Utilization Tracking
“Even before the pandemic,” muses Amanda Haynes of Ganttic, “Our office had taken a hybrid approach to work, focusing on output over the number of hours behind a desk. One trick to ensure the optimal output is with resource utilization tracking. Part of the project management process that many overlook, by focusing on the utilization of your resources, it enables managers to track how busy someone is. Also, it can tell you whether they have too little on their plates, or are on the road to burning out.”
Remember that monitoring the resource utilization across projects and departments is even more crucial when you don’t see your team on a daily basis.
6. Mandatory Mondays and Fridays
Sam Underwood of Futurety notes, “Since switching to a hybrid model, we’ve implemented a few guidelines that have helped our team stay on the same page. First, we require everyone to be in the office on Mondays and Fridays, so we can both start and end the week together. This helps the team get focused on the right priorities in our project planning meeting on Mondays, and celebrate together as we wind down on Friday lunches.”
7. Virtual Team-Building
It really is all about how you can virtually support your team these days. Katrine Spirina of Solvd,Inc. Suggests, “Set up virtual rooms for debates, brainstorming and other discussions. Additionally, look for ways for virtual team-building, which can help keep your employees cohesive, as well as happy and engaged.”
8. Balance Tech With Human Support
It’s hard to remember how we managed without digital tools, isn’t it?
Lukasz Zelezny of SEO London pretty much relies on them. “I also use timekeeping software to keep track of everybody’s working hours. I’m also a fan of work-sharing tools and have been using Asana. Today’s workplace is all about balancing tech with real human support to make sure that your business is productive, while maintaining a great culture for your team.”
9. Adhere to Document Commenting Etiquette
McKenna Sweazey of Truthset shares, “My golden rule of public doc commenting — start by giving the author the benefit of the doubt. It’s always easy to see a different way you would have mapped out the flow or storytelling, but that doesn’t mean your way is correct. Generally, a quick once-over of the whole document before commenting does wonders.”
Other ways to help you be the best contributor in a document come from asking yourself these questions:
- What’s your relationship to the creator? Depending on your seniority, it might be OK that your comments are more top-level or based on the impressions conveyed by the slides. That’s what management is paid for, to make sure the message lands well.
- Where in the process is the creator? An early draft may not be the time for copious grammar or small formatting comments.
- How useful is my comment? Will it make the document materially better? (This is very much related to your relationship with the creator of the document.)
- Who’s going to see this comment? Frankly, in a distributed workforce, assume everyone will see it, and let that be your guide for what to write.
- Might your question be answered in later sections? This comes back to the benefit of the doubt, not assuming they are missing some big idea you think is critical until you are sure they’ve left it out.
10. Incorporate Augmented Reality Experiences
Forty percent of shoppers would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through augmented reality (AR). Trying out eyewear, nail polish, clothing, etc. before buying is already widespread and used by brands like Gucci and Sally Hansen.
“Fortunately,” notes Yuliya Andreyuk of Banuba, This technology is now widespread and affordable even for SMEs. Retailers can use AR-enabled apps and “smart mirrors” to make shopping more fun for both offline and online buyers, and increase sales as a result.
11. Communicate Clearly and Constantly
Communicating clearly and constantly is extremely important in making sure your company is productive in a hybrid workplace.
“Since employees are used to being able to ask questions whenever they want or ask a colleague for help,” adds Judy O’Loughlin of Vari, “The company as a whole needs to be sure they are always on their messaging applications and can respond ASAP at all times. This will help speed up the company’s completion rates, whether it be submitting a document or getting a huge project done. Managers need to be sure they are always checking in on their employees as well, as sometimes they may forget about a question they had since they’re working alone.”
Communication channels such as Slack, Discord, Google Chat, or Microsoft Teams are a great way to keep employees involved and productive in a hybrid workplace.
