With more workplaces shifting to a hybrid arrangement, you may face new collaboration challenges in the months and years ahead. Adapting to a new style of work may take time, but the effort is worthwhile. Hybrid workplaces are widely considered to be the future of work, with over half of employees in a recent survey reporting that they prefer a mixture of home and office work.
Hybrid work gives employees more autonomy over how and where they complete their work tasks, and it allows more flexibility for employees to plan their schedules. However, it can be difficult for people who value routine and struggle to stay on task when they’re at home. Collaboration takes more planning in a hybrid work environment, and spontaneous meetings can be harder to replicate when you’re logging most of your hours at home. Here are tips from industry leaders on how to collaborate effectively in your new hybrid workplace.
Schedule Meeting Days
“When you shift into a hybrid work environment, it’s helpful to schedule a few “meeting days” during the week when people can plan to be in-office for collaboration. There are certain tasks that lend themselves to in-person work, and when you collectively agree to be in office for a few days it allows your team to plan accordingly. The rest of the work week can be reserved for independent work that requires focus and less collaboration between teammates.” - Lauren Kleinman, Co-Founder of The Quality Edit
Plan Your Communication Procedures
Perhaps you’ll use Slack for quick questions, and hold a daily team phone call for more in-depth discussions and high-level conversations.
“Make sure you’re clear and consistent about communication procedures. Remote work tends to lead to more miscommunications, and it's important to be proactive and create avenues for people to pose questions or raise concerns. Perhaps you’ll use Slack for quick questions, and hold a daily team phone call for more in-depth discussions and high-level conversations. Smaller groups can meet according to their preferences - maybe the IT team prefers to meet over video so they can share screens. Be flexible about what works best for your team, and adjust if needed.” - Gabrielle Mustapich, Co-CEO of Hardpops
Don’t Expect Everyone to Work the Same Hours
“One of the benefits of hybrid work is that employees can plan their work schedules around their home obligations, and it’s important to take that into consideration. Working parents might be offline for an hour in the afternoon so they can pick up their kids from school, for instance, and they’ll stay online later in the evening to catch up. Be flexible and understanding of your teammates' individual schedules, and plan your collaborative meetings to accommodate one another. When working in a hybrid space, it’s especially important to share calendars, so you can see when people are at their desks and available to talk.” - Heidi Streeter, Founder of Holiday St.
Avoid ‘Us vs. Them’ Mentalities
“When teams shift into a hybrid workspace, it’s likely that some employees will prefer to do their work remotely, and some will still prefer to come into the office most days. As a manager, be aware that teams can slide into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, where the two groups begin to build resentments towards one another. Remote workers may feel left out of decision-making processes when in-office employees hold meetings without them, for example, and in-office employees may feel that remote workers aren’t pulling their weight. Be clear about expectations and make sure everyone is allowed to participate in team decisions, and that work is distributed fairly.” - Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce
Collaborate with Technology
“Thanks to technology, communicating doesn’t have to be hindered by implementing a hybrid work model. And since communication is at the core of any effective collaboration, this simply means that you need to find the methods that work best for your specific needs. Whether that be project management apps, messengers or other tools, just be sure to train each member of your team so that they are supported when incorporating new apps and additional tech.” - Marc Atiyeh, CEO of Pawp
Plan for the Unplanned
“One of the downsides to remote work is that you don’t develop personal relationships with your colleagues as easily. Invite your team to a virtual happy hour outside of work hours so that people can get to know each other outside of work, or plan to have a virtual coffee break in the afternoon. Getting to know one another helps to build collegiality and will make work more enjoyable. It’s also much easier to collaborate with someone you have built rapport with.” - Daniel Osman, Head of Sales at Balance Homes
Hold Brainstorming Sessions
“There’s a tendency for remote work meetings to be overly formal, with detailed agendas and clear goals. While these meetings are helpful, they shouldn’t replace the casual brainstorming sessions you probably had when you worked together in-person. A benefit to in-person work spaces is that you have more casual conversations - a walk to get coffee might lead to an impromptu brainstorming session with someone from a different department. Make sure you create space for these discussions, whether it’s through informal Zoom meetings or a mandatory in-office day each week.” - Adam Mitchell, CEO of SponsorPulse
Hold Regular One-on-Ones
“Some people just don’t feel comfortable speaking up in team Zoom or phone meetings, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not engaged. Leaders and managers should hold regular one-on-ones with their team members to check in and see if they need more resources or have any creative suggestions. We tend to have more one-on-one discussions when we’re working together in the same physical space, so when you shift to a hybrid environment it’s important to still make room for those conversations.” - Matt Woods, Co-Founder and CEO of SOLD.com
Encourage Serendipitous Collision
“Companies and HR departments should work to enable serendipitous collision. In other words, create purposeful ways for people to interact, brainstorm, ideate and have informal discussions. For instance, if employees from different departments are sitting next to each other in the physical office, they may pick up on a tidbit of information, and get to talking about a creative solution. This type of engagement often is referred to colloquially as “water cooler” conversations. By guiding managers with intentional frameworks for collaborating in and out of the office, more serendipitous collisions will take place so employees can share ideas, learn from each other and be more effective in their work.” - Dux Raymond Sy, Chief Brand Officer of AvePoint
Level the Meeting Field
“To level the “meeting field” and avoid feelings of proximity bias, consider making it the norm to have every attendee join from their own device, even for those in the office together. This way, everyone can participate equally—on screen or by voice. Another option is to use a secondary device in addition to the larger conference room screen so all participants are able to engage equally in activities like voting on a poll or answering a question in Q&A.” - Javier Soltero, Vice President of Google Workspace at Google
As more offices adopt hybrid work arrangements, the collaboration will take more effort from managers and their teams. Establishing clear communication guidelines and adopting helpful tech tools will make hybrid work more seamless, and it will ensure you continue to collaborate effectively.