“These channels all allow room for instant messaging,” says Riley White of Vapor, “But most of them have additional settings to send audio messages, start video chats, create groups for different topics, and more. Even if these conversations aren’t face-to-face, they help keep relationships within the workplace strong and increase overall productivity.”
But, even when in-office work is available to everyone, it doesn’t mean that you should move away from the communication apps that have been so helpful.
“Rather, continue utilizing digital channels like Slack or Teams to have conversations with co-workers, regardless of whether they are across the room from you or working from home,” mentions Jonathan Finegold, Sr. of MedCline. “This will be incredibly important for collaborative projects with half the staff working in-office and the other half remote. Without continuing to document conversations via Slack for all parties to see, there is bound to be some disconnect that can be easily avoided!”
12. Hold One-on-Ones
Create a communicative workplace, where support may be there whenever employees may need it.
Daniel Kane of The Ridge Wallet shares, “Keep the floor open for personal discussions and see that your workplace has plenty of opportunities for each employee to reach out. Create a plan of action together and decide what the best steps forward are. When you build more solid relationships, improve communication, and ask for help, the entire office will benefit. There should be a direct channel of communication between everyone that’s being used daily to keep your team strongly connected.”
13. Leave More Decisions Up to Your Team Members
“We’ve decided that it’s time to head back to the office after a year of remote work quite recently,” says Tomasz Hanke of Future Processing. “The one thing that was essential was to allow our employees to return gradually. Everybody is different, and so we let each team member decide whether they want to stay remote, work in a hybrid model, or stay in offices full time. We set up new routines little by little to get our employees adjusted to the conditions.”
14. Try Online Games
The most creative way I’ve seen hybrid workplaces stay in touch is through online games.
“They will set up their voice chat through a service like Discord and have everyone play their character in the game,” adds Jose Sanchez of ShipBots. “Of course, this is not possible for everyone but it was a great way to have fun while also taking care of business. It doesn’t feel like a Zoom call or a meeting. It feels more as if we are bonding since we are all online in a common interest, and you can still talk to people over voice chat without latency. This also breaks up the monotony of conference calls and being locked away in a room or office. It’s almost like taking a walk outside reality with your team.”
15. Assign Tools for Each Part of Your Process
The first tip for digital communication is to create a digital communication plan. Your communication plan should include collaboration tools, task management, time management, work regulations, and so forth.
Miranda Yan of VinPit suggests, “Assign tools for each job in the plan, such as Zoom for meetings and Desktime for time tracking, and test them out before adopting them. Plus, there are plenty of ways to use tech to stay productive. The most recommended tech tools to increase productivity are time-tracking software, collaboration tools and communication tools. The time-tracking tools allow you to track the project’s progress, set deadlines, prioritize tasks and set breaks. When you manage time, you will be able to set expectations and grow your business.
Collaboration tools will arrange documents or files into groups and reduce time spent organizing files, hence enhancing productivity. Communication tools help us interact with the team members, and it directly impacts employee behavior performance. When there is no communication, it is impossible to attain success.”
Additionally, by opting for software with automatic reminders and notifications, teams can rest assured that any information in-person employees have will be transmitted to remote workers, not only keeping everyone up to date, but doing so without any additional work on the part of the team leader.
“Apps like Ashore focus on context,” adds Cody Miles. “Every comment is tied to a specific location on a proof, placing the reviewer in a position to point to something directly and talk about it, barring the possibility of vague and useless feedback. Of course, collaboration requires more than just productive feedback, and a hybrid workplace needs a strong communication channel as well. Remote employees aren’t hearing and seeing the collaboration process, so they need to be informed of new information in order to participate meaningfully.”
16. Define Due Dates and Deadlines
When working remotely, employees have greater freedom to organize their work however they want to. Yet, to ensure that all the deadlines are met, you have to provide a detailed schedule of the time when their work needs to be completed.
“Right now,” adds Aleksandar Micev of Solveo, “It’s probably more important than ever to retain a reputation as a reliable company so keeping to the client’s deadlines is really important. When setting deadlines for the team, leave extra time for corrections and completion, but be strict about their due dates. This will help everyone stay focused and accountable.”
17. Find Out-of-the-Box Ways to Use Existing Tech
Regardless of the industry, it’s become apparent that communication and productivity are some of the most important aspects of running a business.
“As a personal trainer,” says David Hatfield of Body & Soul Personal Training, “I was forced to think quickly to accommodate my clients’ needs when the pandemic hit. With no choice but to be at home, a very hard thing for many was to think about the progress that they had made on their personal fitness goals and how it might begin to dwindle. So, that’s why I began doing sessions on Skype, Zoom, Facetime and various social media platforms. If it had a screen and communication capabilities, I made it work!
But, now that we’ve returned to in-studio sessions, many clients became accustomed to those workouts from home — so, I began offering hybrid sessions. Some clients may alternate between in-person and remote workouts, and thanks to technology, accommodating them has been fun, innovative and never a challenge!”
18. Have a Virtual Coffee Catchup
With team members both back in the office and still working remotely, the hybrid model often means it can be difficult to make everyone feel included.
“While we are still trying to have in-person events for those in the office,” mentions Michael Rosenbaum of Spacer, “We’ve found that continuing to run events that cater to the whole team. For example, our team has an inter-department Coffee Catchup, to give everyone the chance for chit chat and to get to know each other outside of just work. This also brings together different teams who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to work closely together, and it even led to a slack chat for everyone to share photos, videos and general banter. We also make sure to have a bigger event every few months, bringing together the whole company — with a virtual pizza party and an online Christmas feast being our biggest wins to date.”
19. Record and Distribute Virtual Meetings
Hybrid work environments can present difficulties with respect to coordinating meetings. “If team members are joining meetings late or have to miss a meeting because of competing obligations,” suggests Trevor Larson of Nectar. “Record the call and give people a copy so they can reference it later and bring themselves up to speed.”
20. Appoint Team Members to Engage Remote Employees
On-site employees usually don’t suffer a communication lag. But, remote employees may.
According to Jessica Robinson of The Speaking Polymath, “They may start feeling distant. You can prevent this by setting up a secret team to engage remote employees. This team should try to connect with remote workers every now and then and make them feel a part of the team. This way, a bridge for effective communication will be created in the company.”
21. Offer Online Training
Options to work a fully remote or hybrid schedule are becoming the new norm.
“My team and I have found that our new remote/hybrid salespeople prefer training at home through our own version of an online class,” says Harris Rabin of R3SET. “When you look at the success of online courses on LinkedIn or SkillShare, it’s clear that with a thoughtfully structured lesson plan combined with engaging, easy-to-follow instruction, businesses can create an intensive learning experience online for their remote and hybrid employees.
But, the key is creating an outline for your sales course that contains bite-size lessons and allows time for interaction to complete assignments together. Also, keeping the same groups of trainees to five or fewer allows everyone to ask questions and share insights. And seeing familiar faces in our online training sessions fosters team-building and collaboration.”
22. Establish a Community Notion Page
“One of my favorite tips to increase communication and productivity in a hybrid workplace is to establish a community Notion page,” shares Vivian Chen of Rise.
“Notion allows each team to set-up a shared page where to-do lists can be created, synced, resources can be shared, and live-action progress updates can be posted. Notion makes interacting in a remote environment easier, ensuring that people stay connected when out of the office. The fact that everyone in the team has access to the page also helps hold everyone accountable when working remotely, so weekly tasks get completed and deadlines are met.”
23. Fully Invest in the Hybrid Concept
Companies can somewhat tailor a cohesive experience for every employee, regardless of whether working remotely or physically in the office through preparing for this new style of work setup.
Tim Clarke of SEOBlog.com notes, “Businesses need to be flexible and ready to invest on the newly accepted hybrid concept with the combined help of technology, applications, and tools. Meeting quality and investing in hybrid meeting room systems are also as important.”